Velvet Reflections

Virgin River, Zion National Park — 2006 View Full Zion: Water Portfolio »

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Notes from the Field (2006)

“Velvet Reflections” took nearly a decade to realize. On my first-ever photographic workshop back in 1997, I'd made the image “Liquid Light” along a unique section of the Virgin River which is relatively steep and reflects exceptional mid-morning light bouncing off deeply hued embankments on the west side of the river. While I still love the original image, as my photographic aesthetics evolved, my desire was to find a more subtle yet powerful representation of the unique characteristics of that section of river.

Subsequent trips to Zion would always include at least one morning session along the river. Through snow melts, flash floods and constant erosion, the river's characteristics subtly changed year over year. Many photographs were made. Many were discarded. And while some images felt successful, none quite conveyed the intimate familiarity and understanding that compelled me back time and time again to commune with this old friend.

In 2006, all the elements seemed to finally come together. Rambling along the river once again, I came upon a bend where the water flowed in front of a high steep eroded embankment, the earth richly painted in purples and maroons. As the morning sunlight inched down the embankment the river lit up in enchanting pink hues mixed with reflected blue sky. Color alone however was not enough. I had made many photographs where color excelled but the composition was sorely lacking. This time around, the rocks provided a strong cascade line with good anchor points and I realized the image I'd been seeking was there before me.

The moment, however, was short lived as the encroaching sunlight quickly overtook the entire area. I calculated I had a 2-3 minute window where the light was optimal for the photograph. Returning an hour earlier the next day, the conditions were still good and I carefully constructed my composition, placing the camera and waiting for the light to reach its optimal position.

Just as I was making my exposures, I felt a keen sense of being watched and looked up. A photographer was staring at me from a few yards off and then plowed his way through the bushes in my direction. "Did you get the shot?" he asked swinging his camera around in every direction and firing off his shutter almost as quick. I pulled the film I'd just exposed and simply said "I think so." The man looked at the LCD of his digital camera, turned it so I could see, and said "I always know if I got the shot" and off he bounded downstream continuing to snap away.

Somehow, the moment could not have been more poignant.

Velvet Reflections, Virgin River, Zion National Park

Velvet Reflections

Virgin River, Zion National Park — 2006

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