Sunset, Kinesava

Zion National Park, Utah, 2011 View Full Zion Portfolio »

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Field Notes (from 2011)

Back in 1997, while on my first photographic field workshop, I made a vertical sunset photograph of Mt. Kinesava from the same general viewpoint seen here. A relative newbie to Zion, the image had a powerful effect on me in understanding the possibilities of late evening light in Canyon Country. Many successive attempts were made to capture another sunset image of Mt. Kinesava but none exceeded the magic I’d felt that first time.

Flash forward 14 years and, after a day of general scouting up Zion Canyon, I found myself racing up the same ratty dirt road for another attempt. Kinesava was absolutely on fire with light. As I frantically set my camera up, it occurred to me that two years earlier, I’d made a photograph in similar light the turned out quite gaudy looking. The red light at sunset can be so powerful and saturated, even the sensors of a high end digital cameras struggle to properly capture it.

In the few moments I was contemplating the situation, the light faded behind some clouds. Anxiously, I waited for what seemed an eternity as the sun played peak-a-boo, never quite clearing the clouds streaming by. And then it did. And now, having set it bit lower, the light was much softer, less photogenic to my eye directly but with a gentle luminescence that also evened out the areas of the scene in shadow. I made a couple exposures and then the light was gone.

Weeks later, working with the image in Photoshop to make a pigment print, it occurred to me that, had I photographed the original impulsive moment when the light was highest, I’d be struggling to bring out my vision for the image because I’d be dealing with extreme contrast and detail loss from the extreme red saturation. Of course, modern digital post-processing can handle such contrasty scenarios pretty well. But, for a magical print with just the right luminosity and balance, the adage of mastering the image on the front end remains viable in digital as it did in the film days.

About the Zion National Park Portfolio

Over the arc of my adult life and my near 25-year immersion into photography, no place has had greater influence or offered essential sanctuary than Zion National Park. Trying to succinctly describe this influence feels nearly impossible. The love I have for this extraordinary place is akin to the love of a child or partner; you would do anything, including die, if necessary, to ensure your love's life over yours.

Photography seemed the natural vehicle to express my profound awe and wonderment in attempting to convey my initial Zion experiences. And those initial photographs focused on the iconic experiences a new visitor often enjoys: Angel's Landing, The Narrows, Emerald Pools. But, with successive visits (pretty much whenever I could), my focus began a gradual yet persistent evolution towards more specific and subtle subject matter. Photographs that initially merely recorded or looked at the larger, grander landscape began to look into, to ascertain and comprehend the essential details that comprised the whole. And those details, whether water, tree, or stone are so varied and provide me with such joy, I know I could spend lifetimes exploring them and not exhaust their power.

While I do not live here year round, Zion has taught me the profundity of place and the power it has to shape you, offering essential life lessons only a commitment to intimate connection can provide. To this day, I find my struggles in life can be given perspective and insight by a simple sojourn into the park where I walk at once sheltered and exposed, listening to the musings of an old friend, humbled by her display of the lovely, brutal, essential intricacies of life.

Sunset, Kinesava, Zion National Park

Sunset, Kinesava

Zion National Park, Utah, 2011

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