Andrew Baruffi Photo

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Proud _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Proud _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Proud.

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I’ve heard a few photographers talk about the concept of dwelling on what they believe is their best work. About a year ago I shot a photo that I call “Self”. It’s an image of a Great Blue Heron that I shot in Zion at a spot that I call Heron Bend on the Virgin River. To me, that image defines the individuality, adaptation, and lonesome state that the Great Blue Heron represents; while personifying my bad mental state at the time. That image held onto my mind for a long time, and I never believed I would take an image that made me as happy and proud of myself as that one did.

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Anytime I find myself in Zion’s main canyon, I always stop to check in on the many spots that the heron might be. On this day, I saw the vibrant blue back of the heron perched on a slab of sandstone at Heron Bend. I popped on my waders and crossed the Virgin. Slowly much like the heron wades, I approached making sure each of my movements were subtle and precise. The heron allowed me within 10-15 feet of its presence. The sandstone wall to the north caught the direct sunlight, and provided an ethereal warm backdrop for any pose the heron might strike. Eventually the heron became so relaxed it took its eye off me and shot a majestic gaze to the west. A gust of wind caught the heron’s feathers from behind, and I took the shot. I couldn’t help but think that this heron knows who I am after my many visits, and that I am no threat to the life it’s living. Finally, I came away with an image that made me proud of myself again, and the work I’ve put into Zion this past year. I left the heron as the sun faded from the canyon, and thanked it for always being there for me.

Freeze _ Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2019

Freeze _ Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2019

Freeze.
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The beauty of Kolob is that it’s a 15 minute drive from where I live, and in winter, timing is everything. On clear days when direct light is dominant, all I ever want to do is make the 1 hour trip to Zion's main canyon. Unfortunately, by the time I get there after a day of work I’m tethered by fading reflected light as the day ends. Kolob has the characteristics of Zion, but with a different atmosphere. The sandstone walls tend to be a bit more pink, exploration is more constricted, and conditions don’t quite work the same in the higher elevations of the canyons. It’s a difficult place to photograph.
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It was a below freezing day, so I decided to take the hike along Taylor Creek in search of ice formations. The creek was frozen over and I don’t own crampons, so the going was slow and slippery. At various points along the creek I would stop and focus in on the elegance of ice. It’s almost as if nature is stopping time long enough for someone to pass by and notice the graceful frozen movement. I made my way further into the frigid canyon, and eventually the ice simply stopped. The creek began to look much like it did in summer or fall the higher I went. The creek’s nature was opposite to what I would’ve guessed in terms of elevation. I turned around and saw that the reflected light from the sandstone walls was also fading. I passed a bend on the journey back and noticed on the creek about 20 feet down was this stunning scene. To me, the scene resembled a small but vast canyon of ice carved and formed by what created it. I utilized a sculpture of ice in the lower right to help anchor the abstraction, but truly the reflected light did all the work for me. Warm tones from the sandstone and cool tones from the blue sky clashed against the brilliance of the shimmering ice, and all I had to do was frame up and hit the shutter. A lovely moment where, much like ice, time seemed to freeze.

Failings _ Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ September 2019

Failings _ Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ September 2019

Failings.
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Panoramas are difficult for me. Not only identifying when to shoot them, but also actively changing the way I see single subjects to include the bigger picture. I generally opt for intimacy over grandeur in a photo, and then provide the context via the story in words that will hopefully support the image in the end. Panos are like a visual novel; they tell the story of multiple subjects across a massive photo, but details tend to get lost among the vast landscape. I’ve only shot three panos before, all three at Cedar Breaks strangely. I guess the amphitheater of deep orange hoodoos bordered by haunting spruces lends itself well to a panoramic view.
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I shot this scene this past Sunday. I arrived at sunrise to a spot on the edge of the amphitheater that is seldom visited. Another thing I struggle with are sunrises, because I’ve never successfully shot one. This morning was a bit different due to the smoke of the small Chessman Ridge Fire lingering across the Ashdown Gorge Wilderness. I looked at the scene before me and pinpointed everything I wanted to keep within the frame, remembering to shoot wider than I thought I need. The smoke added an element of direction throughout, and needed depth and separation for the chaotic scene. The sunrise didn’t amount to much, but to me the soft light of the fading blue hour kept everything balanced.
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I’m terrible at shooting good light. It’s one of my many failings in photography. I love reflected light more than anything, but I constantly fail at shooting even that. I rely on conditions and luck to inspire and motivate me. Photography is a tough learning process, but it’s always worth the experience of beautiful moments in nature.

Signature _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Signature _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Signature.

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Some places leave such an impression, it’s hard to imagine who I’d be without them. I had the day off and got an early start up SR-14 to take the long way to Zion. I knew the light in Zion was going to be hit and miss until the later afternoon when the cloud would clear up, so I took my time. I enjoyed a sunrise atop the frigid Markagunt Plateau, continued through the atmospheric conditions around Highway 89, and eventually landed in Zion’s east side. The cloud was thick overhead but that allowed ice that would normally melt, due to direct morning sunlight, to be present. I shot a small scene of scattered maple leaves, but I ultimately felt indifferent about the moment. I continued to scour the washes of the east side until the clear day was dominant. The tricky part of finding ice is knowing what areas are heavily shadowed, yet still experience hot enough temperatures for melt. I stumbled upon this scene of interesting movement. A single maple leaf suspended in ice that seemed to carve its own path much like a signature; the east side signing its own beautiful work.

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I decided to stay with the scene for a while, and watch how the light affected the area. I soon packed up and continued to mosey through the washes eventually finding my way into the main canyon for even more exploration of new places. The signature reminded me of how much Zion means to me. It’s a place that’s so easy to see superficially, and disregard it’s deeper potential. I’m thankful to have found Zion when mind was wounded and vulnerable. I let it’s details to seep in and embed into my mind. Zion is home.

Better _ Zion National Park, Utah _ September 2019

Better _ Zion National Park, Utah _ September 2019

Better.

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One hour. That’s all it took to fill one trash bag at some busier sections of the washes in Zion’s east side. I had the day off and I decided that the best use of the day, in this dreary awful summer season, would be to do a little clean up around the place I love most. I started the day by following some fresh tracks of a mountain lion and a cub that I believe walked through the wash the night before. There’s something so exciting about heading deep into a canyon alongside the tracks of something so dangerous. The canyon will eventually dead end, and turning around only amplifies that the journey back is where anything could happen. Luckily, the lions are nocturnal, so there’s not too much risk in the day.
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After that adventure, I headed out to the busy sections to do some clean up. Some highlight litter items included: a tire rim, a flip flop, underwear, and many many wet wipes covered in human poop. One by one, all the litter went into the bag. As I picked up this litter I was interrupted by a group of seemingly outdoorsy people blasting music from their parked van shouting at me mockingly, “OH YOU’RE SO COOL” over and over and over again. I got made fun of for picking up trash. It was such a bizarre moment, it was hard to believe it was actually happening. It makes me wonder if that’s the mindset people have behind picking up trash in the outdoors; that we’re just trying to look cool.
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All I’m trying to do is leave this place, that has done so much for me and my mental health, a little bit better than I found it. It’s the least I can do. I set up this simple scene of what I found. I spelled out Zion on a gorgeous slab of sandstone with a bit of the trash to show the impact of careless littering. Every scrap of garbage that is left severely taints the beauty that this place took so much time to create. Leave it better than you found it, please.

Distance _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Distance _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Distance.

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There’s something unique about a spring morning in Zion’s main canyon. It’s a rare thing to experience by convenience of a car this time of year, but those are the times we live in at this moment and for a good reason. The season brings not only a change to the surroundings, but also to the atmosphere. The symphony of bird melodies almost outweighs the roar of the melt rushing down the Virgin. A soft light glows through the low cloud caressing the cliffs and peaks as the canyon wakes up for the day. I went to my usual spot at heron bend looking for my friend. The heron was probably off getting busy in this mating season, but other feather friends bounced between the cottonwoods. A pair of flickers grew increasingly interested in me. They would quickly ascend and just as quickly descend the bark either looking for a home or a meal. I snagged a quick shot of one perched on a cottonwood dotted with lichen, posed against a rosy pink sandstone wall. The hazy sunlight backlit its feathers and summed up a simple moment to remember a beautiful quiet morning.

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I do photography to distance myself from people and civilization, and become closer to wildlife like this flicker and the natural world around it. Shying away from people and taking photos is more of a natural isolation for me, but I do wonder if exploring the outdoors alone is okay to be doing in these times. While I tend to always practice social distancing in the less traveled places of Zion, I still want to be doing the right thing.

Parallels _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2019

Parallels _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2019

Parallels.

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Photography is a beautiful practice because sometimes I only have a vague knowledge what I’m shooting. The abstract nature of a subject can mesmerize with textures and color, and all I can do is gravitate to it and search for a composition. Some subjects draw parallels to each other either in oddly comparable contrasts, similarities to other phenomena in nature, or in what subjects can represent.

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I spent an afternoon in Zion’s main canyon not looking for anything in particular, but mainly just wandering around. My wander took me to a special area where a very certain spot has a unique characteristic. Among the reeds in the marshy spot lies a small pocket of blue water. While water is often characterized by being blue, this water has the addition of oil on the surface which doubles its traits with help from the light of the day. I set up my tripod gingerly around the pocket as to not disturb the fragile oil. A small boulder sat partially submerged, and I thought it acted as a nice subject to anchor the abstraction. The reflected light from the massive sandstone wall opposite me lit up the edges of the boulder and warmed the scene altogether. I noticed quickly the parallels this oil shared with ice. Both delicate, fleeting, and similar in look and form. Some of you that viewed my behind-the-scenes on this shot saw its similarities to ice as well. Oil has such a dramatic duality to it. It can either represent the most careless human destruction of nature, or in its naturally occurring form which I can only assume is nourishing to the environment around it. This bizarre subject showed me how closely elements of nature are related to each other, and how not everything is what it seems.

Support _ Zion National Park, Utah _ July 2019

Support _ Zion National Park, Utah _ July 2019

Support.

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I shot this scene this past Wednesday. The day was beautifully clear until some hazy high altitude cloud moved in late afternoon. I decided I’d hit up Zion’s east side in search of intricate dried mud throughout the slots and washes. I made my way to a slot that retains water the longest in hopes of fresh mud to work with. I was surprised to arrive to water in the slots as if it rained recently, but I don’t believe that Zion has seen rain in weeks. I pushed on hoping the slots were dry enough to move through, but soon my boots became cocooned in heavy wet mud.

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Eventually I hit an area that resembled quicksand, and I knew it was time to head back out and take a game trail above the slot. In time, I descended into an untouched playground of crunchy, partially dried mud. I slowly stumbled my way over the boulders watching my feet for anything that stood out. Near the end of the slot, or as far as I could go, I noticed this little scene of twisted muddy characters among the boulders.
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I opted for this composition due to the elaborate floral pattern of mud upon the large blue tinted stone. A bit of reflected light helped warm the scene, and added depth. I initially filled the frame with only the large stone, but it felt tight and in need of room to breathe so I gradually included more of the mud elements on the stones surrounding into the frame. All of these elements helped support the the large stone, yet all had their own unique movement to them as well. To me, the elements balanced each other nicely. I’m always appreciative of any amount of support, I think it’s essential to continuing any art form. It inspires me, motivates me, and often gives me room the breathe as well. Photography in any form is difficult, yet anyone can press a button and capture something beautiful. It’s a strange contradiction I face every time I think about photography and my place in it. It’s easy to get discouraged, but in time support remedies the negativity.

Imagined _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Imagined _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Imagined.

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This is a photo I’ve wanted for some time. For me, a lot of photography is based on capturing natural moments whenever I happen to notice them, but occasionally I obsess on a certain subject and have to wait for the right moment to shoot it. Every time I drove through Zion’s main canyon, I’d look up to this pine tree full of character teetering on the edge of a sandstone wall. On a clear day, an even higher sandstone wall in the background extends upwards behind the pine which muddles the isolation of the tree and makes the scene fall flat. Each time I’d imagine the ideal conditions, and each time the current conditions were inadequate. Finally, on a drizzly spring day the conditions were perfect. Low cloud grazed the top of the cliffs giving an ethereal mood which isolated the pine, and the rain allowed for gorgeous saturated warm tones in the sandstone. A touch of interest was added by a small waterfall cascading down the wall, and all in all it added up to the scene that I had imagined.

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This was a roadside shot. An obvious subject stood out among the chaotic landscape only because conditions allowed it to. I felt relief to finally hit the shutter on this scene that’s been in the corner of my mind for so long. Like many of the subjects scattered along the sandstone walls of this scenic drive, they’re true potential is hidden until an atmosphere can be created for them. Soaked from the downpour I walked back to my car, glad to have had a wonderful moment that I’ve imagined for quite awhile.

Lit _ Las Vegas, Nevada _ November 2017

Lit _ Las Vegas, Nevada _ November 2017

Lit.

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Las Vegas is an underestimated place when it comes to the outdoors. Often people reduce the city to the lights, the gambling, and the soul that it lacks; but the outdoors are all around. Valley of Fire is less than an hour up the I-15, and vast mountain ranges intermixed with calming deserts border the chaos of Vegas. One place in particular is the Black Mountain Trail right outside Henderson to the southeast. A brutal incline up dark lava rock while the haunting Joshua trees watch over characterize the trail. I've never actually done the hike in full, but it instantly became a favorite for me. Each trudge up brought me about halfway where I would turn around and see this powerful view.

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On this day in particular I saw a healthy amount of hazy high cloud painted across the sky to the west. I knew if I just waited a few hours until sunset, the sky would light up and show the true hidden beauty of the Las Vegas area. I set up a simple composition of a small Joshua tree isolated among the short brush. Rolling hills of lava rock smacked right into a distant range of peaks, and sure enough the sky lit up. To me, the moment perfectly defined what I see in the area around Vegas. When a place is reduced to its superficial look is when the most potential is hidden in plain sight. 

Practice _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2018

Practice _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2018

Practice.

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To me, photography is about exploring around for a compelling composition, capturing a moment in nature, and appreciating the outdoors more than anything else. I struggle with capturing good light and inclement weather conditions, but practice and getting out more will hopefully remedy that in time. I’ll always be learning, because photography is both subjective and impossible to master. The important thing is to not get discouraged, and just go shoot. Luckily, Zion is a photographer’s playground during mid-day hours on a clear day. The way the light reflects of the massive sandstone walls, and casts through the canyon makes for images you can’t quite capture anywhere else.

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I had the day off, and my mind was craving a full day in Zion. Nature is a good therapist for me. Prior to finding this scene I sat for about 3 hours watching and photographing trad climbers scale a nearby canyon wall. Trad climbing is a skill I’d love to learn. I watched as the climbers underwent the intense mental and physical challenge, and could only imagine the natural high they’d get as they reached the top. Eventually, I stopped off at a viewpoint and stumbled upon this scene as I actually stumbled down the hill almost hitting this cactus. I enjoyed how the scene was filled with all the elements of a desert. It was a warm, fleeting moment of light surrounded by the rest of the canyon in cold darkness. After finishing this scene I headed into the east side washes, and made another attempt at a sunset composition. I failed to capture the sunset shot again, but that’s okay. It’ll be more practice for another day in the near future. 

Bridge _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Bridge _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Bridge.
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This scene has been a thorn in my side for most of the fall season. Initially in the planning stages of fall, I wanted to find a scene where fall color and dried intricate mud clashed. A bridge image that brought summer and fall together, what I shot then versus what I was shooting now. I found this maple in Zion’s east side as it was turning early in the season and decided I’d keep my eye on it. The mud below had deep cracks and I knew I wanted to utilize that in some other way, but I wasn’t sure how. At the start of peak color I visited with my partner to try and make a composition, but I was still unsure how to make it work. My first dedicated day of shooting fall color I framed up a 1x1 and felt okay with it, but overall disappointed. The light that day was diluted through high cloud so the contrast fell through a bit. The biggest problem I found was the lack of a main subject. I had pretty much given up until I visited a bit after peak.
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The red leaves lost a bit of vibrancy, but I loved how the cracks in the mud caught the fallen leaves. I framed up a 4x5 vertical and found a semblance of a main subject in the mass of color. The light that day was ideal, and I simply waited until just reflected light filled the scene. This scene took many attempts, but I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. A simple image of what anchored me in summer, and what challenged me in fall.

Return _ Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah _ February 2019

Return _ Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah _ February 2019

Return.

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I captured this scene yesterday. The day was mostly clear with some clouds dotting the sky here and there. I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to accomplish photography wise, and in turn that affected how I felt mentally. I thought maybe a sunset shot somewhere, but I knew I needed a break from Zion. I decided that I needed some dunes in the hope of shooting something simple, or maybe something with contrast to help my mind. 

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I arrived to snow covered dunes, with the occasional patch of coral pink sand. It was a completely different environment to what I knew from previous visits. I thought it would be best to avoid the patchy and partially melted areas in favor of more pure snow scenes. I headed to a gnarled tree I’ve shot before, and I fell in love with the shadow play that was going on. I was so surprised that the scene was untouched by footprints and tracks. The low sun casted light on the dune that caused a beautiful curve of shadow to fall on the tree. The composition was practically gift wrapped for me, all I had to do was set up and press the button. Even though I rushed around like a maniac chasing the light, the simplicity and contrast calmed my mind down.
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I titled a previous photograph of this tree “Progress”. I believe shooting the same subject in a different way is an interesting way of showing progression. Returning to locations benefit me by showing all the potential that one subject can have. It might not be something completely new, but to me return visits can be refreshing.  

Environment _ Zion National Park, Utah _ November 2019

Environment _ Zion National Park, Utah _ November 2019

Environment.

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I biked into Zion early on a clear morning when I wasn’t expecting much, but my eyes were open for anything. Fall color was fading quick, and I knew I wanted to do my usual walking route between Big Bend and Temple of Sinawava in search of remaining color. Upon arriving to the quiet Bend I looked up and noticed a dark blot high up on the cliffs of sandstone. I framed up my long lens and I soon knew exactly what was looking at. 1K is the new condor fledgling that is a first for Zion after a few unfortunate nesting tragedies in the past years. I’ve watched this condor grow over the past few months and even witnessed its supposed first flight. 1K is already a behemoth with a 10 foot wingspan, and I overheard it has even surpassed its parents in size. The young condor was bathed in reflected light from the wall to the west, and cool tones from the clear sky above. But the most important thing to me was the environment surrounding 1K. The sandstone plinth that the condor was perched on had a lovely texture dotted with lichen. The wall behind was covered in desert varnish and had a gorgeous half arch that framed 1K beautifully.

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For me, wildlife photography has become less of a exercise in my proximity to an animal, and more of figuring out how best to compose the animal in its environment. Even though an up close shot of this rare bird would be breathtaking, it was a delight to spend a quiet moment in 1K’s presence.

Special _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Special _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Special.

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I’ve only been practicing photography for a couple years. In that time I’ve always assumed that subjects, composition, and conditions outweighed the importance of light. In some cases that can still be true for me, but even the littlest amount of light can make a scene truly special. This image spans across two days. In areas of Zion’s east side, patches of ice can be found tucked between the boulders of the washes in the winter months. Those patches tend to fade as more of the water and ice seeps into the sand or simply melts and evaporates on a hotter day. I arrived to a section of the main wash on a chilly day that has the more rare attribute of a pool at a certain bend. The pool was fairly iced over, and the intricacies in the ice patterns were supported by delicate fallen leaves here and there. One leaf in particular caught my eye, a golden oak that bent upwards from the center as the tip and stem were fused into the ice. I sat at that pool for a few hours trying to find the best composition, and eventually found exactly what I wanted. It was such a beautiful scene, I knew that I had to make sure that I got it right before it all vanished.

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The next day I arrived to an even colder east side. I returned to the same exact composition to see how it transformed over night. The ice took on a more singular pattern with less variation thanks to the freeze, and the oak leaf still sat frozen in place. Even more special was the morning light creeping into the scene. Golden reflected light from the sandstone opposite me kissed the surface of the oak leaf, and made me realize what I was missing. It wasn’t the composition, conditions, patterns, or subjects that defined the moment; just the simplicity of a tiny bit of light.

Counter _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Counter _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Counter.

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This is my first, and might just be my last, image of the Zion glow in The Narrows. The glow is the result of direct sunlight bouncing off the sandstone into the dark bends below, creating an ethereal warm light. Wading through Virgin started at 8am. The next 2 1/2 hours were spent on a linear path as the current pushed against me, and the boulders beneath the water grew increasingly more slippery. Like many visits before, I had a blast hiking the popular trail. Unlike those many prior visits though, this time I was looking for compositions. I hit a stopping point before the backcountry where my hip waders were simply not tall enough to keep out the high waters. I turned around, and at about 10:45am I ran into this bend where the warm glow lit up the walls further down canyon. I framed up, set my simple composition, and pressed the shutter. Not necessarily a gift-wrapped scene, but rather knowing exactly what the gift is with no surprise.

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This shot is counter to what I care about in photography and the outdoors. I tend to favor intimacy, assumed originality, and the smaller scene often deemed insignificant. The Narrows is none of these things. To me, It’s a place based on grandeur, and the allure of the epic and the awe-inspiring. I’m sure I’m not the only photographer to shoot this scene in this exact same spot at 10:45 on a winter morning, and I feel that’s the same for every scene found in this glorious feat of nature. Photographers have been shooting these massive walls for a many years, with little to no deviation from the linear path. Despite my moaning, I did enjoy the movement and feeling in the scene. I swallowed my meaningless pride for a few minutes and appreciated the power of light and the strength of water. Sometimes it’s best to just enjoy the hike, and save the imagination for the less traveled places.

Cycles _ Zion National Park, Utah _ April 2019

Cycles _ Zion National Park, Utah _ April 2019

Cycles.

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The day was warm and crystal clear. It was a much needed day off, as my mental health has been extra shot lately. I took the long way around to the east side of Zion. I stopped at River Rock for coffee and editing then headed east on SR-59 to 89 via the Coral Pink Sand Dunes backway. The east side is so beautifully quiet at the moment with the SR-9 switchback closure. Passing cars are more of a rarity, the wildlife are relaxed and more present throughout the washes and highlands, the silence is deafening.

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I spent a brief moment maneuvering through a slot checking on spring bloom. It was nice to be able to juxtapose the winter landscape I know well with the spring color overtaking. I made my way out of the slot and came across a small group of bighorn. Two ewes and a lamb living their lives and munching on the spring vegetation. The road divided the lamb from the ewes, and the lamb sat atop a stack of sandstone. I opted for this composition due to the warm light backlighting the lamb. The yucca and sandstone elements encompassed the lamb, and created a lovely moment I can never forget. I’ve been thinking a lot about cycles with the changing seasons. Things change and return in some similar form for some similar interval of time, that’s obvious, but I’m just feeling it more than I thought it would. Nature’s changing, I’m slowly changing, but mentally I’m in a minor sway. Just slight back and forth movements, happy here, defeated there. I need something that invokes a true change in myself.
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As I was writing this an incredible man who talked of his travels around the world and work with the peace corps approached me and said, “if you stay alive long enough, stuff will happen to you”. I thanked him for the stories, but I don’t think he’ll ever know how much I needed to hear those words right now. 

Relation _ Zion National Park, Utah _ June 2019

Relation _ Zion National Park, Utah _ June 2019

Relation.

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The day was crystal clear and hot in Zion. I wanted to keep the day simple by putting more of a focus on wildlife, but my eyes were glued to the slots. In the past few weeks there have been scattered storms over the east side of Zion. Normally these slots are fairly inaccessible for days after a good amount of rain. Luckily, the scorching clear days dried up the slots quickly and made for some gorgeous cracked mud. I made my way into a slot that I’ve shot many compositions around, and this time it was transformed. The entire floor was covered with a delicate yet rough texture bathed in warm reflected light bouncing off the sandstone walls.

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I slowly moseyed around the slot watching my feet and focusing on identifying patterns. After a good hour of looking, I came across this scene of what I believe is an aspen leaf caressed in a twirl of mud. The scene looked so perfect I figured another photographer must’ve placed it recently. I checked the area around the scene and I couldn’t find any footprints which leads me to believe that this leaf fell naturally. What I love most about cracked dried mud is its direct relation to frozen mud and ice that occurs in winter. It’s a delicate condition that is present occasionally, and in time will fade. There’s a unique elegance to the shapes and patterns, and it’s a joy to have a condition in summer that brings me back to the superior beauty of winter.
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Unfortunately the day was tarnished a bit. After I shot this scene I did find new vandalism on the walls of the slot. People are disgusting, and truly are the worst thing for nature. Explore carefully, and leave it better. Full stop. No sense in harming a place that took so much time to create its beauty, and is only trying to continue to exist without destructive defacement.  

Isolation _ Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Utah _ May 2019

Isolation _ Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Utah _ May 2019

Isolation.

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It was a cold, almost wintry day across Southern Utah which is a little strange for the middle of May. I decided to head up Cedar Canyon into the mountains in hopes for some fog or a whiteout. I passed this tree in a meadow near Cedar Breaks that I’ve had my eye on for a few months now. The reason I couldn’t get to this tree until now was due to the massive snow banks on either side of the road throughout the winter into early spring. The banks can easily reach over 10 feet on SR-14 and pullouts are rarely plowed until later in the season due to snow drifts. Access to subjects in this area during inclement weather is slim to none, but luckily the banks were low enough that day to park and explore. 

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I trudged across the meadow through the knee high snow until I stood face to face with the tree. The weather was brutal. It was a pure whiteout, and the snow was battering me with help from the heavy gusts of winds. In the moment I felt isolated, not necessarily in a bad way, but in a safe way. As rough as the conditions were, standing with that tree gave me a calm feeling. The visibility was so low to the point where just this tree and I stood surrounded by the colorless atmosphere. To me, isolation is part and parcel in photography and exploring around often leads to the feeling of isolation. For me, it’s never a bad thing to be alone in nature, because I never feel alone. I tend to feel more alone around people. I left the tree and trudged back to my car as the visibility cleared and the area felt more crowded. I felt thankful to have had a moment of isolation with a subject I’ve wanted to visit for some time. 

Drawn _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Drawn _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Drawn.

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Some subjects don’t reveal themselves immediately, but often show a glimpse of future potential. I visited a corridor of the main wash in Zion’s east side that struggled with fall color this year, but tends to offer more intimacy. The area of the wash is dominated by maples and towering pines with walls of weaving sandstone. The feeling between the walls is cozy and welcoming, and often bighorn and hawks find shelter in this area. On a prior visit to the area, I was drawn to a large slab of stone that has a unique cool tone that compliments its stunning texture among the landscape of warm tones. I took record shots that day, but I knew it required more of a main subject to anchor the abstraction. Upon this later visit, I found that some fallen leaves had also found shelter on a shelf protruding from the slab. A single golden elm leaf surrounded by rusty oak leaves. The wind was blustery that day so I knew the scene could disappear any second. As expected after a few initial shots, one of the oak leaves fell from the shelf but caught in the nook slightly below. Another moment of nature frozen in time just long enough for me to capture. 

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I never thought this shot would amount to anything. It’d just be imported and deleted as most experimental shots go. This shot has turned out to be one of my favorite images of fall color this year. To me, being drawn to this simple subject with lovely texture paid off. I’m glad I visited this old friend again. 

Infection _ Capitol Building _ Washington, D.C. _ March 2018

Infection _ Capitol Building _ Washington, D.C. _ March 2018

Infection.

_

My time living in Washington D.C. wasn't completely void of photography, this photo was actually one of the most taxing photos I've ever shot. I remember the day was ridiculously windy to the point where I was getting blown off my feet. I took the train at rush hour down to the Capitol and found myself searching for a composition. I thought I'd give a close up shot a try but once I started extending my tripod, security surrounded me quick. About to call it quits, I headed down a set of stairs and turned around to find a scene full of powerful leading lines. Concrete, granite, light fixtures, and most importantly a gnarled vine-like plant curving into the building. With the wind still howling, the sky started to light up in a rather menacing orange causing everything to have a warm glow, and tying the whole feeling of the scene together.

_

To me, the vines represented an infection crawling inward and contaminating the government (much like this current administration has). It felt too on the nose to pass up, and in the end I quite enjoy this little divergence from my more natural form of photography. My time living in D.C. felt like much of an infection in my mind as well. I'm glad that I was able to escape the unhealthy way of living and lack of a life in general. For now the natural scenes are what I try my best to focus on, but it's important to remember how you started out.

Unassuming _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Unassuming _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Unassuming.

_

I’m terrible at planning photos. That’s probably why I’m awful at shooting sunrise and sunset, and why I’m often drawn to places like Zion that shine during the middle of the day on a crystal clear day. It’s a combination of a lack of skill and motivation on my part, but I tend to enjoy subjects that are often hidden in plain sight that don’t necessarily require decent light. Zion is a goldmine for subjects like this, and is a helpful place for photographers like me trying to practice and learn.

_
I ventured into Zion’s east side after a huge storm and an crisp overnight freeze. The ice laid across the floor of the main wash like stained glass. Elegant textures and patterns in the ice teamed with transparency that allowed a glimpse into the ground below. It was a freeze that I’ve never quite seen before, something ethereal and all its own. The sand below seemed preserved by the ice, mummified behind the shimmering brilliance. Oddly, my eyes focused on relatively unassuming main subject. An oblong mass of sand sat poking out of the ice. The mass of sand appeared to be conducting the ribbons of ice much like a symphony. Various groups of ribbons were seemingly in tempo with the direction of the sand as it unified the patterns. The scene spoke volumes to me, and I spent a good amount of time tweaking the composition inch by inch. I’m lucky to have a place like Zion so close to home as I practice photography. Nothing truly needs to be planned when visiting Zion, and images can be made anywhere at anytime. Subjects can come from the strangest of places, and often the ones on the ground below will surprise the most. 

Follow _ Duck Creek, Utah _ May 2019

Follow _ Duck Creek, Utah _ May 2019

Follow.

_

The day was moody and stormy in the mountains, and my mental state was rocky in the morning. I felt I needed to just take a drive and decompress. I passed Duck Creek and spotted the Night Heron from the side of the road. When the weather moves in, wildlife tend to be more present. I’m not sure if the dark, dreary landscape emphasizes their presence, or if they stay low to avoid the conditions. I parked and carefully moved in on the spot where I saw heron, but from about 50 feet away the heron spotted me and took off to the west. I decided to follow it by staying close to the creek. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the advantage of the road elevation to help spot it. Any time I got within its range of sight, the shy heron flew to a further bend down the creek. 

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Eventually, I made my way to a boggy open area at a wide bend of the creek, thinking the heron might’ve perched there. I stood there scanning the tree lines for a few minutes and finally decided to call it quits. I turned around and started up a small hill of lava rock when all of the sudden behind me I heard a loud sound. I turned to see the heron perched in a drenched aspen about 10 feet away. I flipped my settings to manual with a silent continuous shutter in hopes to keep the heron calm. It perched there for about 5 minutes keeping its eye on me, but I felt it didn’t feel threatened by my presence. I opted for this composition due to the contrast of the heron against the dark surroundings. The heron’s blood red eye pierced through, and to me the subtle rain added a nice bit of texture. The moment was a beautiful happenstance.
_
Wildlife requires a bit of following. Never with the intention of scaring the animal, but rather to approach them calmly and keep them relaxed. All I can do is hope that my slow patterns of movement don’t startle, and encourage the animal to live its life as usual. I’m glad this time around the Night Heron decided to follow me when my mind needed it most. 

Movement _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Movement _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Movement.

_

The weather was a mix of heavy rain and snow with persistent low cloud across Zion. I started my day in the main canyon, but soon payed for that mistake. The shuttle system is already rough for photography, but it’s worse in heavy rain. I took my soaking wet self back to Canyon Junction, hopped in the car, and made my way up to the east side. The initial snow of the higher elevations soon turned into lighter rain with partly cloudy skies. It was a pleasant shift of conditions that made the east side a little more calm.

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I scouted around for a few compositions, and eventually landed on this small waterfall that only occurs in rain or snow melt. I opted for this composition due to the movement. The carved, saturated sandstone leading into the ribbon of white flowing water summed up the day in Zion quite well. I utilized a polarizer to take away the glare from the wet stone, as well as a 6 stop ND to slow down the shutter speed. To me, the scene lended itself so well to a 16x9 crop rather than my normal 4x5. I tend to shoot everything in 4x5 because of the pressures of real estate on Instagram and the algorithm. It’s something I need to move away from in order to get the most out of every composition I find. Less than a minute later the scene was gone. The sandstone dried up and harsh shadows took over. The weather moved on just like I’ll have to.  

Something _ Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Something _ Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Something.

_

Kolob Canyons is a unique place that’s difficult to photograph. The landscape is reminiscent of a mixture of Zion’s main canyon and east side, but something all its own. The short scenic drive gives a superficial view of what’s possible through exploration. For a few months now I’ve visited a smaller canyon about 10 times, and each time I’ve failed to come away with anything. To me, the hike into the smaller canyon is the most quintessential Southern Utah hike. The southwestern landscape soon turns into a rather cozy atmosphere between pink sandstone walls. This year, fall color in Kolob was strange. The lower elevations saw fall color first and the higher spots in the back of the canyons seemed to fade without much color at all. I took yet another hike into the smaller canyon way past peak color just to enjoy nature and look around. At the crest of the hike the trail dips down into a meadow area before leveling out for the rest of the hike. The golden tall grass of the meadow drew me in and caused me to look upwards to the stands of maples near the north wall. The maples had such vibrant color, but we’re on their last legs. As if they were all that was left of fall color in Kolob.

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I followed a game trail up to the maples and found this fallen withered pine surrounded in color high up in a nook. The extreme pink reflected light from the sandstone walls felt a lot like being in Circus Circus, but it added a pleasant cooler warm tone to the scene. I opted for an aperture to f2.8 to really throw the background out of focus and make it seem like there was more color in the somewhat sparse scene. After feeling much like this broken pine visit after visit, I finally came away with something from Kolob. 

Time _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2018

Time _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2018

Time.

_

The day was mostly cloudy with on and off snow, and occasional sun. My mind was doing okay throughout the day. I think even the idea of getting outside helps me mentally. I initially tried to head up Cedar Canyon into the Ashdown Gorge Area to catch some snowy conditions, but I felt so uninspired to do photography. I think it might be because I just don’t find the mountains nearest me beautiful in the winter. So I headed right down the road to Zion, my second home. I was walking through a wash on the east side that I know well. The smell of pine is so potent throughout this wash, it calms me down so much to just walk, breathe in the pine, and listen to the ice crack below my feet. 

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I opted for this composition due to the ice and small snow covered boulders leading right into the large pine and sandstone wall. The snow transformed the scene by simplifying it and creating more depth. The large pine in this image is the entrance to another side wash that I love to explore a little more each time I visit.
_
I finished this scene by sitting on a nearby boulder sipping coffee, and listening to the wind howl through the canyon. As I sat there I thought about the immense root structure of this large pine. It looked so complex and time consuming. It made me realize that the time it takes for everything to form is what leads me to believe that nature is the most important thing in this world. The partially melted ice blew off the trees above me mimicking the sound of a light rain. It was a pleasant, calming moment I took for myself to appreciate how nature works. 

Surprises _ Zion National Park, Utah _ November 2019

Surprises _ Zion National Park, Utah _ November 2019

Surprises.

_
Cloudy days with no chance of light often means it’s best to avoid Zion’s main canyon, but the potential of wintry conditions was hard to pass up. I decided to take a walk between Big Bend and Temple of Sinawava knowing I’d most likely come away with nothing. I made my way closer to what I call Heron Bend to hopefully stumble upon my pal, the Great Blue Heron. It was quiet at the bend with no heron in sight, and the weather wasn’t amounting to much. I walked a little further up canyon and caught a glimpse of the heron hunting for a meal. I approached as slowly as I could, trying my best to keep the heron calm and relaxed. I moved in closer and closer, but eventually the heron wasn’t finding any meals among the shallow water and took off further up canyon. I followed and found the heron wading in deeper water at the Temple of Sinawava. I set up my tripod on the riverbank and simply watched the heron hunt for about an hour. The heron moved with conviction through water, carefully wading and scanning for any movement counter to the current. The heron would stop and keep completely still for minutes, then it would stab it’s beak swiftly into the Virgin River. Finally, after a few attempts, the heron caught a surprisingly large meal and I took the shot. The fish writhed in the grip of the beak, but soon the heron swallowed it whole and continued the hunt. It was an beautiful process to witness.
_
This is not the photo of the heron I expected to shoot and show. A week earlier to this shot, I shot a close up portrait of the heron in horrendous face light. I was disappointed in the portrait photo, but I was going to give in and show it anyway. Luckily I stumbled upon the heron again, and I was able to come away with this shot that I was happy with. I’m glad my expectations were overshadowed by surprises. 

Help _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Help _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Help.

_
It’s always interesting to stumble upon subjects that aren’t quite what they seem. When fall color dominated Zion’s east side a few weeks ago, a long straight stretch of the main wash had plenty of potential. It seemed like beautiful subjects were dotted along the sweeping sandstone walls every ten feet or so, but not every subject that’s beautiful has a composition. I returned to a scene I had shot a few days prior. The scene had a strong main subject with two elm trunks each with an inward curved branch off to either side surrounded in warm fall color. Everything in the scene seemed to keep the eye centered on those two trunks that were full of so much character. In my initial shoot the reflected light was diffused quite a bit, and I made a few mistakes in framing the scene as well as improper depth of field. Upon returning, I noticed that what I was photographing wasn’t quite what it seemed. The two elm trunks were gorgeous and powerful, but none of the fall color surrounding the trunks actually came from the elms. The color mainly came from a small stand of maples circling the trunks in the nook of sandstone. The elms were practically just bones, barely any leaves remained on them at all.
_
In the moment, I appreciated the help that each element was giving to each other. The elm trunks wouldn’t stand out without the maple color, and the maple color couldn’t stand on its own without the dominant elm trunks. It was one of those beautiful moments where nature freezes time just enough in this delicate condition for someone to walk by and notice it. 

Transparency _ Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Utah _ May 2019

Transparency _ Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Utah _ May 2019

Transparency.

_

It was a strange day in terms of weather as well as my mental health. I initially shot rainy conditions in Zion’s east side, but eventually moved on to the snowy passes near Cedar Breaks in search of satisfaction. That was the thing, I left Zion that day unsatisfied. I shot three compositions that I’ve shot before, just this time in different conditions. I felt something from that outing that I hadn’t experienced before, and that held onto my mind for days afterwards. Almost like an irrational, premature defeat even though I went outdoors that day and came away with something.

_
That feeling pushed me into the mountains to try and salvage an amount of joy from the day. I weaved through the meadow areas of SR-14 and came across this tree near the summit marker. This tree is non-existent most of winter and spring due to an extra 5-10 feet of snow suffocating it. The bent, frosted nature of the tree as if it froze crawling across the snow grasping for anything among the whiteout spoke volumes to me in that moment.
_
I have trouble talking to people about my depression, but apparently I have no problem being transparent through the images I take and share with the story behind it. There’s a certain honesty to myself that subjects and compositions unlock, and being able to share that with you helps me all the more. Photography is powerful, and is a remedy that I constantly require for my mind. I opted for this composition because I saw myself. 

Subject _ Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Subject _ Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Subject.

_

When setting up a composition my mantra is: “everything can be beautiful, but not everything that can be beautiful has a composition”. It’s something I recite in my mind mainly to help me get through those moments when subjects soar, but every composition seems to fall flat for me. Now this scene truly is a mess, and normally I’d walk on by muttering my mantra allowing it to leave my memory. Unfortunately, the rarity of this subject and what it seemed to represent was too powerful to pass up. I took my usual hike into a small side canyon in Kolob on a warm clear day. Spring seemed to be starting it’s initial steps in the small canyon as bees, buds, and blooms dotted the landscape. Along the hike I noticed a small cliff hung over what appeared to be a modest maple hiding in a dark nook. What got my attention at first was a bright contrast out of the corner of eye. I moved in closer to investigate and found a unbelievable work of nature.

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The tree had not leaves or buds, but rather an intricate collection of icicles amassed on each branch weighing down the humble maple. The sandstone overhang had snowmelt dripping onto the tree which in turn froze with the fluctuations in temperatures. The rare crystalline nature of the tree had an interesting duality to it. A beautiful winter condition created this unique subject, but only because a spring condition allowed it to exist. A soft glow highlighted a tinge of moss in the background, and in the end it felt necessary to capture the moment despite the chaos. Sometimes it’s okay to just forget the bigger picture and focus on what brought you there in the first place. 

Joy _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2019

Joy _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2019

Joy.

_

The day was rainy with persistent low cloud, and my mental health was struggling for the day mainly because I was craving sun. The weather report for the first few days of the week called for snowy conditions in Zion. Even though my mind wanted sun, I couldn’t resist shooting the conditions. I arrived to rain and low cloud throughout the park. The higher elevations were dusted with snow which contrasted beautifully with the wet sandstone of the lower elevations. I decided I would drive the length of the main canyon and keep my eye out for compositions

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I made my way past Big Bend and headed to the last bend before the Temple of Sinawava. I looked up to the sheer walls to see this lone tree sat against the glistening sandstone. I fell in love with the color and texture of the scene. I parked, planted my tripod at the side of the road, and set up my composition when I noticed the small waterfall in the background. The waterfall in this location only occurs with rain and snow melt, and I thought it would add context to my initial composition. I did not think to use a polarizing filter for this scene. A polarizer takes the glare off wet subjects, and adds more saturation. I feel as though the subtraction of glare would’ve caused the tree to be lost. That being said, I should’ve at least given a polarizer a shot. Maybe subconsciously I didn’t want to deal with the joyous time of trying to keep a wet filter dry.
_
I finished my time in the quiet park driving around, sipping coffee, and munching on a cookie. It was a beautiful day full of rainy conditions and calming moments. Even when all my mind wants is sun to be happy, it’s still a joy to be out in nature no matter the weather.  

Diva _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2018

Diva _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2018

Diva.

_

I rarely talk about the photos I take. Most people enjoy a picture, but I think some people enjoy a story. While it’s definitely not a groundbreaking story, I think context surrounding photos can be calming and nice. It’s something I want to do more of.

_

It was a clear day, and I drove up and down the main canyon chasing a composition of side light casting on a cottonwood tree with a background of sandstone in shadow. I kept missing the light because it moves so fast in the canyon, and I don’t know Zion well enough. I decided to park the car and head across the river for potentially a more intimate scene, and as I crossed, a small herd of deer popped up their heads to see what’s going on. The wildlife in Zion is comfortable with human traffic for the most part, and they live their lives among the popular hikes and sights. I walked with them as they made their way deeper into the canyon, and finally snapped a shot of one that loved to pose for the camera.

_

This is not the image I went to Zion for that day, yet this image speaks for the experience of photography rather than the final image to me. The experience is what matters, and I wouldn’t have experienced that moment if it wasn’t for the excuse of being out which is the camera. An image I’m happy with is really just a bonus.

_

Most photography for me is done alone in my own company, but when I needed it most, I was able to spend a brief moment with quiet good company in a cozy canyon. 

Spark _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2019

Spark _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2019

Spark.

_
Ever have one of those days when a dull mood falls over you? It’s not necessarily a sad mood, but more of a pensive one. I arrived to a chilly Zion main canyon where a minor frost enveloped the landscape. It was completely silent apart from the roaring Virgin, and the sun had yet to cast upon the sandstone walls. I photographed some frost covered leaves around the Big Bend area, but soon I moved further up canyon in search for anything different. After a couple hours of searching and wandering, I found nothing. The day seemed to mimic my dull mood. I headed out of the main canyon and up the switchbacks into the east side. I was surprised to catch a glimpse of ice in the washes. It was about 40 degrees that day, but I assume the minor frost had caused a flash freeze in the washes. I dropped into the ice and boulders and looked for patterns and textures, but ultimately the ice was too minimal and spotty to photograph. I only had a couple hours of light left, and still a dullness that I couldn’t seem to shake.
_
I headed back down into the main canyon hoping that I might be able to find an old friend. Sure enough the heron was perched in a common spot on a cottonwood branch. When approaching the heron I like to move like the heron wades, deliberate and slow as molasses. Eventually the heron took a brief flight to a sandstone plinth, and I knew I had an interesting composition. I had to shoot through foliage in order for the composition to work, but I enjoyed how the blurred nature gave the scene a painterly feel. I’m glad in the last moments of the day, a spark of excitement and creativity from an old friend healed my dull mood. 

Re-focus _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2019

Re-focus _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2019

Re-focus.

_

It was a clear, cold day in Zion. My mind was doing okay for the most part, but for the past week I feel as if I was stuck in a photography rut. I’ve been going out regularly trying to capture the snowy conditions in Zion and the mountains closest to my home, but ultimately I failed at producing images I was happy with. While the point of what I do is to appreciate moments in nature and practice photography, it’s still difficult to deal with consistent disappointment in myself and the images I’m taking.

_
So I decided I needed to re-focus. Since there was melting snow in Zion and temperatures were frigid, I figured taking a crack at some shots of ice would benefit me. To me, photographing icy conditions is a test in delicate composition and movement. It forces me to slow down and look intimately into what makes nature beautiful. The east side of Zion was still snow covered with heavy slush in the washes, and the main canyon didn’t have much in the way of ice either. I decided I’d stop off at Pine Creek near Canyon Junction. The water was rushing down the creek from the melt, but the temperatures are generally colder in this area from the lack of sun allowing the formation of stunning ice designs.
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I opted for this composition mainly due to the bells of ice in the upper left of the image. They stood out in the chaotic scene and led my eye to the ice covered boulder to the right of the image. Luckily my shutter speed was slow enough to capture the movement of the water tying all of the elements together. After leaving this scene, my mind felt at ease and closer to re-focusing on what I do through exploration in the outdoors. Sometimes all it takes is practicing something a little different to remember what I know to be me.  

Carving (Intention) _ Zion National Park, Utah _ May 2019

Carving (Intention) _ Zion National Park, Utah _ May 2019

Carving: Intention

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The day had what seemed like a perpetual storm over the east side of Zion. I decided to head into the park and keep my eye out for waterfalls and saturated rock while checking on compositions I’ve shot in the past. Ever since I printed my series on this past winter in Zion, there was one image that didn’t fit with the rest. “Carving” was the title of that image, and it focused on how Zion was becoming a habit for me, and how I couldn’t seem to get enough of Zion’s beauty and natural calming powers on me. It’s my mental happy place. “Carving” fell short on the series’ intention of intimate scenes in conditions that don’t always exist. This image is the same composition as “Carving” just this time with saturated rock to help emphasize the sweeping line of sandstone leading into the weathered pine. The fact that every time I come to Zion I’m carving out a simple moment for myself; much like how Zion was carved by simple things like water, ice, and wind.

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I feel it’s important to emphasize the intimacy rather than the grandeur of Zion. The vistas of this place are a stunning collection of monolithic towers that catch the eyes and hearts of people that visit, but the details are what keep me coming back. I’m having trouble with spring/summer in Zion. The east side lacks character without ice and snow covered washes, and the main canyon’s allure disappears behind walls of green cottonwood and the zoo of people.
_
Winter will be a welcome sight, and I haven’t even shot Zion in fall color before. For now this place will be saved for rainy conditions until the colder months arrive. I can’t recommend winter in Zion enough to people, there’s a certain solemn silence to it. If you can find the time, make the trip to see Zion in its bare, quiet form. It might capture you as well.  

Mirror _ Brian Head, Utah _ April 2019

Mirror _ Brian Head, Utah _ April 2019

Mirror.

_

The day was fairly cloudy across Southern Utah, and my mental health was suffering quite a bit. I decided to head up Cedar Canyon into the mountains closest to home in order to chase the snowy conditions. I took the Mammoth Creek back way into the last portion of Cedar Breaks and beginning of Brian Head. On the drive I came across some pronghorn which are such a stunning animal. Uniquely curved horns, stark colors and patterns to their fur that contrasts nicely to the dark forests of the area, and of course their adorable little heart shaped butts. It was nice to spend time with them, and watch them live their lives.

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I visited this scene that I’ve shot before in different conditions. This stand of trees is just outside the boundary of Cedar Breaks resting right in front of Brian Head Peak. Moody Group is what I called them before. I first found them about a year and a half ago when I was testing my then new camera’s weather sealing in heavy rain conditions. The scene then was dominated by fog and no snow, and I always felt that I wanted to capture the scene in different conditions. This time it was a whiteout with a brutal blizzard, and I feel that these conditions lend well to the emotion I feel when I see these trees. To me, this photo is visual depression. The feeling of being alone, dejected, and miserable but also feeling the need to be alone in order to find joy and strength to stand up to depression. A beautiful contradiction.
_
I’m glad a visited these old friends yesterday. They mirrored how I feel and allowed me to reflect on the recent past so that I could feel okay if just for the moment. I guess moments are better than nothing at all.  

Sand/Wind _ Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah _ April 2017

Sand/Wind _ Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah _ April 2017

Ordinary _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Ordinary _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Ordinary.

_
Understanding a place can be just as important of a tool as understanding a camera, a lens, or even the fundamentals of photography. But understanding a place doesn’t always translate to the feeling of originality in work. Zion is a bisected National Park in terms of conditions. On a stormy day with colder temperatures, the main canyon can be a magical place as rain drapes over the sandstone walls and rushes in the Virgin River. The east side on the other hand is at a much higher elevation. White snow dominates the red, orange, and cream tones of the sandstone beneath. Conditions bring life to the washes through water twisting and carving past each bend. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand each side of Zion, and in that time each hidden nook and cranny soon became part of a more intimate knowledge.
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One of those nooks is actually right off the beaten path in the east side. A popular hike is opposite to an important canyon for wildlife, and at the mouth of that canyon sits a small partial slot. During rain or snow the normally dry partial slot is brought to life with a simple waterfall. I took a dumb risk and decided to cross the roaring wash to get to the waterfall. The scene was at a quirky angle so I made a second risky move and jumped a small gap over quicksand to another slab of sandstone. The wall to the right of the fall was what initially drew me in. The sandstone was dotted with colorful lichen, and a sweeping line covered in moss wrote directly into the fall. I opted for the widest focal length I own in order to bring a bit of grandeur to the relatively intimate scene. This place is not necessarily hidden, remote, or deemed insignificant. I felt somewhat hollow to shoot something that seemed a bit ordinary. I guess I got lost in the moment of some risk, and a beautifully miserable day. This image doesn’t feel original, but the experience sure did. 

Moments _ Zion National Park, Utah _ April 2019

Moments _ Zion National Park, Utah _ April 2019

Moments.

_

I remember the day was gorgeous, warm, and clear. The east side of park was quiet because the switchbacks of SR-9 were still closed. That day was a day where I moseyed through some washes and slots checking in on the spring bloom, and enjoying the peace. Eventually, I ran into a small group of 3 bighorn and I spent most of the time with the lamb. It was a moment of silence where time seemed to stand still.

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I took another shot of this lamb which I posted a few weeks back, but I had this other shot as well. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about posting a similar shot from the same day, but I really enjoyed this image. This was more of a hero shot of the lamb compared to the more relaxed shot. I now realize that one photo doesn’t have to encapsulate an entire experience or a whole day. To me, photography is nothing but a collection of captured moments and experiences. Those moments and experiences can’t be accurately defined in a simple 2 dimensional representation, so I do hope to convey some of the emotion I felt at the time through words however little they may mean to people.
_
The warm backlight casted on the lamb with a background of yucca and sandstone. I took the shot and felt comforted by the stunning desert elements that filled the frame.
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I left the lamb and headed out of the park with a big grin on my face. Not necessarily because of any photo might have gotten, but for the memory of the presence, warmth, and silence of the day that I can never forget.  

Brian Head fire via Spectra Point at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ June 2017

Brian Head fire via Spectra Point at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ June 2017

Kanarraville Falls _ Kanarraville, Utah _ July 2018

Kanarraville Falls _ Kanarraville, Utah _ July 2018

Embrace _ Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Utah _ February 2019

Embrace _ Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Utah _ February 2019

Embrace.

_

It took me a while to feel alright with this photo. My hesitation might stem from the unbelievably perfect conditions I was given, and me simply snapshotting everything that looked beautiful. I headed up Cedar Canyon to the Bristlecone Pine Trail. The area was enveloped in a thick frost and surrounded in fog. Almost as if it was a completely different planet. My tripod had froze due to my own fault of not taking the best care of it, so it was handheld shooting for me. Luckily, snow is bright so shorter shutter speeds were possible and a tripod wasn’t completely necessary.

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I snowshoed around the meadow area to the north of the trail. It was bitterly cold and the high winds brought temperatures barely into the negatives. I made my way through the tree lines, and the scenery presented itself to me in little vignettes. Subjects would pop into view as I walked toward them then gradually disappear back into the fog. I opted to shoot this group of trees because of how they appeared to be embracing. Almost as if it was routine for them to stay close to each other in order to make it through the conditions that have affected them for countless years.
_
Despite the cold and wind, it was such a calming and peaceful experience to listen to the wind howl and the trees creak while I walked through the snow. Much like these trees, I embraced the conditions and felt comfortable in the fact that I was continuing to learn how to capture moments like this one.  

Layers.

_

I’ve had my eye on this subject for some time. This obvious little tree stands in a small concealed nook in Zion’s east side just a short walk from the road. After watching this tree through the seasons, it was difficult to determine what conditions would let this subject shine. Nothing about the scene seemed to allow the tree to stand out, so it slowly started to leave my mind with only the occasional glance from time to time. One snowy day I decided to focus on the higher elevations of the east side because spring was fast approaching. I wanted to find one last composition that would finish off the wintry conditions in the Zion area. I drove back and forth along the road keeping my eye out for anything, and sure enough this bookmarked subject seemed to fit what I was looking for.

_
I parked off and headed out into the wet heavy snow. As well as shooting the scene, I thought the snowfall might make for a good test of the weather sealing on the new camera. The tree had a layer of snow which delicately frosted the top and added a nice contrast against the more desert environment of the nook. Setting up the tripod and popping on a long lens only brought more and more elements within the scene to my attention. I began to notice the gorgeous textures in the background of warm sandstone that almost appeared cel shaded thanks to the soft light, a harsh crack that led right down the frame into the small tree, and the unique feel that the long exposure of falling snow layered onto the scene. Soon I realized that what I had been missing this whole time was layers. The various elements and how they worked within the scene allowed for a pleasing composition full of movement that taught me a good lesson. Often layers of elements can bring everything together in the end rather than one element trying to stand on its own.

Emulate _  Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Emulate _  Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Emulate. 

_
After a disappointing day of attempting to shoot fall color in the east side of Zion, I decided that the next day should be spent exploring areas I hadn’t been to yet for fall color. I entered a part of the main wash that was quiet and peaceful, and shot a scene that included a fallen giant in the form of a broken tree surrounded in fall color. The light that day wasn’t phenomenal, but the mostly overcast sky day did lend itself well to the fall color around the east side. I made my way out of the wash and drove to an area of the wash that was dominated with red maples. The wind had bursts of strength so I knew that any of the red leaves could go at any moment. The disappointment I felt the day before made me want to shift back to the basics.
_
Two years ago I shot a fall color scene up Cedar Canyon that I titled “Cracks”. The photo featured a branch of a maple fracturing into a frame full of color. It was a simple photograph, but it felt powerful to me. I decided it’d be best to focus on the intimacy of trees and hone in on the movement of branches, emulating the image I took years ago. Straight away I found this branch poking out of a gorgeous amount of vibrant red. I set up my tripod, put on a long lens, and took the shot. The disappointment I felt from the day before seemed to fade away. A simple, basic, and lovely moment. 

Guidelines _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Guidelines _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Guidelines.

_
Photography treads a fine line between following guidelines and breaking rules. Ice seems to be one of those subjects where guidelines are often stressed by photographers for quality. Perfect leveling, focus stacking, and critical composition are among the recommended directions; but I decided to follow what I saw even though it might mean a little quality loss. I headed into Zion’s east side a couple days after a heavy rain and snow storm. I figured the washes would have something to offer in terms of ice abstracts, but I was surprised by the beauty in the recent freeze. The ice was delicate, almost feathered across the floor of sand and boulders. I made my way to an area that sees little if not zero sun in winter. The section of wash is characterized mainly by an occasional waterfall in heavy wet conditions, but ice formations flourish after a good storm. I finished shooting a scene of a mass of sand within ice patterns, then made my way further west. The ice patches were chaotic and overwhelming, but ice tends to cultivate order within small areas.
_
I rounded a bend and my eyes immediately shot to a patch of sublime texture and patterns. Straight away I found a main subject that was reminiscent of a gnarled tree or vine twisted within a hot air balloon shaped mass. The mass was protected by an almost planetary ring structure. The patterns surrounding the ring supported yet allowed separation with their various jagged shapes. Beneath the ice lay a warm toned boulder giving a bit more depth and tying the whole scene together. I shot at the wonky angle I first saw it at, and did away with focus stacking in order to show definition in the scene. I shot the scene as I saw it, throwing away all guidelines in favor of celebrating the wonderful work of nature. 

Essential _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2019

Essential _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2019

Essential.

_

The day had a lot of high cloud, but light did poke through occasionally. I had lunch and coffee at a bend in the river near the Temple of Sinawava, and took time to relax my mind. I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to accomplish photography wise for the day, but I knew I at least wanted to wade through the river in search of wildlife. I made my way closer to the entrance of The Narrows, but with no real intent to enter. I’ve never done The Narrows in winter, and I thought my simple hip waders probably wouldn’t do the trick. Visitors hiking The Narrows in the winter are usually outfitted in neon waterproof jumpsuits, a bandolier of lights, and an iconic wooden walking stick. Despite my seemingly underprepared self, I still felt compelled to head in.

_
The water levels were low and currents were calm. Many of the towering sandstone walls had a shell of beautiful blue ice. Massive shimmering icicles draped over the cliffs, and descended down into the Virgin. The gorgeous environment I was walking through seemed unreal. I passed several bends, and eventually stumbled upon this scene of a giant ice formation clinging to an edge on the wall. The ice was glowing with an ethereal atmosphere of mist surrounding it. I knew immediately that I had found my subject. I carefully positioned my tripod in the rushing water, set up my composition, and took the shot.
_
Even though I wasn’t as geared up and safe as the other visitors I came across in The Narrows, I still got away with the bare essentials. I saw about 10 people on the hike compared to the unbearable zoo of hundreds in the summer. It was a pleasant spur-of-the-moment decision that offered me a breathtaking, quiet view of nature at its finest. 

Brian Head Peak _ Brian Head, Utah _ August 2016

Brian Head Peak _ Brian Head, Utah _ August 2016

Transform  _ Zion National Park, Utah _ April 2019

Transform  _ Zion National Park, Utah _ April 2019

Transform.

_

The day was partly cloudy over Zion with long periods of direct sunlight. I headed to the east side looking for something new and different. After a bit of lunch and coffee, I hit up an east side highland area I’ve never explored. I call them highlands because; the areas usually gain elevation quickly, the walls are generally less steep making reflected light on opposite walls almost non-existent, and they tend to be chaotic for photography. This highland was so eclectic due to the fact that it is a main flow area in snow melt and rain. The length and depth of the carved sandstone was extraordinary and often led into abstract stone formations or twisted pines. It’s a place that will provide as a photography playground again and again.

_
I found this scene of what I believe is a form of desert varnish with unique carvings and slits. These shapes in the desert varnish transformed as I looked at them. What started out as a warped skyline soon turned into ghostly figures amongst flames. The reflected light from the opposite wall lit up the scene and added some gorgeous depth. I feel as if my photography is continually transforming as well. Two years ago when I started out I shot everything wide and grand, and I wouldn’t have even thought to shoot the intimate scenes. I’m grateful for this transition because it allows me to appreciate the details of nature that have taken an incomprehensible amount of time. 

Reward _ Duck Creek, Utah _ April 2019

Reward _ Duck Creek, Utah _ April 2019

Reward.

_

The day was fairly cloudy with scattered thunderstorms in the more mountainous areas of Southern Utah. I made my way up Cedar Canyon to 89 and then onto the 9 that leads to the east side of Zion. I was almost to the east entrance when I made the decision to turn back. Zion was just partly cloudy, and I thought it best to stick to the shooting the conditions in the higher elevations. I drove all the way back the way I came until I hit Duck Creek Pond. I looked up to the sky and saw no ospreys, hawks, or eagles. I knew something would eventually come to catch a meal, so I set up my tripod and waited.

_
In time, two ospreys showed up. The first caught a fish within 20 minutes and took off back to the nest, but the second was less lucky. After close to 45 minutes the second osprey made its catch, but competition flew in from the east. A bald eagle twice the size of the osprey swooped in and challenged the osprey for the fish. They fought high and fast into the sky until the osprey finally dropped the fish and the bald eagle scooped it up. Luckily, I was able to grab this shot just before the fight. I loved the movement in the osprey and the way the fish looked caught in the talons. Unfortunately, I couldn’t avoid the sky but the cloudy conditions did allow for some nice contrast against the osprey.
_
I enjoy shooting wildlife more than anything else, it has more of a thrill to it than the relaxing realm of landscape photography. Wildlife is difficult, but incredibly rewarding even if no shot is captured. The experience alone is worth every moment. It was rough to see the osprey lose its hard earned meal, but I’m glad the bald eagle got a reward in the end. Nature can be ruthless, but there’s a reason for everything that happens.  

Final _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Final _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Final.

_
Winter is over. It has been difficult, and defeating to watch this mild season simply pass by. I’ve had a few images that I’ve been proud of, but ultimately I feel as if it was only a taste of what’s possible given healthy frigid conditions. I went to Zion’s east side on a day when it seemed like I’d have to say goodbye to the ice. The day was warm and the freeze was minimal at best. I tracked down the remaining ice to a small corridor of the main wash in full shadow. The moment felt solemn and sure, which I can only assume is much like idling next to a deathbed in the final moments. I spent a couple hours with the delicate patterns scattered among the boulders. I searched and searched until finally I found a more complex and affirming scene to end the season on. Two decaying leaves, one of maple, and the other I have no idea of locked in two separate freezes. One freeze glassed over the boulders beneath, and the other freeze atop acted as a conduit throughout the frame. The brilliant blue tint of the upper freeze allowed for only glimpses into the skin of the leaves below. It was a scene I had been waiting for, and I didn’t even know it. A wonderful final moment.
_
It’s been tough to slog through the long summer months, rush through the fall color on a schedule, and end on a shell of what winter could’ve been. In the end though, I know I’ve tried my very best despite how disappointed I am in myself. I’m grateful for the randomness of nature, and the understanding that seasons come and go. I’m already biding my time until the temperatures drop again. 

Elevation _ Zion National Park, Utah _ November 2019

Elevation _ Zion National Park, Utah _ November 2019

Elevation.

_
Last winter I spent almost every other day in Zion’s main canyon. Often I’d drive in and have some coffee and lunch before exploring around the last few bends in the river deep up the canyon before the start of The Narrows. Along the river on those last few bends is this massive cottonwood which stands out due to its dominant presence. I passed it everyday and I always wondered how I could make a composition out of it. Recently, I rode my bike into Zion early on a clear morning. I spent some time with the baby condor 1K at Big Bend before searching for the last bit of fall color left further up canyon. I stumbled upon a hillside covered in maple stands with vibrant fall color that was starting to fade. The issue with shooting fall color in the main canyon is elevation. It’s difficult to get level with the tree line in order to make the color more appealing for a photograph. I decided to climb the loose hillside via a game trail and try to make something out of the maples. I scrambled up as far as I could go, but the higher I went the less fall color was present. I looked back towards the canyon and saw the cottonwood in peak golden color. The landscape around the cottonwood was soft and muted. As if the cottonwood was the only tree to not be reduced to its skeletal winter bones.
_
The direct morning light was slowly falling into the canyon, and I knew it would ruin the scene altogether. I framed up a simple composition that allowed the cottonwood to arc into the soft landscape and the reflected light from the sandstone wall opposite me backlit everything warmly. After all this time, all I needed was a bit of elevation to finally make a composition out of this beautiful giant. 

Chance _ Duck Creek, Utah _ May 2019

Chance _ Duck Creek, Utah _ May 2019

Chance.

_

The day was covered with a moody atmosphere and blizzard-like conditions in the higher elevations of Southern Utah. The lower elevations of Zion were fairly overcast with on and off showers, so I decided it’d be best to stick to the Duck Creek area. I drove up to the pond/lake and instantly saw the bald eagle in one of its usual spots. The conditions were brutal; pelting snow, slush covered roads, and high winds. All these conditions caused the landscape to fall quiet. Passing cars became a rarity, and any sound made by me was amplified.

_
I grabbed my camera and approached the eagle as slowly as possible, and forced my movements into a consistent pattern to keep the eagle calm. I had my shutter on a loud, high continuous drive mode which combined with the quiet landscape soon caused the eagle to be confused. The eagle flew to the east and perched itself high in a fairly sparse tree. I followed up a steep snowy hillside which in turn brought me to a similar elevation as the eagle. Visibility was dropping fast but about 30 feet away I saw the eagle through the conditions. I opted for this composition due to the side profile of the eagle. I saw so many emotions in the eagle as well as the intimate scene around it. I loved how simple the scene was. The gnarled branch cut through the frame and the background fell to a glowing white, speckled with the falling snow.
_
Chance is a huge factor for me in photography. Heading up a mountain with no real plan, and stumbling upon an eagle in perfect conditions. I didn’t really expect anything out of the day, but came away with a lovely experience. I’m sure it makes me a horrible photographer, but I constantly fail with planned shoots. Sunrises, sunsets, expected conditions, and good light; all things that I fail at. Luckily, chance is still on my side. 

Access _ Navajo Lake, Utah _ December 2019

Access _ Navajo Lake, Utah _ December 2019

Access.

_
The most difficult part of winter photography is access. The simplicity of snow, barren subjects, and extreme conditions make winter the best season to shoot in my eyes. Unfortunately, those elements are often restricted and impossible to reach because they are actively affecting the environment with their beauty.
_
I headed up the mountains on a day where low cloud was moving fast, and occasionally cutting off the direct sunlight. The plows were out shifting the snow from a few areas, but ultimately SR-14 was basically two lanes with 5-10 feet of snow on either side. I kept searching for anywhere to pull off, but the height of the snow was too much for my little car. My eyes were fixated on the snow around the Navajo Lake and Duck Creek areas. Mounds of pure white rose over the landscape of what is normally harsh lava rock looking much like dunes in the desert. The direct light was catching the mounds beautifully, and I knew I had to find a way to get to them. I parked in a recently plowed section around Navajo Lake and took a 1/2 mile walk to the mounds. The snow banks to the mounds were about 4-5 feet tall, so I had to trudge through waist to chest high snow to get to a ridge where I could stand. The light was fading flat fast, but to me it somewhat helped the mounds take on a more ethereal look. I made a prominent mound in the lower right my main subject, and let the others fall to abstract texture. The moment was cold and quiet surrounded by haunting aspens, and it felt delightful. I just have to remember that when access seems impossible in winter, there could be a way right around the corner. 

Force _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Force _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Force.

_

I went to Zion in rainy conditions with the intention of shooting compositions of saturated landscapes, or maybe some moody conditions. I decided that I wanted to stick to the east side, and avoid the main canyon shuttle during the downpour. While the shuttle is great for parking congestion in the canyon, it’s not necessarily photography friendly. Hauling a bunch of gear in wet conditions with less options for stops isn’t the most ideal. I made my way up the switchbacks of SR-9 past the Mt. Carmel Tunnel into the east side. The carved sandstone glistened in the soft light poking through the layers of grey rain cloud.

_
I had lunch and coffee near the east entrance, then doubled back to the tunnel keeping my eyes out for anything interesting. I stopped at this waterfall that only occurs in rain or snow melt. I wanted to capture the movement of the waterfall without capturing the waterfall in full. I also wanted to show the beauty and vivid color of the carved sandstone. I opted for this composition due to the small bush in the upper left. This little bush was being battered by rushing water, yet it held its ground like it has done for many years in these conditions. I popped on a landscape polarizer to take a bit of glare off the wet stone, as well as a 6 stop ND to slow down my shutter speed in order to show the movement of the water.
_
Water is forceful. Zion was carved by it, and is continuing to be influenced by it. I shot this scene a day before a landslide knocked out part of SR-9. It’ll be a couple months at least before the road repairs are finished, but nature will do what nature does best. While this little bush might be standing up to the forces of nature for now, not everything holds forever. 

Monumental Details _ Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ January 2018

Monumental Details _ Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ January 2018

Self _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2019

Self _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2019

Self.

_
The Great Blue Heron to many is a symbol of the self. It represents the ideas of independence and self-determination alongside the ability to adapt and progress. Lately, I’ve been photographing this gorgeous bird in Zion, and lately I’ve been trying to focus more on my own individual happiness. This heron’s movement is slow and deliberate whether perched on a cottonwood or wading through the Virgin River. It has a majestic yet solemn nature to it, and its presence fills me with appreciation for myself when I need it most.
_

It was a sunny, beautiful day and my mental state was calm. I relaxed with some coffee and lunch on a boulder around the bend in the Temple of Sinawava area where this heron is often perched. I made my way to the riverbank and saw the heron in one of its usual spots. I made my way closer and closer and felt as if the heron remembered me in a way. I planted my tripod on a boulder about 15 feet away from the heron and set up this composition. I opted for this composition because I love the way the sandstone walls catch the direct sunlight. To me, the light clears up the muddled landscape of the background and adds depth. I mainly wanted to try and get the closest shot I could without making the heron uncomfortable, and I feel that this was the prime distance for both of us.

_
Since stumbling upon this heron the first time I always felt as if there was a reason I kept finding it. Everything happens for a reason. I believe that more and more everyday. I think I found this heron to understand the importance of retaining my identity, and to care for myself. Much like this heron, I’m adapting to my surroundings and progressing in my individual happinesses. It’s important to be myself, and care for myself.  

Outliers _ Markagunt Plateau, Utah _ March 2020

Outliers _ Markagunt Plateau, Utah _ March 2020

Outliers.

_
Motivation for me feels dependent on what the weather is doing, and often the conditions that weather presents helps certain subjects stand out among the common landscape. To me, photography seems to happen in steps of importance; conditions exist which leads to finding a semblance of a strong subject, I attempt to build a composition, and then maybe a tinge of light will bring it all together in the end. While it’s nice to have the time and patience to carefully set up a composition, the thrill and occasional risk that conditions can present is addicting. I headed up into the higher elevations of SR-14, at a summit marker around about 10,000 feet is a place where fog, whiteout, and blizzard conditions hit the hardest. The day prior was a day full of risk and treacherous decisions on my part, but I felt compelled to head back into the frigid unknown to see what I could find. I snowshoed downward into a meadow area and settled myself on the edge of the tree line. A few characters functioned as outliers from the tree line. Haunting clusters of spruces, lonesome torn trunks, and young saplings are among the detached subjects from the hub of green bordering the sea of white. Subjects like these help define the alpine area of these high elevation meadows. The desolate nature of winter.
_
I decided upon a composition centering a mix of subjects. A group of three fingerlike gnarled spruces fractured into the atmosphere about twenty feet high and peeking between them was a small young spruce. Immediately the trees were personified to me as something small finding their way through a tall crowd trying to get a peek of the world. The trees embraced their personality as the fog blew in and out, and the moment felt quaint and needed. I rely on outliers like this group, because I like to bring attention to subjects deemed meaningless and insignificant. Underdogs and outliers need their moment in the spotlight every now and then, they’re just waiting to be noticed. 

Powerful _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2019

Powerful _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2019

Powerful.

_

The day was mostly clear with the occasional high cloud. My mind was relatively clear as well, with the occasional demon questioning everything I’m doing. They’re getting easier to ignore with consistent time in the outdoors though. I felt I needed Zion, so I headed into the main canyon and scouted for scenes. I was mainly looking for scenes that would do well in the snowy conditions coming up next week. I found one scene that I was happy with, but I ultimately wanted to wade through the river for the rest of the afternoon. There’s nothing quite like walking through the Virgin River in the main canyon. It’s a sensory overload that gives me a unique feeling of calm. The sound, look, and feeling on my feet of the rushing water is as powerful to me as it is powerful to the creation of Zion.

_
I decided I wanted to stick to the Big Bend/Great White Throne area of the main canyon. I came to a point where the river converged after being split by a raised area of sediment and boulders. I opted for this composition due to the nature of the river as a leading line into a peak in the distance. I also utilized a .9 ND Soft Grad to retain the sky and peak as it was much brighter than the rest of the canyon. I was aware from previous visits of how light affects this peak as the sun sets. While the rest of the canyon falls to darkness, this peak holds onto a little kiss of light. I finished this scene by relaxing on a nearby boulder with the last little bit of coffee I had left. I watched the light fade from the peak, and appreciated how calm the powerful Virgin River could make me feel. 

Structure _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Structure _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Structure.

_
Looking for details in nature is a tricky task. Often, it’s entirely based on what catches the eye with what feels like no skill involved at all. The most important thing I’ve learned shooting details is that everything can be beautiful, but not everything that is beautiful has a composition. It was a chilly morning in Zion’s east side, and I had only about an hour to shoot an area covered in ice before the direct sunlight filled in and melted everything. The common theme of the day seemed to be oak leaves. I shot three separate scenes each with a single oak leaf anchoring the each of the abstractions. Two of the scenes ultimately failed in post, but this one stuck with me. A golden oak leaf partially fused in the center of a series of circuitous lines, various freezes, and a small bubble dotting the corner like punctuation. The scene was simple, but the intricate structure of the combined elements was too charming to pass up. Ambient light from the blue sky filled in and wrapped the chilly moment among the sandstone up nicely.
_
I appreciate the structure in scenes of ice most. There’s no guessing how ice will form. It’s all based on water, temperature, and what catches the eye. The way the freezing has to form precisely in order to work, and yet has to completely fade away in order to create something new. The way a small oak leaf perfectly centers itself and fuses into the abstraction. It’s an unbelievably delicate process that changes structure constantly during a short window of time, simply waiting to be noticed. 

Growing _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Growing _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Growing.

_

The day had on and off showers with a gorgeous soft glow throughout Zion’s east side. I scouted a few compositions for later dates with better conditions, but the bulk of the day was spent with a large group of bighorn. The group was gathered around a popular bend, and instantly became an attraction for visitors. Rightfully so because the group had about 7 baby bighorn clacking their little hooves upon the sandstone slabs. I’ve never seen so many baby bighorn in one spot, so I decided it’d be best to stay close and try to observe their behavior. I stayed with them for about 2 hours watching them relax, munch on vegetation, and grow slowly.
_
I opted for this composition mainly due to the background of soft, crumbly sandstone. To me, the two babies had such beautiful movement and shape to them. They stood out, yet blended in so well. The whole experience with these bighorn made me look at myself and my growth. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe I’m a phenomenal photographer by any means. I don’t believe I’ll ever think that of myself, but I do believe I’m becoming more consistent. It’s that consistency that is directly affecting my technical camera knowledge, as well as my ability to spot subjects and compositions. Much like these bighorn, I’m growing slowly. Hopefully on the right path. 

Potential _ Zion National Park, Utah _ September 2019

Potential _ Zion National Park, Utah _ September 2019

Potential.

_

Summer has been a struggle. Minimal conditions and absent wildlife make for a drought in possibilities, not to mention the zoo of people and overgrown greenery hiding the intimate subjects. Thankfully, summer is on its way out. I went to Zion this past Thursday to check up on how the fall color was coming along. I started the day by visiting a side wash that I explored a bit on a prior visit, but I couldn’t fully remember its potential. I made it to the area I turned around at before, but this time I continued to climb higher into the wash. Eventually, after some risky scrambling onto high sandy cliffs, I was forced to turn around at a wall of boulders too massive to climb. The exploration felt needed, but in the end the wash was sparse in photo potential.

_
I exited back into the main wash and moseyed around looking for delicate dried mud. I found a fallen leaf caught in some nice patterns, and even a good amount of reflected light filled the shadows of the scene. I shot it, but I was unsure about the composition in whole. I decided to move on around a few more bends of the wash. Eventually, I came to another side wash that was more of a hidden nook shrouded in trees and brush. I trudged through the sand until I hit this fallen tree. The tree was gnarled and withered from time, and the classic Zion light bathed the grain in cool tones from the clear sky above and warm tones from the reflected light off the sand below. I was fixated on the patterns that led into the main knots on the trunk, lost in the abstract beauty. I soon realized I stumbled upon one of those rare timeless subjects that can be photographed during any season in Zion, all it required was the correct light. Fall color will grasp Zion soon, and while I’m excited, I’m also nervous to shoot a condition so fleeting for my first real time in the place I love the most. This summer season has built up a lot of potential for fall color, hopefully I can capture all it has to offer. 

Immense_ Milky Way Core Stack _ Navajo Lake, Utah _ August 2017

Immense_ Milky Way Core Stack _ Navajo Lake, Utah _ August 2017

Inspiration _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2019

Inspiration _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2019

Inspiration.

_
The day was a bit dull in terms of weather. A lot of high cloud was looming over Zion, so I decided to hit up the east side for a little exploration in the washes. My mental health issues are more sporadic these days. I can generally maintain a calm state with the inspiration and motivation to explore, but it comes from a need to get away and outside. Once I get outside, my mind finds peace, but I’m still never okay with myself and what I’m doing in life. It almost feels like I’m just putting a mask over my problems. I hope time heals as it usually does.
_
I stuck to a part of the east side that has sparse parking, but there is one spot available right after a sharp bend in the road. You generally won’t find people or many footprints throughout the washes in this area, because tourists are often there for the sights rather than the exploration. I relaxed with some lunch and coffee on a flat raised area, then made the short descent into the slot below. The slot was covered with ice that was a few inches thick. I opted for this composition due to the leading line of ice directing my eye to the frozen cascade of water over the wall of the slot. It was a serene moment to enjoy. Just the sound of melting ice cracking and dripping around me.
_
I left this scene and decided to explore around a few bends of the wash further east. I noticed after a while my footprints weren’t the only ones. I was following a single person’s footprints all throughout the area. I later found out that Ben Horne was photographing Zion for the day, and they were his footprints I was following. Ben is a legend and a massive inspiration to me. He is the main reason I explore the east side looking for compositions and finding peace. Ben’s YouTube channel focuses on the beauty and preservation of nature through his incredible work with large format photography. Glad to know that I followed the path that day of someone that showed me the path.  

Yesterday _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Yesterday _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Yesterday.

_
I started visiting Zion consistently last December. Before then, Zion was nothing more than the “Disneyland” of National Parks to me. Tons of people, iconic hikes, and the obvious sights to see. Last December my mind was fractured in so many different ways. I felt regression and shock that I somehow wasn’t expecting, or I had at least ignored. I visited Zion for the first real time on my birthday last December and the small details of the park filled the cracks in my broken mental health. In the days following, I shot a group of deer that I walked with for about and hour. I came away with a photo that I titled “Diva”, and it was the first photo that I put context to. Yesterday, I visited the main canyon after about a 5 month hiatus, and I arrived to a familiar crisp, cold canyon that immediately put a big grin on my face I couldn’t get rid of. I have a lot of bad days still, but yesterday was a good day.
_
Bucket lists can help mark individuality, and can also provide an amount of guidance. I have my own list for Zion, and yesterday I was able to mark two off my list. First of the two was a shot of a deer wading through the Virgin River bathed in reflected light, second was simply witnessing a California Condor soaring among the cliffs of sandstone. This photo is more of an intimate break from what I initially envisioned, but I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance of this deer to “Diva”. After capturing this moment I decided to catch a glimpse of the baby condor. Upon arriving to the area, cheers from a group of condor researchers erupted as the baby condor made its first signs of flight. The first, of the critically endangered California Condor, to hatch, fledge, and take flight in Zion. I looked up to see a parent condor soaring among the sandstone cliffs above its child. I could feel the intense emotion of the moment for both the researchers and the parent condor. Pure elation.  

Appearance _ Zion National Park, Utah _ April 2019

Appearance _ Zion National Park, Utah _ April 2019

Appearance.

_

The day had scattered storms over Southern Utah, and Zion had a particularly rainy forecast. I headed into the east side with the sole purpose of shooting a waterfall in some way. I made my way to an area that I’ve shot before where a waterfall only occurs in rain and snow melt. I didn’t want to take a shot that was too similar to the previous composition, so I decided to explore the area a bit.
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The waterfall had a few tiers to it so I headed up to the top tier and found a lovely scene. Sweeping, saturated sandstone covered in vibrant lichen. A small waterfall cascaded into a large pit with vivid moss and fern. I opted for a composition that included all the beautiful elements that stood out to me. The waterfall was only slight, but I enjoyed the almost contradicting appearance of the scene. In this massive area with deep carvings and large pits eroded by this waterfall, the waterfall was only a minor element in the moment. It goes to show that appearance in the moment isn’t everything, and there’s a bigger picture that is created from the sometimes minor elements.
_
I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring and cleaning up litter around the higher elevations. Doing my best to give back to a place that gives so much to me. It was a peaceful and gorgeous time spent in a place that I care so much for. 

Vulnerable _ Duck Creek, Utah _ March 2019

Vulnerable _ Duck Creek, Utah _ March 2019

Vulnerable.

_

It was partly cloudy to the north and more overcast weather to the south, so I avoided Zion. Plus with SR-9 closed, there’s no access to the east side. I decided I’d head up Cedar Canyon to Duck Creek Pond, with my main focus on Highway 89 to try and find some wildlife. Just as I was passing the pond I noticed a large bird that looked like a Great Blue Heron from afar. I parked, grabbed my camera, and moved in closer to see white feathers on the bird’s head which can only mean one thing for this area.

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Bald Eagles are more active further south at the moment as they avoid colder temperatures to the north. Late February to early March is a perfect time to spot them in this area of Utah. I trudged slowly through thigh high snow to the edge of the pond about 30 feet from the eagle. The pond’s floor was entirely moss covered quicksand, so there was no option to get closer. At one point my foot broke through the thin ice at the edge into the sand. It’s a slow and terrifying thing to start sinking in quicksand, especially because I always try to save my gear before myself.
_
I opted for this composition due to the simplicity of the scene. The sun broke through a bit of cloud, and the eagle stood on thin shimmering ice at the edge of gorgeous blue water. Nothing particularly clashed texturally or color-wise with the eagle, and to me that emphasized the eagle all the more. I did capture some in-flight shots of the eagle, but they seem a bit too painterly against the blueness of the sky that day. To me, there’s a certain vulnerability to birds relaxing on the ground. They seem fearless and relatively protected from threats when in-flight. I too was vulnerable that day due to my inexperience capturing wildlife, as well as putting myself the dangerous situation of ice and quicksand. Despite the vulnerability of us both, it still felt comforting to be in the presence of this majestic bird.  

Navigating _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Navigating _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Navigating.

_

It was a perfectly clear, warm day in Zion and I decided to hit up the east side for some exploration. I parked and made my way into a wash that appears from above the road to be inaccessible. Sheer sandstone walls are connected only by a narrow wash that is cluttered with cottonwoods and pines. Most visitors just drive right on by. Once down in the wash, it’s a pleasant hike to a rather cozy set of slots. Each of the slots had a floor of quicksand, and at one point I thought I might have to turn back due to steep walls and slick ridges. I pushed on up the muddy ridge, and descended into this carved area of sweeping rose colored sandstone. It was a place that seemed so unique to the east side, yet all the elements made it familiar and defined its beauty.

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I opted for this composition due to the two stones anchoring the waves of sandstone. A bit of reflected light from the wall directly to the east added a bit more warmth and depth to the scene. To me, the stones seemed as if they were navigating the extraordinary terrain just as I was. Exploring the less traveled areas and stumbling upon something that freezes the senses for a moment, and injects the mind with awe. 

Guide _ Sandy Point Beach, Maryland _ February 2018

Guide _ Sandy Point Beach, Maryland _ February 2018

Behavior _ Zion National Park, Utah _ June 2019

Behavior _ Zion National Park, Utah _ June 2019

Behavior.

_

The day was perfectly clear, but my mind was struggling quite badly. I hate to sound like a broken record, but photography and mental health do go hand in hand for me. I didn’t really know where to go that day. I headed up Cedar Mountain but then soon turned around and made my way through Cedar Canyon. I just felt confused and in desperate need to get some sort of photo that day.

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Eventually I found myself in Zion’s east side working on a intimate scene of a cactus with reflected light. The entire time I was shooting the scene I noticed a small bird gracefully flying around a hollowed out pine on the ridge of sandstone above me. I closed in on the pine slowly and noticed that the behavior of the bird was consistent. It left the pine, and returned in few minutes, over and over again. I pulled out my camera and focused in on the pine to see that this bird kept returning to a small hole with a beak full of insects. I assume it’s a flycatcher or wren of some sort, and it was such a lovely couple of hours watching it stockpile insects for the day, season, or a maybe a baby in the hollowed out pine. I opted for this composition due to how the bird popped its little head out of the hole to check on its surroundings. I framed the hole within a branch of the pine that was twisted into a circle. To me the branch acted as a natural vignette as reflected light warmed the scene and a bit of casted light kissed the head of the bird.
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I’m starting to understand how important noticing behavior is for wildlife photography. It’s not necessarily about finding an animal and taking a shot, but rather understanding what the animal does and learning how to take the shot. After having all these beautiful moments with wildlife, I’m starting to notice a change in my behavior as well. And that change gives my mind a little peace.  

Elements _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Elements _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Elements.

_
After the first half of the day spent in The Narrows I emerged into Zion’s main canyon feeling somewhat solemn. I seem to always feel this way along the riverside walk trail, and I think it’s mainly due to the amount of people I pass. Often I’ll just continue wading through the river to my parked car at the Temple of Sinawava just to avoid the human traffic; and their incessant questions of “how much further is it?”, and “is it worth it?”. Of course it’s worth it, it’s almost as if the being in the outdoors is some miserable chore for them.
_
I made my way up the switchbacks of SR-9 into the quieter high elevations of the east side. The temperature that day was in the low 50s, so I thought it’d be best to just explore new areas. I parked off and scrambled down into the main wash. I was about to cross over the boulders and ascend up the sandstone highlands when I noticed the ice patches scattered on the wash floor. The particular area I was in doesn’t see much sun in the winter, so the ice was untouched and full of character. I scanned the mesmerizing circuitous lines and found an anchor in the form of an icy mass. The mass acted as a hub for the lines, and showed the activity of the scene as it froze. I placed my tripod gingerly atop a sandstone slab, and worked the shimmering composition of cool tones and patterns. A beautiful intimate moment that allowed the iffy experience of The Narrows at the start of the day to simply fade away. This is not a grand and iconic scene, but rather a glimpse into the elements that carve and create those grand scenes. A smaller world of natural details that allow the bigger world to exist. 

Timeless _ Zion National Park, Utah _ April 2019

Timeless _ Zion National Park, Utah _ April 2019

Timeless.

_

The day was partly cloudy with a calm, cool breeze throughout the washes of Zion’s east side. I visited this scene hidden away near the end of my favorite obstacle ridden wash. This was the third time I visited this scene, and I spent about three hours waiting for the best light and fine tuning my composition. I opted for this composition due to the reflected light from the wall directly to the east. Light bounces around this small slot of sweeping sandstone, guiding the eye to the two boulders sat in the nook between two walls. It was a cozy, and comfortable moment.

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I see this scene as a timeless scene. It can be shot in any season, and the ideal condition is reflected light. No fall color, no potential of access in wet conditions. Simply carved sandstone, dotted with lichen, warmed by light. I sat there and appreciated the time and power nature takes to shape scenes like this. After finishing this scene, I relaxed in the sunlight listening to the bees buzzing overhead working on the initial steps of spring.  

Retain _ Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ July 2019

Retain _ Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ July 2019

Retain.

_

The night was relatively clear with the occasional cloud here and there. I decided to take advantage of the clear night by heading into the higher elevations for some Milky Way shots. I made my way up to Cedar Breaks, a dark sky monument right up Cedar Canyon, and found myself at this scene that I scouted earlier in the week. Astrophotography is what got me into photography about 3-ish years ago, but I’ve moved away from it recently. Nowadays, I care more for the intimate scenes that focus on the details, as well as wildlife which is naturally intimate. Astro tends to be more focused on the vista, and the details tend to fall behind the grandeur of the galaxy. The way I do photography has shifted, but I want to retain my roots.
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I opted for this composition due to the lovely movement in the branches of the gnarled tree. They twist and curl into the night sky, almost resembling cracks fracturing into the frame. It was difficult to find a composition that didn’t require a wider shot that filled the frame with useless pitch black foreground. Luckily, I was able to stumble upon the simplicity of just a tree and the cosmos.
_
I stood in the darkness staring at the billions of stars, and it brought me back to why astrophotography is special to me. It dwarfs me. It truly makes me feel as if everything we do in life doesn’t really matter, which in all honesty, it doesn’t. Everything is meaningless, but we make the most of our little lives. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same amount of giddiness that captured me when I started in astro, but it was nice to explore the roots again. 

Giddy _ Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Utah _ January 2019

Giddy _ Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Utah _ January 2019

Giddy.

_

It was a strange day mentally and weather wise. The day was clear, cold, and exhausting for my mind. I felt I needed Zion, but I was unmotivated to make the journey that day. I needed a more immediate route to the outdoors in order to calm down. I decided to head up the canyon that leads into the mountains closest to me. I wanted to explore the back ways hoping to find a way to enter the locations I generally shoot from spring to fall. I failed to find a back way as I found that all the roads into the locations were closed for the winter. I was disappointed, but still happy with the time I spent out exploring and learning from it. As well as that, my mind found peace from the simple journey made into the outdoors.

_
As I made my way down the canyon back home, I stumbled upon this scene. Fast moving low cloud heading south across the Cedar Breaks area towards the back side of Zion. I had never seen conditions like this in this area. The day was crystal clear, but this random cloud spawned from what I can only assume was the blistering cold of the day. The setting sun casted this gorgeous golden light on the moving cloud. It was such a special and stunning moment to enjoy. I set up a quick, simple composition to include all the elements that made the moment beautiful to me. I opted for a 10 stop ND due to the fact I was shooting into direct sunlight. The 10 stop, much like putting sunglasses on your lens, stops a lot of light from hitting the camera sensor offering long exposures in bright light. It also allows for movement of water or cloud to look more ethereal.
_
Photography generally works best through planning out shots and taking the time to scout locations. I do love the random moments like this though. It brings out the giddiness in me. It’s that giddiness that got me into photography initially, and still continues to motivate and inspire me to keep going.  

Assumption _  Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Assumption _  Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Assumption.

_
I entered a part of the main wash on Zion’s east side that is often quiet and serene, but this day in the wash was a bit different. I made my way to a few scenes of fall color that I wanted to see in the afternoon reflected light. Along the way I found that the light was too harsh on some scenes and dappled, if not non-existent, on others. I decided I’d give the light some time to change, so I kept moving through the wash. Eventually I heard this consistent sound that resembled rock scraping against rock, with laughter mixed in. Immediately, my mind went to vandalism. I hurried through, stumbling over boulders to try and catch the vandals in the act. I passed a final bend when the sound started to fade. I looked up to see the cliff was close to a sandstone wall opposite, and the sound was echoing down to me. Eventually I figured out that the sound I was hearing was two small dogs yapping at each other with their owner’s laughter intermixed on top of the cliff. Funny what assumptions the mind comes to.
_
After that strange moment, I headed back through the bends. I looked up to see this gorgeous pine lit up by reflected light. The scene was practically gift wrapped for me. The roots of the pine twisted around and caressed a heart shaped slab of sandstone. A stunning golden elm, and a lovely pastel colored maple help lift the scene out of the dark canyon background. To me, the elements came together well. A lovely moment to follow a very strange one that I won’t forget. I’m glad the assumption I had led me right back into a pleasant scene. 

Parallels Part/2 _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Parallels Part/2 _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Parallels part/2

_
Some subjects cause such an abstraction, it’s hard to tell what the story is. After spending some time photographing a small dipper in reflected light further up canyon, I decided to move down canyon as the daylight faded. I decided to check in at a particular spot special to me that I’ve shot before. This location has a large amount of naturally occurring oil in a small area of water. The day was fairly chilly, but even with the temperature, I was still surprised to stumble upon the frozen scene. The natural oil and ice took on a brilliant blue color with help from the clear sky above. I utilized a small boulder poking slightly out of the ice to anchor the abstraction. The warmth of the boulder and the cool of the oily ice contrasted so beautifully, all I had to do was frame up and press the shutter.
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This is a scene I’ve shot recently, just with a somewhat different composition and feel. I titled that photo “Parallels” due to the the scene’s resemblance to other natural wonders like ice, and the dramatic duality oil plays in nature. This shot seemed to follow that same theme by resembling, to me at least, the beauty of the cosmos. Layers upon layers of stars shimmering represented by the speckled oil in the ice, and a planetary mass represented by the warm boulder. It was a small moment in a grand place that resembled a much bigger universe out there. I stood for a bit lost in thought, packed up my gear, and moved on to see what else I could see. 

Character _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Character _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Character.

_

The day was extremely rainy across Southern Utah, with consistent low cloud. I was excited to shoot the wet conditions in Zion, but also cautious about shooting in them as well. I arrived to a heavy downpour throughout the park. The Virgin River had a roaring flow of muddy debris from upper canyon. The towering sandstone walls were beautifully saturated and scattered with waterfalls. The main canyon was an unbelievable, stunning sight to see.

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I spent the first part of the day attempting to shoot a scene closer to the Temple of Sinawava. I placed my tripod gingerly on my car’s tailgate, thinking I’d be able to shield my camera from the rain. Unfortunately, any slight movement I made caused my exposures to lack sharpness and my compositions to shift. So I decided to move on further down canyon with my eyes fixed on the walls. I spotted this waterfall just past Angels Landing, and fell in love with the movement. The wall had a unique carved texture that allowed water to wind down past a small grouping of trees. The dominant tree the right helped ground the chaos of the scene, and provide a place for the eye to rest.
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Trees in Zion are full of character. Twisted and gnarled branches, dark bark with vivid highlights, root systems that depict the passing of time. Each have their own distinctive features that make them unique to themselves. I admire trees mainly because they face the conditions that they are given. It takes a lot to bring them down. When they do fall, it’s not a failure, it’s just that nature had a different path for them.  

Emerging _ Zion National Park, Utah _ July 2019

Emerging _ Zion National Park, Utah _ July 2019

Emerge.

_

The day was fairly clear in Zion, but in time some high altitude haze rolled in and diffused the direct light. I spent a few hours walking through the washes of the east side looking for any fresh scenes of mud, but nothing really caught my eye. I decided I’d head back to a slot near the tunnel that has provided time and time again. I thought that I had found everything it had to offer, but among the cracked mud I saw something new.

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I stumbled upon this boulder with delicate mud formations atop. Initially I only included the boulder in the composition, but soon I noticed more. I opted for this composition because below the boulder I saw two stones trying their best to poke out of the mud creating gorgeous textures. Then I noticed a subtle s-curve that leads right through the frame giving direction for the eye. And a little curled insect in the upper right corner added a bit more life to the dormant scene. Even though reflected light didn’t occur in the slot, I did enjoy the soft glow that bathed everything in a cool tone. I filled the frame with details and textures, and all in all it was an enjoyable moment of discovery. I think the most beautiful thing of the moment was the idea of details slowly emerging. I started with a single main subject, but I slowly zoomed out upon seeing more and more details that bolstered the main subject. After the calm moment, a smaller hawk of some sort flew into the slot with a meal in hand. I spent time trying to track the hawk, but it ultimately flew off to its nest high above the slot. I simply saw the hawk as another detail emerging in the moment. 

A start _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

A start _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

A start. 

_
Fall color has been elusive to me. I mean it’s been present obviously, but it’s been overwhelming to the point of frustration. For the past three weeks fall color has dominated the higher elevations. I’ve raced around the mountains trying to make compostions anywhere, but ultimately I failed to find anything that I was happy to shoot. Everything that was beautiful caught my eye, but not everything that is beautiful can be a composition. I guess I was just waiting for Zion to enter the season.
_
I think fall color happens like an earthquake. It has an potent epicenter that slowly ripples out to the fringes. Sure water, temperature, and daylight play their random parts; but I think it’s more calculated than that. I shot this scene a couple of days ago. I headed to an area of the east side that I believe is the epicenter of fall color this year. Red maples dominate the edges of the washes, and fallen leaves are dotted in between the boulders. On bends a bit further away from the epicenter, green still remains the superior color with fall color nowhere to be seen. I came across this half red half gone maple among a background of dark green, and I knew that this vibrant red could be gone the next day. I framed the maple around a cluster of yucca and a partially turned bush to the left, as well as a foreground of boulders in the wash and the sweeping lines in the sandstone slab. And as usual in Zion, a tinge of reflected light gave the scene a bit of depth.
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So this is my first fall color shot, to me it’s simple and calm. It’s been a discouraging start, but stumbling upon this composition helped me see how fall color should be photographed. It’s about photographing a fleeting condition while retaining the concept of intimacy and exclusion. Even in this extremely short condition, slow and steady wins the race. 

Elation _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2019

Elation _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2019

Elation.

_

Zion was blanketed in snowy conditions for the majority of the day until the later afternoon when the weather calmed down. My mind was doing alright, and I was excited to just be out shooting. I arrived planning to shoot pleasant wintry scenes, but plans quickly changed. I stumbled upon the Great Blue Heron and spent about 3 hours following it back and forth between Big Bend and the Temple of Sinawava. It was an absolute joy to wade through the river trying to frame a composition of the gorgeous heron. Unfortunately, I was not able to capture anything I was looking for, but I loved getting the miles in. It was both elating and peaceful.

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I scouted a few more scenes around Big Bend for future conditions and felt happy with the day I had in the park. I drove down canyon just past the overcrowded Watchman viewpoint when a large bird darted across the road into the pines to the west. I pulled off the road, grabbed my camera, and headed in after it. I ducked through the snow bent branches and found this stunning hawk perched atop a tree. The background was entirely deep red sandstone and I felt that it balanced the scene well. I’ve decided that wildlife photography is the type of photography that gives me the strongest feeling of elation. Determining the behavior and movement of the animal is intoxicating for my mind, and I’m unable to dwell on anything else in my life. It’s an instant happiness drug that allows me to completely ignore reflection and focus on the moment.  

Lonesome _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Lonesome _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Lonesome.

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I find myself drawn to the withered spruces dotting the higher elevation meadow areas of the Markagunt Plateau. Small clusters are scattered here and there, and they face the worse conditions winter can throw at the region. Characterized by their haunting presence, these gnarled remnants materialize and just as quickly fade away when conditions roll through. I took a stroll through a meadow that often sees a heavy frost that can plaster the tree line in thick white ice. The conditions weren’t that heavy, but far in the distance I saw this cluster faintly through the fog. I trudged through the quiet landscape and stood face to face with the wooden remains. The side facing south was covered in stunning frost, but the side facing north had the contrast and the composition that I required. I wanted to separate the individual trunks just enough to retain the coziness but also maintain order; it was a matter of me shifting inches to the left and right. I stood there in the cold for a moment and appreciated the minimal atmosphere around me.
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The lonesome, isolating nature of winter is what I find so addicting. Every other season seems too chaotic, overgrown, and busy from both the overwhelming human and natural elements. Maybe I’m drawn to these solitary subjects because they don’t seem so alone when I’m with them, and neither do I in their company. 

Obstacles _  Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Obstacles _  Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Obstacles.

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Making sense of chaos is the most difficult part of photography for me. Chaotic scenes tend to be a dance between what is interesting and what works together. Often, both don’t align. I shot this scene in a side wash of Zion’s east side that is incredibly diverse in its plant/tree life. Ferns, maples, and pines all twist together between the somewhat claustrophobic walls of sandstone. I ran through the wash looking for anything that stood out, but unfortunately everything did. The entire time I felt as if I was just looking up towards trees, and I wasn’t seeing their full potential. Lost in the rainbow of color.
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The sandstone walls were steep but climbable, so I decided to take the risk and see if I could get level with or higher than the tree line to get a shot. I made my way closer to this bright red maple illuminated by the reflected light from the cliffs above. I scaled an incline that had the only clear view of the maple, but also had a sandy surface that was extremely difficult to climb. I inched up the gradient until I couldn’t go any higher. I couldn’t use a tripod due to the angle and slippage, and I had to shoot wide open at f2.8 with auto ISO and a fast shutter speed in order to avoid any blur. Everything was opposite to what I know of landscape settings, but I loved the color and feeling in the scene too much to let it go. Each tree represented a character essential to making the scene work. Despite the many obstacles of the moment and lack of quality in the photo, it was rewarding to be able to understand the chaos if only just for a little while. 

Complexities _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Complexities _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Complexities.

_
As the season of ice comes to a close, to say it has been a mild winter would be an understatement. While I’ve tried to make the most of the delicate ice across Zion, I can’t help but feel a tinge of disappointment in myself for how I’ve covered the season photographically. I’ve loved the simplicity in the abstracts that ice can create, but I’ve been craving a composition full of complexities. Something where a problem presents itself and I have to work out a solution. The compositions I’ve been making have felt quaint and straightforward, yet full of possibilities. It’s difficult not to feel that I’ve missed the big picture.
_
It was a relatively warm day in Zion’s east side and the ice was minimal. I walked a corridor of the main wash where the sandstone walls tower over the boulders. Sunlight is blocked which allows for a nice sustained freeze as each day passes. I stumbled upon a wonderful scene that was as simple as they come. A single crack of ice caressing the edges of a single oak leaf fused into the hazy freeze. One dying season gently bordering an even older decaying season. The negative space surrounding the lone leaf and line allowed for disassociation from the chaotic landscape around, and a bit of reflected light from the west kissed the delicate leaf. There was nothing complex in this scene, and as thrilled as I was to find a composition within the bleak day, I felt it was a hollow victory. Some photos don’t necessarily make me feel happy to shoot, but I think it’s important to show the images that evoke emotion in myself. However the moment might make me feel, it’s vital to me to show some progress. 

Listen _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2018

Listen _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2018

Listen.

_
The day was clear with intermittent high cloud, so it was beautiful weather for Zion. My mental state was doing well for the most part, it’s easy for me to feel okay in Zion once I’m exploring for compositions. I returned to this slot canyon on the east side that I visited once before. It’s a fun slot to climb and squeeze through, and once you hit this point, it’s absolutely silent and calm. This area of the slot is my stopping point, because the water is generally too high for me to get past. This time around the water had a thin layer of ice on the top. While I wanted to see if I could head in further, I didn’t want to risk the dangers of ice as well as ruining the scene for another photographer.
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I decided to enjoy a cup of coffee on a nearby ledge and just relax and breathe. I looked up to see this gorgeous pine centered on the sandstone cliff. The warm reflected light from the sandstone to the north lit up this cliff and created beautiful contrast against the darkness of the slot. I positioned my tripod precariously with one leg against the slot wall, and the other two legs on thin ice. I knew I wanted a ND grad filter to retain the blown out sky when exposing for the slot, but the ice was cracking and I had to move fast. I opted for a bracketed exposure 3 stops either side to retain everything and save time. Bracketing takes three photos; one properly exposed, one three stops darker, and one three stops lighter. A quick blend together, and there’ll be a single image with more wiggle room to work with the exposure.
_
I made my way out of the slot and felt grateful to have had that moment in quiet nature. I appreciate quiet. I tend to sit back and listen, rather than add noise. Luckily nature is the same way, I guess we listen to each other listen.  

Process _ Cedar Mountain, Utah _ October 2019

Process _ Cedar Mountain, Utah _ October 2019

Process.

_
In the past weeks of fall color, Cedar Mountain has become a fallback location when all else fails. It’s an area with a huge variety of trees which causes a rainbow of color to coat the mountainside. Every tree seems to be on a different timeline. I visited a spot over a two week period of time to watch the tree line transform. The spot is dominated by oaks and maples, with aspens dotting the black cliffs above. Every time I visited this spot I would park on a small gravel patch a couple hundred feet away. Each time I would pass this small but mighty oak at the edge of the road watching and waiting for the best possible color. Visit after visit, the leaves would be a different hue but never quite right. Direct light hits this mountain until the sun sets on the horizon, so in order for the scene to work I needed to wait for the last moment of daylight to fade away. A couple days ago I made a visit, and the scene was exactly how wanted it. A golden oak supported by a deep red maple behind. Blue light from the sky gave a cool tone to the tops of the branches cracking in and out of the scene, and a kiss of light casted onto the vivid colors making for a lovely moment.
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I opted for a 16x9 vertical crop which is becoming a theme of mine for fall color. I feel as if the skinny and tall crop best suits the movement in intimate shots of trees.
_
I loved the process of this shot. Noticing the texture of the bark poking out of the overgrown greenery weeks ago, and finally being able to shoot the full transformation after consistent watching. Even though I was doing absolutely nothing to affect the transformation, I felt as if I was molding the scene over time. A single glance can find potential, and time can help bring it to life. 

Relaxed _ Zion National Park, Utah _ July 2019

Relaxed _ Zion National Park, Utah _ July 2019

Relaxed.

_
The day was crystal clear and hot until some high altitude haze or possibly smoke from a nearby fire moved in a diluted the direct light. I spent about 3 hours in a slot that I know well in search of mud. This slot is more unique then the rest in the east side as it has a slight overhang of sandstone much like the Subway in The Narrows, but much less dramatic. This overhang is difficult to deal with because it’s hard to tell how the reflected light is going to bounce off the walls. The ground of the slot was completely covered in crunchy mud and the light was soft but it still warmly lit everything.
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Most of the cracked mud on the ground had an under layer of soil which appeared too coarse and not delicate enough. Soon my eyes focused on the layer of sandstone below the overhang. It had these holes carved by water and time. I found this stone in one of the holes and I knew I found my subject. I opted for this composition due to the sandstone swirl leading to and almost caressing the stone. The dappled cracked mud added a lovely bit of texture to the negative space surrounding the stone. All in all the scene felt pleasant and soft, but still reliant on the qualities of the mud to add interest.
_
On the cliffs above me a group of bighorn were keeping me company by simply munching on vegetation and relaxing in the shade. The entire outing felt very chill and relaxed with no overwhelming moments. It’s amazing what a little shade on a hot day can do. 

Building _ Alton, Utah _ April 2019

Building _ Alton, Utah _ April 2019

Building.

_

The day was fairly overcast so I thought it’d be best to head up Cedar Canyon in search of wildlife. I hit up Highway 89 and drove just past the Alton turnoff when I spotted a massive nest with a hawk perched atop. I parked quickly and rushed to get my camera into position when I realized that the hawk was in the process of building the nest. I slowed down everything I was doing, planted my tripod on the hill next to the busy highway, and waited. Eventually a second hawk turned up with a supply of sticks and twigs for the nest, and I took the shot.

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I opted for this composition due to the branches of the gnarled pine framing the hawk on the left. To me, the hawk to the right balanced the scene, and provided context to the idea of springtime nesting. Unfortunately, I couldn’t avoid the sky but at least there wasn’t a blue sky that day. I stood there for about two hours watching these beautiful hawks build their home. It made me look at what I was doing, in that I’m hopefully building something for myself through photography. Gathering sticks and twigs in the form of photographs, and in turn bolstering my nest in the form of a portfolio. It was a fantastic time spent with hard-working company.  

Quaint _ Red Canyon, Utah _ February 2019

Quaint _ Red Canyon, Utah _ February 2019

Quaint.

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The day was perfectly clear and on the warmer side. My mental state struggled heavily in the morning, and it was difficult for me to remain motivated and inspired. I started out in Zion, but made the quick decision to leave due to a lot of little things going wrong. I made my way to Highway 89 and headed north towards Bryce Canyon right down the road. My main goal was to shoot one of the many bald eagles in the area. On this stretch of highway it’s easy to spot a few, but difficult to capture them. While I did grab a quick shot of one, I still want more practice on their behavior and movement.

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I made the turn for Highway 12 towards Bryce but stopped in the Red Canyon area instead. Towering hoodoos, unique miniature arches, and deep red sandstone formations make up the area. While the area is small, it is chock-full of stunning nature. Red Canyon is a place that seems like it should be part of Bryce, but for some reason isn’t. I climbed a steep cliffside to this formation, and loved how the light casted through. I opted for this composition due to the simplicity of the scene. The snow covered the distractions, and emphasized the sandstone formation. It was a quiet, peaceful moment where it felt as though time stood still. Even though the day began with difficulties mentally, it ended on a better note with quaint natural company.  

Presence _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2019

Presence _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2019

Presence.

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The sky was filled with hazy high cloud, but the sun tried its best to poke through occasionally. My mind was doing pretty well at the end of my time in Zion, but was struggling at the start. After a bit of exploration in the east side, I decided I wanted to head into the main canyon. I made my way down the hairpin turns to Canyon Junction and found that the main canyon was temporarily closed. Heavy visitor traffic caused a short supply of parking, but eventually I was able to head in and make my way to the Temple of Sinawava area.

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I parked at a bend in the river that I know well and headed towards the rushing water. I initially wanted to capture a scene of a tree that needed reflected light, but when I arrived the scene was being hit by direct sunlight. I decided I’d wait it out for a few minutes and head to the river for some wildlife potential. I knew this area is a home to the blue heron from a previous visit, and as I approached, I was happy to find the heron perched upon a fallen cottonwood. I switched over to my wildlife settings quickly. I soon found that the heron was content with me in it’s home, and seemed comfortable. I planted my tripod, switched my settings back to manual, and set up a composition. I wanted to frame the heron with cottonwoods while including the lit up sandstone wall in the background to separate the heron from the chaotic landscape. To me, it was a composition that seemed to encompass everything beautiful about the main canyon of Zion in winter. Skeletal cottonwoods, lit sandstone walls, lichen covered boulders, and wildlife living their lives.
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I spent about a half hour with this heron. It was an incredible experience to be in this bird’s presence, and I think that’s becoming a more appealing element to me with wildlife photography. The presence of any animal can be such a comforting moment in the usual loneliness of photography. I left the park with a big grin on my face, and my mind at peace.  

Exist _ Markagunt Plateau, Utah _ December 2019

Exist _ Markagunt Plateau, Utah _ December 2019

Exist.

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Sometimes conditions are so brutal, they can imitate other conditions. I found this to be the case on a day where high winds and intermittent wintry conditions dominated the higher elevations. I cruised through the meadow areas of SR-14 looking for anything isolated in the colorless wide open areas. My temperature gauge read 5 degrees but the heavy wind chill brought the temps down to around the negative teens to the negative lower twenties. Snow drifts from the 5-10 foot walls of snow made it almost impossible to see around each slippery bend, and now and again I’d find myself head-on with another car when visibility improved. I decided to take a few passes back and forth to look for subjects scattered in the snow. Eventually, I found this cluster of what I assume are spruce remnants being battered by snow spray in the gusts of wind. I parked off in a recently plowed area, popped on my snowshoes, and made my way to the cluster of skeletal trees.
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The wind was pushing me from behind and every inch of me began to slowly succumb to the blisteringly cold conditions. Once at the cluster, I knew I had to dial in settings and decide quickly on a composition before framing up. I opted for composition where a small stump curved slightly upward into the finger-like trunks behind. The wind allowed the scene to take on the conditional effect of a whiteout. The snowy air obscured the background of lava rock and tree lines so that this simple scene could stand on its own right before me. I decided to handhold the shot rather than use a tripod as the forceful winds started up again. I quickly took the shot, and headed back to the car as my limbs, fingers, and face were all going numb. The moment was brutal, but it was such beautiful moment of isolation. It’s incredible what the trees in this area experience in their lifetime. They are the epitome of strength, and I admire what they go through to simply exist. 

Slow _ Duck Creek, Utah _ June 2019

Slow _ Duck Creek, Utah _ June 2019

Slow.

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The day was partly cloudy and uneventful for the most part. I started the day in the east side of Zion looking for scenes with reflected light, but the high altitude haze diffused the light a bit too much. I decided to head out and make my way up to Duck Creek in search of wildlife. I arrived to a crowded lake of people fishing, but I noticed in the distant tree line a group of about 6-7 Night Herons. I popped on my hip waders and moved in as slowly as possible trying my best to keep them calm. Within 20 feet they felt my presence, and the whole group moved further down the creek one by one. I knelt down behind a large bush of gnarled sticks and tried focusing on one of the heron high up on a branch of a pine. I missed the shot as the heron flew off, but just as it did an adorable Western Tanager quickly perched on a stick in the large bush right in front of me. These tanagers are easy to spot with their brightly colored feathers, but are tough to shoot due to how much they bounce around the bushes. It makes autofocus pretty much impossible. The light casted softly through the bush onto the tanager’s face, and it stayed with me for about a minute as it sang and chirped. I opted for this shot due to the side profile of the tanager, and how it seemed to be giving me a little grin.

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I’m starting to see how slow Spring and Summer is going to be for intimate scenes. I’m going to have to focus on wildlife more, and probably invest in a blind of some sort to see wildlife up close and personal. As well as that, I’m excited to put more of a focus on the Milky Way and night sky photography again. While it might be a bit slow for simple scenes, I’ll try and make the most of the grand scenes in the overgrown seasons.  

Shifts _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Shifts _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Shifts.

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Ice is a delicate condition that is based on shifts in movement. For both the water during the freeze and the photographer that notices it; these shifts are essential in forming a result. Each small shift of mere inches can provide a new composition and more possibilities. This scene was about 3 feet or so from another composition of a golden oak leaf fused in the ice that took a couple days to shoot. The ice in this scene sits on a pool of water at a bend in the main wash of Zion’s east side. Above the ice sits a sandstone slab that makes for a perfect platform for tripod placement. The area is sunken in and quaint, allowing only a minute amount of light to reach the pool. The ripples of ice had such beautiful character, and the reflected light from the sandstone areas above warmed the scene in whole. I decided to focus in on a group of various warm tone leaves that seemed to be caught in the reverberations of the ripples. The leaves and the ice fought for subject dominance, but in the end I tried my best to find a middle ground in the abstraction.
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I spent a few hours at the bend moving no more than 10 feet in any direction. My eyes were racing around the ice trying to exhaust all compositional potential before the light left. The time at the pool felt like a test. Angles, placement, and elevation all played into the various compositions that were available. Each composition seemed like following the steps of an equation knowing there’s no real answer in the end. But I guess that’s the beauty of photography; no objective solutions, just subjective interpretation. 

Giants _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Giants _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Giants.

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Zion is scattered with giants. The Watchman, Great White Throne, The Organ, and even The Narrows tower over the main canyon. They provide as iconic subjects to photograph as well as guiding markers along the Virgin River. The east side of the park has its own cast of giants that loom over the washes. While they are much less iconic than those in the main canyon, they still dominate the sandstone landscape. One such giant in the east side was this tree. It can be found in a part of the wash seldom visited due to a lack of parking along the road. The area of wash is quiet and full of so much natural variety. This colossal tree once created a natural bridge from an initial fall that connected the walls of the wash and allowed for ample passage underneath. The trunk was strong enough to survive the initial blow to create bridge, but nothing lasts forever.
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I visited this area of the wash a few days ago and found that the tree had finally buckled under the stress. The fracture was bittersweet as beautiful fall color surrounded the mangled giant. Straight away I set up a composition that allowed the tree to serve as a leading line through the frame. A stand of red maples to the left and a yellow sapling to the right gave a comforting border of color, and a background of slightly turned oaks helped balance the scene. An overcast sky gave the scene a soft flat light, but even upon returning for potential reflected light on following visit, I preferred the soft light ultimately. The wounded giant was encompassed in beauty, and I thought It’d be nice to pay my respects of sorts through a simple composition. Like leaves in this fleeting season, giants can fall as well. 

Common _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Common _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Common.

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The American Dipper is a fascinating bird to watch in Zion. All along the Virgin River these common birds fly low against the water, chirping and bouncing from boulder to boulder. They dip their bodies into the rushing water over and over again for food and clean feathers. I headed deep into Zion’s main canyon on a clear afternoon and found myself at one of my usual spots. The heron was perched in the grasses to the west of the river watching me, and I decided I wanted to focus in on the golden reflected light on the Virgin. The river in this area turns gold at certain angles in the later afternoon thanks to the massive sandstone wall to the north reflecting a warm glow onto the surface of the water. Cool tones from the clear sky above helps contrast against the warmth allowing for more cinematic looking scenes. I was trying my best to isolate some tiered boulders, but ultimately I couldn’t make it work. As I was about to pack up this small Dipper entered my frame. It sat there for about 5 minutes wiggling and fluffing it feathers. I knew I wanted to keep the shutter speed slow in order to show the movement of the water, but also keep the bird sharp. It was a difficult shot to time right, but eventually the dipper held still long enough for a simple environmental portrait.
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This is a common bird in a common scene. It’s something you can see everyday in Zion’s main canyon, but I loved the moment and the memory too much to let it go. 

Simple _ Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Utah _ February 2019

Simple _ Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Utah _ February 2019

Simple.

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I started out the day in Zion, but the conditions were miserable and dull. I was expecting some low cloud or rainy conditions, but partially wet sandstone and a slightly more saturated landscape were all Zion had to offer. To top it all off, my mind wasn’t doing so hot. A lot of demons were creeping up in my mind making me second guess everything. I left Zion and made my way through the canyon pass into the mountains closest to my home. The canyon was covered with fog and coated with frost. It was a stunning winter wonderland.

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As I gained elevation the roads grew increasingly worse. The snow plows tried their best to keep up, but daylight was fading and forcing them to stop plowing. I decided to play it safe and head back down the canyon to a spot that I was able to park at. I walked 25 or so feet into Cedar Canyon Campground and looked to the left to find this scene. It was a pleasing composition to me. To me, the frost covered bush to the bottom right anchored the composition, and the small stream acted as a subtle leading line into the mood and trees of the background. I stood there in the quiet forest with only the sound of falling snow tapping against my jacket. It was calm and peaceful.
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It may have been an easy shot that was right off the side of road, but I think photography doesn’t have to be complex all the time. Sometimes the simple shots that don’t require much work can be just as nice. No hiking, no heavy exploration, and no great light. Just a simple and beautiful moment in nature.  

Blemishes _ Zion National Park, Utah _ August 2019

Blemishes _ Zion National Park, Utah _ August 2019

Blemishes.

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The day was scorching hot and crystal clear over the east side of Zion. Normally I don’t go to Zion on the weekends in the summer season due to the crowds, but that day I felt compelled to lose myself in the washes. I spent the day in a stretch of wash that doesn’t see much visitor traffic, mainly because there are few pullouts for parking along the stretch, and visitors tend not to explore much beyond the more iconic sights. The time in the wash felt odd, I think odd is the best way I can put it. I walked the length I wanted to, but ultimately the light wasn’t working with the wash. I became fixated on a rock face in direct light for no reason, and I then moved onto a scene of a boulder in mud that I tried to hard to make work. After failing with those two scenes I decided to make my way back to my car and reset a bit. I passed an area that pools water after a good rain and I saw some deep cracked mud. When I passed the first time the area was in direct light, but walking back I found it more compelling.

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A root from a nearby pine sprawled over a low slab of sandstone, descended, and then faded into this coarse texture of mud in the pool area. I loved the bitty texture of the broken mud on the root that led into the cracks, reminiscent of old 8-bit video game graphics. I opted for this composition because I simply wanted to fill the frame with everything I found beautiful surrounding the strong root. Reflected light wasn’t possible due to the stand of trees opposite the scene blocking any potential, so a soft light was the best possible outcome. Wasps buzzed around me the entire shoot which caused me discomfort, and the scene had its blemishes in the form of twigs, needles, and leaves strewn about. Despite the blemishes, the moment was exactly what I needed following the failures of the day. Even among the flaws, there’s still beauty to be found. 

Rest _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Rest _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Rest.

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While I do see the beauty in being able to get out and photograph everyday in Southern Utah, I also see the worth in taking a break. I’ve just gotten back from a trip to the east coast where I spent some wonderful, much needed time with my partner. Before the trip I found myself photographically blind, and in need of a reset. Winter conditions consistently snuffed out, ice was hit and miss, and nothing particularly inspired me. The day after the trip I went to Zion and visited some of my usual spots. I found my old pal heron relaxing in the tall grass, and spent some time shooting a dipper cleaning itself among the Virgin bathed in reflected light. I wandered to the Big Bend area and noticed ice resting at the river’s edge among the boulders. I searched around and quickly saw a small but powerful curved crack weaving through a patch of ice. I looked closer and found that the crack beautifully grazed the edges of a boulder beneath. The boulder was dominant but also hidden under what appeared to be a re-freeze that caused a dull layer of white to coat the boulder. I framed up and fell in love with the movement in the little scene below my feet.
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The intimacy of Zion and Southern Utah in general is intoxicating, but I think it’s important to take a step back for a moment and rest every now and then. I’m lucky to have this unbelievable area around me for now, but there’s no sense in crippling imagination because of access. Nature can refresh itself and provide opportunity, I just need to simply take the occasional rest to help me see its potential. 

Strength _ Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ August, 2017

Strength _ Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ August, 2017

Reason _ Duck Creek, Utah _ August 2019

Reason _ Duck Creek, Utah _ August 2019

Reason.

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Since starting out in wildlife photography a handful of months ago I’ve realized that no matter what, every new animal I see is interesting and exciting. I simply wasn’t paying enough attention to the world around me before. These are animals that you could see in photos everywhere because they have been photographed over and over again by many talented photographers. To me, it’s all about the rush and the thrill of capturing something new to my eye, and all the while making sure the animal remains as relaxed as possible.
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I captured this moment a couple weeks ago. The day was perfectly clear, and I had an itch to head up into the mountains to see if I could catch some wildlife. I moseyed around the Aspen Mirror Lake area of Duck Creek to check on the various herons that live around there. After a good hour of walking I didn’t come across anything except for a fawn and mother staying low in the distant tree line. I headed in the direction of my car when a massive bird swooped extremely low to the ground in front of me. I figured it was an eagle of some sort, but as I cornered a pine in the bird’s direction, I was greeted with this face of a Great Horned Owl staring right back at me. The direct light casting on the owl made for a difficult exposure to manage, but all in all it was more about the moment than anything else. The night before I had glanced through a book on owls, and I thought of how amazing it’d be to finally shoot one someday. Well, I can finally tell you that it was an amazing moment, and I can’t wait to stumble upon this gorgeous owl again. There’s a reason for everything.  

Plan/Scout _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2019

Plan/Scout _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2019

Plan/Scout.

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It was a clear and warmer winter day in Zion. My mental state was shaky to say the least throughout the day, but I felt more stable near the end. I started the day by checking on the ice near Canyon Junction, but due to the warmer temperatures the ice was non-existent in the area. I decided to scout out a spot I’ve always wanted to explore near the Zion Museum. There’s a ridge that overlooks the classic view of the Towers of the Virgin, and I wondered if I’d be able to find a shot. I hiked up the game trails to the top and relaxed on a boulder that was bathed in sunlight. I sat and watched the snow fall from the peaks in the distance like small, brief waterfalls. While I couldn’t find a composition, I was at least able to find a peaceful moment for myself.

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I finished up at the ridge and headed into the main canyon to a scene at Big Bend that I had scouted and planned in prior weeks. My initial compositions over the weeks failed, and I almost gave up on shooting this scene altogether. Eventually, I found and opted for this composition. I loved how The Great White Throne sat in the nook between The Organ to the left and Angels Landing to the right. The last little kiss of light in the canyon fell on the Throne, and presented beautiful contrast in the darkness of the rest of the canyon. To me, the rushing water from the snow melt ran over the rocks and created a lovely foreground interest in the absence of a strong leading line.
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I stood in the cold water sipping my coffee, and thought about the importance of planning and scouting scenes to shoot later in proper conditions. It’s something I struggle to do often, and I now realize why. Planning and scouting to shoot later is basically a photography test. I study and practice only to see at the end of the shoot if I was correct. I just need to remember that if I’m not correct, it’s okay. I’ll just need to study harder for the next test.  

Launch _ Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ August 2017

Launch _ Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ August 2017

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