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5. Can you share any lighting tips for photographing Zion National Park?

While it's a general assumption that the best light for photography is the dramatic early morning and late afternoon light (including sunrise and sunset), good photos can still be made during normal daylight hours, but it requires some luck and help from the weather. In the desert, cloudless days are quite common and the lighting during high noon is harsh and ugly. Hiking photography can be very disappointing under these conditions, especially if the sand in the air adds a brown tint to the sky. Days like this are best spent shooting in dark slot canyons like the Zion Narrows where the harsh sunlight can be put to good use. Sunlight hitting the canyon walls above or the walls around the corner can result in photographs with that "magic golden glow."

Middle Pine Creek photo (Zion National Park) -- © 2016 Joe Braun Photography
Rappelling in the beautiful light of Pine Creek.

My favorite days for hiking and peak-bagging photography are on partially sunny days when the sky is filled with interesting cloud patterns. Cirrus clouds are like wispy feathered paintbrush strokes in the sky, but my favorite skies are filled with cumulus clouds. Like gigantic puffy cotton balls, cumulus clouds not only add interesting textures to the sky, they also direct the light through a pinhole of sorts that results in crisp, beautiful lighting.

Lower Mountain  -- © 2011 Joe Braun Photography
Lower Mountain in a sea of cumulus clouds.
Lonely sandstone sunrise photo (Zion National Park) -- © 2021 Joe Braun Photography
A burner sunrise above the lonely sandstone landscape.
Star Trails above dark Zion Canyon (Zion National Park) -- © 2019 Joe Braun Photography
45 minutes of stars spinning above Zion Canyon on a clear new moon night.

And while rain and big storms aren't usually pleasant for vacationers and are dangerous for slot canyon hikes, they make for really dramatic photography if you're willing to get wet and wait them out. Some of my favorite photos have been taken just as a big thunderstorm rolls in or rolls out. Being in the right place at the right time requires a bit of luck and a lot of patience, but when you hit it, it's a spectacular experience. Happy trails and happy shooting!!!

Hidden Canyon (Zion National Park) -- © 2010 Joe Braun Photography
The distant Observation Point shrouded in clouds.
Observation Point rain storm  -- © 2009 Joe Braun Photography
The view from Observation Point during a foggy rainstorm.
Observation Point rain storm  -- © 2013 Joe Braun Photography
The view from Observation Point as the sun breaks through.

Hiking in Zion National Park

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