Transitions, Pine Creek

Zion National Park, Utah, 2009 View Full Zion Portfolio »

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Notes from the Field (2009)

I owe a degree of gratitude to my iPhone for this photograph. Transitions originally started out as a horizontal composition with the tree trunk moving right to left across the scene. I was exploring what was for me a new section of Zion National Park when I came upon the silvery dead tree trunk amidst a lovely palette of fallen yellow leaves and green holly-like plants illuminated under reflected light from a distant cliff face ablaze in noon-day sun. I was so taken by the warm glow and contrasting textures, I immediately threw down my gear and set up the photograph.

Once done with the film image, I used my iPhone to take a quick digital snapshot of the scene, wanting to share a segment of my trip with friends and family on Facebook. But, later that evening, as I went to post the image, I felt a keen sense of disappointment with the composition. Something about my positioning of the tree trunk felt artificially imposed on the scene - something I would not have futilely determined weeks later if I'd stuck strictly to film.

I knew immediately I needed to try again. Fortunately, the next day's weather conditions were identical and I returned to the scene with a new sense of purpose. Exploring the scene more carefully I concluded the lyrical movement in the scene I wished to convey was best represented with a perspective that gave the trunk a vertical "S" curve through the scene.

Setting up this new composition I felt humbled and thankful for the opportunity to make up for my previous day's failure of over enthusiasm. It's very common for photographers to respond too quickly to inspiration without going through the due diligence of validating the chosen composition as absolutely representing the inspiration in the strongest manner possible.

As if to drive home the message, the warming air in the canyon produced a gentle but unrelenting breeze that played motion havoc on the green holly bushes forcing me to wait over 90 minutes before being able to complete two successful exposures. In the end I dutifully bowed to my subject matter for, yet again, teaching me a valuable lesson in my ongoing development as a photographer.

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.

Transitions, Zion National Park

Transitions, Pine Creek

Zion National Park, Utah, 2009

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