PHOTOGRAPHY IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
|FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: Page 1 2 3|
Zion National Park is a paradise for landscape photographers, with glowing orange, red, and pink textured sandstone formations interplaying with the lush vegeation provided by weeping walls and the emerald waters of the Virgin River. Visitors to Zion Canyon are surrounded by the majestic sandstone peaks and formations, and views from the rims above are even more stunning. Wildlife sightings are also thrilling for photography.
I get asked the same photography questions quite often, so I'm presenting this page as a FAQ. This is NOT intended to be a definitive guide to photographing Zion; consider this simply as some random ideas from a semi-professional photographer who has loved hiking and photographing Zion National Park for over three decades. Since every photographer has his or her own style, skills, and goals, please take the information here with a grain of salt and use your own judgement and imagination. Questions are answered below:
1. What camera equipment should I bring to Zion?
I get asked this a lot, and it's probably the most difficult question to answer since everybody has different goals and shoots with cameras ranging from cell phones and point-and-shoot cameras to high-end dSLRs and expensive medium and large-format rigs. As a Nikon SLR shooter myself, I typically try to carry a standard zoom lens, an ultra-wide angle lens, a macro lens, and if weight permits, a telephoto zoom lens. (While I am Nikon-centric, Canon makes excellent gear as well.) I am also a big fan of Micro Four Thirds: a smaller mirrorless interchangeable lens system jointly supported by Panasonic and Olympus. Micro Four Thirds has an amazing selection of zooms and primes, all which are virtually weightless when compared to their SLR counterparts.
Whatever camera system you carry, if you're looking to do some long hikes, the weight of your camera gear is a major factor, so I recommend going as light as possible. Over the years, I have encountered many miserable photographers on the trail who have lugged their entire lens collection around on some of Zion's longer routes. 20 pounds of f/2.8 zooms and f/1.4 primes can really weigh you down when you're trying to ascend 3000 feet from the bottom of the main canyon in 100-degree temperatures. (Many photographers have also confessed to me that they didn't use the majority of the lenses they lugged around.)
Some of my favorite cameras and lenses are listed below. For landscape and hiking/backpacking photography, I tend to favor light variable aperture zooms and f/4 zooms over expensive f/1.4 primes and f/2.8 zooms, especially since I usually shoot at f/5.6-f/8. Note that there are so many other great pieces of camera equipment out there; I'm just listing my personal favorites here.
For tripods, I typically bring two types to Zion: a big sturdy one for more "serious" work (like sunrise/sunset shots, time exposures, etc.) and a smaller, lighter one for use on strenuous hikes when keeping weight down is important. A big sturdy tripod can also make for a useful walking stick in the Zion Narrows. In my quest to find the ultimate hiking tripod, I stumbled upon the SIRUI N-1004, an amazingly high-quality tripod from a relatively unknown company. This tripod is very lightweight, yet also quite sturdy, with several unexpected features like a removable monopod leg and interchangable center columns. As for filters, I sometimes use ND (neutral density) filters and polarizers. Polarizers can often make the sky more dramatic, bring out details in clouds, and remove unwanted reflections in water, but when overused, they can also make water look lifeless and turn the sky to an ugly dull shade of blue.
2. What are some good spots for photography?
EVERYWHERE is a good spot for photography in Zion! No seriously, I mean it. I can't think of any spot in Zion that isn't photogenic or interesting in the right light. Wander around, explore, and be willing to hike a little bit, and you are sure to find photographic opportunities from majestic viewpoints to smaller-scale subjects like sandstone textures and delicate plantlife. The suggestions below are only starting points.
2a. Common spots to catch sunrises/sunsets: