Zion 2011: Day 3

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

After spending two days in the narrows, I was hoping for a day of rest. Unfortunately, that was out of the question. A glance at the weather forecast was all I needed to see.

This was the last day of full sun until early next week. Tomorrow will be cloudy — and rain/snow is in the forecast for Friday. By the time this storm clears out, much of the fall color will be gone.

A stiff, cold wind swept through the canyon last night — sending plumes of leaves adrift high overhead. A fuse was burning, and my window to shoot fall color would soon slam shut.

With this in mind, Shane and I decided that today was our last opportunity to photograph Subway. There was no guarantee of clear skies after today — a requisite when shooting reflected light.

It was well before sunrise when we left the campground. The temperature was in the low 20’s on the drive to the Left Fork trailhead. Much to my dismay, we weren’t the first on the trail that morning. With heavy packs, we also weren’t the fastest — far from it.

We descended the cliff under headlamps, reaching the canyon floor under the first glow of morning.

This was my 6th time hiking to Subway over the past 3 years. It’s hard not to notice the various changes to the trail along the way. Often times, I notice fallen trees or eroded river banks. This year, I saw evidence of a large rock fall part way up the canyon.

The canyon walls narrowed as we encountered the first of several cascades.

Fall color along the left fork was poor at best. Many trees stood bare — others showed a dismal display. The creek was alive with swirls of yellow leaves, drifting over miniature rapids.

We rounded a corner, and Archangel Falls came into view. The trees surrounding the falls were thin, but still photogenic.

Several photographers were lined up, actively shooting the falls when we arrived. This is not the type of photography I enjoy. I don’t like shooting beside other photographers, or waiting in line to get the same shot everyone else is getting.

I prefer to have a location to myself. Working in solitude allows me to consider every aspect of the composition.

This was Shane’s first time to Subway, so I wanted to make sure he got his shot of the falls. I held off shooting, ditched my pack, and scouted a nearby maple forest.

When I returned, everyone in the group was done shooting. I setup my 8×10 with my 150mm wide angle lens, and captured a photo very similar to what I shot last year on my 4×5. I was satisfied with the composition last year, but wanted to have the image on 8×10.

I bracketed two sheets on Velvia 50. One was exposed properly — the other was overexposed by 2/3 stop.

Though both sheets of film look fine, I prefer the brighter of the two.

Unfortunately, Velvia greatly exaggerates blue tone in the water. This is something that required post processing to tame. Had I remembered to expose a sheet of color negative film, I would have had better tonality and color.

Fuji Velvia 50 (8x10) | Unrecorded @ f/45 | Polarizer

Technically, this photo is spot on. The exposure is good, and the details are sharp. All that being said, I know I can do better.

Next year, I’ll get an earlier start, and shoot this location on color negative film. Hopefully that will give me the shot I’m after.

After taking this shot, I headed up stream to meet up with Shane. He was at Subway photographing a beautiful afternoon glow.

Last year, I photographed Subway on Kodak Ektar with my 8×10. I’m satisfied with the results, and felt no need to capture another shot.

Subway looked great this year. The pools were deep, and the glow was strong. We stuck around for an hour, which gave me an opportunity to record some underwater video with my waterproof video camera. Just after 2PM, we packed our gear and headed back down canyon.

It was well after sunset when we reached the trailhead.

When I dropped Shane off at his campsite, we spilled out of the truck on wobbly legs. I was beat, but it was great to have several shots under my belt — especially with the impending weather.

A pair of headlights pulled off the road behind us. It was Bob Ross — a friend I hiked to Subway last year. He watched as my chicken legs wobbled and I staggered from side to side.

“Hi Ben!” He said. “So are you up for hiking the Narrows tomorrow?”

22 Responses to “Zion 2011: Day 3”

  1. John B. Says:

    Great post Ben. I think you’ve convinced me to head back to Zion next year. I went two years ago, but I’ve been itching to go back since.

  2. Laura Says:

    Enjoyed the cinematography as much as the photos! Great shot of a row of photographers all getting the same picture-I consider myself aptly warned. Makes me also itch to get back…..

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Since Subway is so far off the beaten path, most of the people you meet there are very gracious and easy going. Despite the very small shooting space at Subway, I’m amazed at the different compositions people are able to get there. It’s definitely worthwhile to visit!

    • Info Says:

      When you hike for entire day in the cold and rough conditions you don’t really have much of an option, you either shoot with the other photographers or you go back home. I think its safe to say you play nice and shoot with the other photographers. Yes the ideal conditions are to be all alone and have the whole place to yourself but in a place like Zion take a number. I kind of get tired of hearing everyone is getting the same shot because it is not true. 1 inch to the left or to the right in correlation with good composition and the right camera settings makes every ones photo completely different from the guy that is just a few inches from you especially with perspective playing a major role, you would not even know you where there at the same time. In the end you really do walk away with completely different images and most importantly the quality of the photo is what it all comes down to when properly shot and processed. When photographers want less people at a location he or she also has to realize that they are also one of those photographers adding to the mass. Its all part of the game =)

  3. Bob Ross Says:

    Hey Ben,
    Love your shot of the Falls here – different composition than any I’ve seen before
    Bob

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Thanks Bob! It’s a similar composition to the one I shot on 4×5 on our hike last year, but I fine tuned things a bit. Next year, I want to try some different ideas — hopefully with less people there.

  4. Gary Thursby Says:

    Great post and video Ben! The camera under the water was way cool. Maybe start doing some jogging or bike riding before your trip to get some good strength in your legs before you go next time. I know how you feel when there are too many photographers at a location. Elbow bumping against other people while you are trying to create your artistic vision is not fun.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      The underwater stuff is fun to do. It allows a whole new range of video, which is great. I’m thinking that if I get a VERY early start next year, I’ll have time to get there and setup multiple shots before anyone else arrives. We’ll see.😉

  5. Michael Lordi (@Scout327) Says:

    I’m really enjoying watching the video work grow, from under the truck to under the water…nice!

    • Ben Horne Says:

      I’m sure having a blast with the video — probably because I don’t take it too seriously, so I can still have a lot of fun with it. I recently bought a GoPro2, so I’ll find some fun use for that as well. Maybe some first person perspective of my awesome dancing skills. 🙂

  6. Peyton Says:

    Loving the storyline on all of these Ben. We didn’t get there early enough to catch a glow along the wall in the background and I was disappointed with the shots from here as I was trying to process them. I’m in the same boat, needing a much earlier start to achieve what I have visualized.

    I also was somewhat skunked with shooting the Subway as I got really cold inside and had to head back up to get warmed up…I missed out on the light changing and creating the infamous glow in the tunnel… Looks like I’ll be heading back next year with some specifics in mind!

    • Ben Horne Says:

      I’ve found that leaving at the break of dawn gets you to the falls at just the right time. Since you’ve made the hike already and are familiar with the first stretch of trail through the junipers, an early start won’t be a big deal. The first time I tried it in the dark, I had a tough time finding the trail!

      I know what you mean about how cold it can get back in there. Once you stop moving, the coldness sets in. While I was doing some of the underwater video stuff, I was kneeling down with one hand on a wet rock to support my weight. I was wearing a glove, and I didn’t seem to notice the cold — but that’s just because my hand was freakin’ numb. It took a while to warm back up, and oh did it hurt!

  7. Andreas Resch Says:

    Excellent as usual. It’s so interesting to see the “walk-along” clips, like here in the tunnel, if you live far away and know the places just from the (processed) images. Nice job on the underwater shots as well.
    The Archangel Falls shot is stunning and having that on 8×10″ – oh yeah!

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Thanks Andreas! I love doing the behind the scenes shots. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to visit Zion at some point. It’s certainly worthwhile!

  8. Rickard Says:

    Just have to say that i love following your videolog. Nice to see someone that really master large format. Keep up the good work, cheers from Sweden!

  9. ryankbrooks Says:

    Any tilt used in that photo?

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Yes, I definitely used some tilt to make sure the foreground and background were both sharp. With exception of slot canyon photos, I almost always have some degree of tilt in my images. I may have also used a hair of shift in this image as well — though I cannot fully recall on that one.

  10. mathias unterstein Says:

    Nice job Ben. I like the way how you are approaching your photos. watch, wait, enjoy.
    But what about the permission for the subway? Can you get one the same day?
    Next year I come across … 4 weeks southwest. Greetings from europe.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Though you can get a same-day permit for Subway, you’ll have a late start and you might miss some shots along the way. I definitely recommend getting a permit the day before. That’s what I did on this trip, as well as my previous trips to Subway as well. 4 Weeks in the soutwest sounds fantastic! You’ll surely get some great shots!

      • Laura Says:

        Mathias-during the peak season you’ll need to get a Subway pass a day in advance because same day will be taken. Also, make sure to apply for a permit to the Wave-it’s unforgettable!

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