A Trip of Learning


I have returned from my photography trip to the Southwest. I visited 3 different locations, 2 of which I have been to before.  My first location was Zion National Park, which is easily in my top 3 favorite National Parks. My goal was to haul my 8×10 back into the narrows for an image, then to subway for another image. The weather was fantastic for the trip.

Sunday, September 27

I arrived on Sunday at about 11AM mountain time, conveniently the same time as check-in for the campground that I was staying at (gee, you think I planned it that way?). Since I arrived so early, I decided to setup camp, then head back into the Virgin River Narrows to view the light, and see where my best shots would be. I found 4 potential locations to shoot, but I still didn’t know what the morning light would be like.  After scrambling though the canyon for about 4 hours, I headed back to camp, and got all my photo gear ready for the next day.

Monday, September 28

Since the shuttle bus system is still going this time of year, I was determined to catch the first bus into the canyon.  It is worth mentioning that the first 2 buses are express buses. They will not stop unless people need to get off there. There were only two stops on the ride up there.  Nearly everyone was getting off at the Grotto to hike Angels Landing — I was the only one heading to the Narrows. That was just fine with me because I wanted to have the canyon to myself.

I hiked up to the Wall Street region, and immediately found the light that I wanted to shoot. I carefully setup my camera, then took 2 shots to bracket my exposure.  I used my 150mm SW nikkor lens for the shot.  This is about the same as a 24mm lens on 35mm camera. It was a challenge to use this lens because of the dim light in the canyon. I was not able to view the entire composition on the ground glass of my 8×10 camera. I had to shift from left to right, and up to down to view the composition a little bit at a time. I really don’t want to comment too much on this shot because I have not yet received the film from the lab. It might be a good shot, it might be a bad shot.  The exposure was a bit tricky, so we’ll see what happens. I used Velvia 100 for this shot because of the resistance to reciprocity failure when using less than a 2 minute exposure.

I spent the rest of the day hiking up and down the narrows trying to come up with a plan for more shots.  I was able to determine what time of day the areas were best to shoot.  That way, I’ll have a plan for my return in November.

Tuesday, September 29

This was to be my day of rest.  After two days of marching up and down the narrows over slippery bowling ball sized rocks, my feet had taken beating. I had a great book I was going to read, and get ready for my Wednesday hike to Subway.  I needed to head to the back country permit window  before it opened to get a permit for the following day.

To my surprise, there was going to be a pretty big change in the weather on Wednesday. Instead of being 90 degrees and calm, Wednesday was suppose to drop 20 degrees, and become very windy with a chance of rain. Wind is a big problem when it comes to large format photography. Every a mild breeze can shake a view camera to the point that the image is ruined. The ranger suggested that I get a same day permit. My feet did not agree, but I knew I had to do it.

After receiving the permit, I headed back to my campsite to get everything ready for my hike to Subway that same day. I then drove to the trail head (quite a ways away from  Zion Canyon), and started the hike.

The hike to Subway is unique because there is not an official trail. You just have to drop down a steep cliff, then hike along a stream until you arrive at the destination. It is about 4 miles up, and 4 miles back. The weather was beautiful, there was plenty of shade, and it would have been a very nice hike — if I didn’t have about 50 pounds of camera gear on my back. If you factor in my beat up feet from two days of hiking in the narrows, it made for quite an effort to get to Subway.  You can imagine how happy I was to reach the destination.

When I arrived in mid to late morning, I found that the light was very ideal.  I worked as fast as I could to setup the shot, and meter the scene. My first choice for the composition didn’t work out. This is because the sky’s reflection was hitting the pool of water that I chose for the foreground. A polarizer would be a simple solution. However, I was using my 150mm nikkor wide angle lens, which has a HUGE (nearly 100mm) filter size. I do not have a polarizer this size.  I have since learned that I really should bite the bullet and purchase one.

I found a different composition, and setup my shot.  I was able to find a camera angle that minimized the reflection of the sky, so hopefully that won’t be a problem.  I had a hard time composing the shot because again, the ground glass was very dim, and I could only view a small portion of it at a time.  I am unsure of if I will like the final shot, but I will reserve judgment until I get the film back from the lab. I have my fingers crossed.

For those of you heading to Subway, please be aware that the ground is extra slippery in the subway itself. There were places that I could not setup my tripod because it would just slide right down the slope. I ended up taking off my shoes, and walking around in my neoprene socks. They were able to grip quite well.

To be continued…

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