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Photographer’s Guide To Bryce Canyon National Park

 

Earth shadow tints the sky over Thor's Hammer in pastel shades of blue and pink in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. (Bret Edge)

Earth shadow tints the sky over Thor’s Hammer in pastel shades of blue and pink in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. (Bret Edge)

I first visited Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park in 2005.  Melissa and I spent a half day touring the overlooks before unanimously deciding that we were unimpressed and should move on to a more interesting location.  In 2012 I was passing by Bryce Canyon on a motorcycle trip when something compelled me to give it another shot.  I rode through a summer monsoon storm along the scenic drive to the end at Rainbow Point, stopping at each overlook to enjoy the view.  I don’t know what inside of me changed but this time, I was awestruck.  I called Melissa and convinced her we needed to plan a trip to Bryce.  She reluctantly agreed.  We came back with our son later that summer and she too was surprised to find herself fascinated by this marvelous canyon.  We camped for two days and hiked among the fanciful hoodoos.  I’ve gone back a couple more times in the last year and am already eagerly planning another trip.

You would think it relatively easy to create beautiful photographs at a place this scenic.  You would be wrong.  Bryce Canyon is a complex place.  Finding a cohesive composition in the right light requires careful study.  Though I’ve visited a number of times I have exactly one photo from Bryce that I consider print-worthy and only half a dozen or so that are marketable (excluding outdoor adventure photographs).  With this post I hope to share a few lessons I’ve learned over several visits that may help to increase your chances of producing quality images.

General Strategies for Photography at Bryce Canyon National Park

The vast majority of overlooks at Bryce Canyon face more or less east so in the morning you’re essentially shooting into the sunrise.  Yes, there are exceptions at some of the side canyons but generally speaking you’ll greet the morning sun head on.  Use this to your advantage!  The light that Bryce Canyon is famous for is that soft, warm glow of reflected light and at Bryce it is strongest at sunrise.  The red hoodoos and badlands absorb sunrise light and bounce it onto the backsides of hoodoos, filling in shadows and giving the entire scene an amazing radiance.  Use a small aperture (i.e. f/16 or smaller) to create a sunburst just as the sun creeps above the horizon.  If you’re including sky in your composition be prepared to deal with the extreme dynamic range between bright sky and darker canyon.  In the past I used graduated neutral density filters.  Now I blend exposures by hand using luminosity masks and am far more pleased with the results.

Don’t stop photographing right after sunrise.  Mid to late-morning is also excellent as you’ll still find wonderful reflected light even hours after sunrise.  This is also a good time to utilize longer focal length lenses to isolate hoodoos or features inside the canyon for a more intimate view.

Afternoon and sunset is a more challenging time to photograph at Bryce Canyon.  The setting sun casts long shadows into the canyon at most overlooks and only the tops of the hoodoos are bathed in light.  Don’t give up though!  Ten to thirty minutes after sunset you may find a pastel pink and blue sky appear above the canyon – Earth Shadow – and a soft glow upon the landscape.  This light is exquisite and very easy to work with as it is low in dynamic range; you can usually record the entire scene in a single exposure.  Clouds may also offer an opportunity for sunset photography as they bounce light into the canyon, filling in some of the shadows just enough to prevent them from completely blocking up.

Choosing the right lens for photography at Bryce Canyon can be challenging.  You will be tempted to go wide by the seemingly endless views but beware of distortion that causes hoodoos on the edges of the frame to bend outward.  I’m not suggesting that you keep your wide angle lenses stashed away – just know that you will need to make some perspective corrections in post-processing.  There are a couple of ways to avoid this: use a tilt/shift lens or stitch two or more frames together to create a single image.  If I had one, a tilt/shift lens would be my first choice.  If you choose to stitch photos together I recommend that you use a moderate focal length of around 50mm and shoot in a vertical orientation.  This technique is often used to create panoramic photographs but if you only use two or three frames you can create an image with a normal aspect ratio.  Another benefit to this technique is that the final image will likely be of a higher resolution than a single-frame photograph.  Go ahead and make those large prints!  Jim Goldstein wrote an excellent tutorial titled “Mastering Digital Panoramic Photography” that I highly recommend for those of you who are new to this technique.

Every season has something to offer at Bryce Canyon.  Spring temperatures are very pleasant and wildflowers begin to bloom, adding dashes of color to the landscape.  In the summer, dramatic storm clouds build almost every afternoon.  Aspen leaves turn bright yellow in fall and contrast sharply against dark evergreens.  Winter snows create unique and peaceful scenes and also drive away most tourists but be prepared for brutally cold conditions.

Locations to Photograph at Bryce Canyon National Park

What Bryce Canyon National Park lacks in size it more than makes up for in opportunity, which is to say that you’ll find yourself in a target rich environment the moment you cross into the park.  Familiarize yourself with the park before you arrive by visiting the Bryce Canyon National Park website.  Here you can read the aptly named park newspaper, “The Hoodoo“, which also contains valuable information about hiking trails and a good map that provides a birds-eye view of the park.  For a map with more detail I highly recommend the National Geographic Trails Illustrated topo map, #219.

Locations that follow are listed in the order in which they appear as you drive through the park beginning at the park boundary just outside of Bryce City.

Fairyland Canyon

I only discovered Fairyland Canyon last year and have yet to make a dynamic image there.  That said, I believe this relatively small overlook has tremendous potential.  The hoodoos below are densely packed into the canyon with Boat Mesa rising to the south.  In August I found colorful rabbitbrush blooming alongside the trail and ominous monsoon storm clouds in the sky.

Sunrise Point

You don’t need solid detective skills to deduce that Sunrise Point is a great spot to photograph sunrise.  However, it is also one of the better spots for sunset photography.  Sunrise Point is on the northern side of Bryce Amphitheater, which is also overlooked at Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce Points.

Sunset Point

I find the views from Sunset Point a little more interesting than those from Sunrise Point.  I wouldn’t call them better – just different.  Sunset Point is a very popular overlook and is often crowed with tourists.  Despite the name, I don’t recommend it for sunset photography unless you’re lucky enough to have great clouds to bounce light into the canyon.  There are some good opportunities here for panoramic photography.

Thor’s Hammer

A short walk down the trail from Sunset Point delivers you to an exceptional view of Thor’s Hammer, perhaps the most famous hoodoo in Bryce Canyon.  I’ve photographed Thor’s Hammer at sunrise, mid-morning and after sunset and all are good for photography.  The image at the top of this post was made 10-15 minutes after sunset using a 24-105mm lens at 47mm.

Wall Street

While you’re at Sunset Point you might as well hike the Navajo Loop that descends into the canyon through Wall Street.  It’s a steep hike but passing below towering walls glowing with reflected light is not-to-be-missed if you’re in shape to safely do the hike.  Look for an impossibly tall pine tree framed on two sides by huge canyon walls – this is an iconic location for photography at Bryce Canyon.

Inspiration Point

This is my favorite viewpoint at Bryce Canyon.  It’s fantastic at sunrise and early to mid-morning but may also offer some great options for sunset photography.  I also find this to be the best location for panoramic photography.  Instead of walking up to the designated overlook veer left and walk along the Rim Trail until you find a perspective that grabs your attention.

Bryce Point

Bryce Point is my second favorite location in the park.  It is on the southern side of Bryce Amphitheater and provides views looking mostly north and east.  It’s great at sunrise and, depending on the conditions, you may find some good sunset opportunities.

Rim Trail

If you enjoy hiking, the Rim Trail runs between Fairyland Canyon and Bryce Point, passing each overlook along the way.  I can’t recommend this hike strongly enough.  Along the way you will pass endless views into the canyon, many of which are as good, if not better than, the designated viewpoints.

Natural Bridge

I like to photograph Natural Bridge (technically an arch, not a bridge) in mid-morning.  The sun is high enough in the sky that it nicely illuminates the features around the arch and bounces ample light onto the underside of the arch, giving it a nice, warm glow.  This is a difficult area to work as you must stay behind the railing and there are a few small trees that require you to be creative with your composition.  But, it is a fascinating location.

Agua Canyon

Agua Canyon affords spectacular views looking east into the massive expanse of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  Directly in front of the overlook are a couple dramatic hoodoos, one of which, The Hunter, is quite similar to Thor’s Hammer.  I’ve not been at this location for sunrise but I suspect it could be good.  Late-morning light fills the canyon below, eliminating harsh shadows, and sheds light onto The Hunter.

Rainbow and Yovimpa Points

Admittedly, I’ve never photographed at either of the two viewpoints at the very end of the park road.  I find the views less impressive and more open overall.  That said, I do believe there is potential at both overlooks.  At Yovimpa Point you are looking roughly south, which may offer impressive sunset opportunities.  Rainbow Point faces north and east.  You may find good light in the morning or afternoon.  The Bristlecone Loop is a relatively easy 1 mile loop that passes some interesting bristlecone pine trees.  These trees often make interesting subjects for intimate and abstract photographs in soft light.

Inner Canyon

Pick a trail, any trail, that descends into the canyon and start hiking.  It won’t take long and you’ll be surrounded by huge canyon walls, funky hoodoos, arches and twisted old trees.  The entire character of the landscape changes dramatically when you immerse yourself in the canyon.  Some of my favorite inner canyon hikes are the out and back to Tower Bridge, Queen’s Garden Loop and Peek-A-Book Loop.  You will find interesting subjects to photograph in any season and at any time of day.  A word of caution: it’s always much easier going down than coming back up and the park may close trails throughout the year due to ice, snow and/or rockfall.

Wildlife

If you’re a long lens kind of person you’ll find an ample supply of wild creatures to photograph.  Deer, pronghorn, squirrels and a variety of birds are all commonly seen.  Meadows between Bryce Point and Swamp Canyon are often populated by grazing deer among the pines.  Less common but also native are black bears, bobcats and porcupines.

By no means is this a comprehensive guide of every location worth photographing in Bryce Canyon National Park.  Rather, it is a starting point. I wrote it with the hope that it might save you some time and effort as you plan a trip to this most amazing location.  Enjoy!

Looking for some visual inspiration? Here’s a gallery of my photographs of Bryce Canyon National Park.

COMING SOON: eFotoGuide – Essential Guides to Photographing the National Parks and Beyond

 

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 bret edgeBret Edge is a nature and adventure photographer in Moab, Utah. His interest in photography evolved as an extension of his life long passion for the outdoors. He is an avid hiker, backpacker, mountain biker and canyoneer. A visit in 1999 to an exhibit featuring photographs by Ansel Adams, Jack Dykinga and David Muench stoked Bret’s creative fire such that he immediately purchased his first SLR camera, a Canon Rebel. In the years since, he has traveled extensively throughout the American West creating a diverse portfolio of dynamic images.

Bret’s work has appeared in magazines, calendars, travel guides and advertising campaigns. His clients include Backpacker magazine, Popular Photography, the Utah Office of Tourism, Charles Schwab & Co. and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.

While Bret enjoys seeing his work in print, he receives the most satisfaction by helping others realize their potential as photographers. He accomplishes this by leading several group workshops each year and guiding photographers on private photo excursions. For information about his workshops and guided excursions, visit www.moabphotoworkshops.com. To view a collection of Bret’s images, visit www.bretedge.com.  Bret lives in Moab with his wife, Melissa, their son Jackson, and two All-Terrain Pugs named Bierstadt and Petunia.

 

 

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The power of light is the power in your photographs

Creating a stunning photograph is all about how you see and capture light. Lighting is one of the main differences between a snap shot and a great shot. I still remember being out on one of my first safaris with professional photographers where they were discussing how quickly the light went flat; I was baffled. I was looking across the savanna and the light looked fine, except that it was about 3 hours after sunrise.  I was so new to photography, I really had no idea what was meant by “Golden light”.  Being self-taught, it took time to even understand this basic concept, much less the idea of side-lighting, back lighting, and using light to create contrast and  shadows for impact.

My understanding of light and its impact on an image really began to develop when I started focusing on tribal photography as much as my wildlife. I began following commercial and fashion photographers who were masters of light. Drawn by the dramatic images they were able to create, I went from a wildlife photographer sworn to never bother with flash, to using several speed lights and radio triggers. Subconsciously this began to have a huge impact on the way I photographed wildlife and how I used natural light. I began seeking the light in unique ways for the “Wow Factor”.

It took me years to see light in the way I see it today, which is what  inspired me to create the spirit-n-light workshop. I wanted to help photographers learn to see the light and use it to create stunning photographs.  Below are several sequences of images, all using natural light. Each sequence starts off with a photograph of a subject lit directly with golden light, followed by one or more images where the placement of the light created a more dramatic image.

 

The first image has beautiful golden light creating a wonderful photograph, but the second has the sun placed at about a 45 degree angle, side lighting or rim-lighting my subject. When scrolling through loads of images, the second photograph stands out and grabs the viewers attention.

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The first image was taken in beautiful evening light with the sun coming from behind me,  to beautifully light up the zebras. The second image was taken early in the morning placing the light at about a 45 degree angle from the subjects.  The side-lighting allows the sun to filter through the dust particles, reflecting light on to the zebras and illuminating the entire scene. If the sun had been placed behind the zebra’s it would have been a silhouette.

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The first photograph is another example of an image using beautiful early morning light. In the second image the light is coming from a 45 degree angle from the subject,  glistening through the dust and creating a dramatic scene.

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The beautiful afternoon sun creates a stunning image of this Kara warrior, but the images that follow have greater impact because of how the light is used to create shadows and contrast.

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The next two images show how using the light changes ordinary to extraordinary.

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Again, the first photograph is wonderful with the light saturating the horses coats, almost making them glow, but in the second image the light creates contrast, rim-light, shows movement, the horses breath and is clearly  more dramatic.

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Lastly, the first image has beautiful light and movement, but the others that follow are more powerful, leaving the viewer saying, “Wow”.

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Sources to learn more about dramatic lighting;

” Seeing the Light” – ebook by Mitchel Kanashkevich ebook

Kelby training videos 

Spirit-N-Light workshop

 

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Four Favorite Images from Valley of Fire State Park

A few weeks ago I found myself in Valley of Fire State Park once again leading a photography workshop. Valley of Fire has become  a favorite location of mine for it’s unique and colorful sandstone geology. No other location, as far as I know, has such a rich concentration of dramatic sandstone in one place.  The great thing about Valley of Fire is that you can simply park your car and walk out across the sandstone in any direction and find your own unique images. Running a workshop however requires getting clients to some of those “iconic” locations, and it’s my pleasure to do so. All the more so when the weather and light cooperate. Over the workshop the light certainly was dramatic at times!

Vally of Fire State Park

The first image I from the very first field session we had as group. We hiked out to Fire Wave under partly cloudy skies in hopes that we might catch some dramatic light at sunset. Fire Wave has become a popular spot in the last couple of years. So popular in fact that the park decided to put in a maintained trail to the location. In the past, you had to know where to go and simply choose a route across the stone until you arrived at this small yet dramatic parcel of swirling color. We arrived well before sunset and waited and studied the light until it reached it’s most dramatic point about 10 minutes after the sun had set and the sky caught fire with dramatic light. I was immediately drawn to the symmetry between the shape of the clouds and the swirling sandstone in the foreground.  The light was pretty intense and required a blend of two exposures to capture the full dynamic range of light –Nikon D800 DSLRNikon 14-24mm f/2.8, ISO 50, F11 @ 2 seconds for the sky and 8 seconds for the land.

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The image above is from a incredibly surreal area of multi-colored sandstone near White Domes. The formation is unofficially known as “Crazy Hill” and it has become a favorite spot to visit for me in the past couple of years. In fact some of my finest images from the park have been captured at this location. I have been trying to capture a traditional take on this formation for some time, but the light and clouds never have cooperated, not until this last trip that is! Nikon D800 DSLR14-24mm f/2.8, ISO 100, 1 second @ f11. 

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I captured this image above after the workshop had ended. I had an early flight the next morning out of Vegas and considered driving into Las Vegas in the afternoon, getting a room and sleeping the rest of the day. I was exhausted after ten days of shooting, camping, hiking and finally leading a workshop. Instead I decided to stay the night in Overton and finish up the trip with one last session out in the sandstone. I stumbled on this location about two years ago and immediately fell in love with the swirling s-curve of color. it wash;t until this time around that I got good condition, color and some clouds to capture the image.  Nikon D800 DSLR14-24mm f/2.8, ISO 50, 4 second @ f11.

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On the way out of the park, the full moon was rising at twilight. I rushed over to Elephant Rock to try and capture the moon coming up through the opening of the arch. The sky to the east was bathed in a deep blue glow from the Earth shadow and a few clouds on the horizon were still catching some soft pink light. The moon was rising quickly and the stars were beginning to shine. I had time to only shoot three images before the moon was above the arch.   Nikon D800 DSLRNikon 24-70mm f/2.8,  8 seconds @ F8, ISO 800.

I’ll be posting more images from the trip soon. In the meantime, we have some opening for a few upcoming photography workshops if you are interested in chasing the light with me in some of the most beautiful locations in the U.S.

CHARLESTON & SAVANNAH PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

WEST VIRGINIA PHOTOGRAPHY BOOTCAMP

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

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JosephRossbachJoseph Rossbach has been photographing the landscape for over fifteen years. Joe’s photographs and articles have appeared in a number of books, calendars and magazines including Outdoor Photographer, The Nature Conservancy, Digital Photo, Photo Techniques, Popular Photography, Blue Ridge Country, Mountain Connections and many more. Joe is also a staff course instructor for Nature Photographers Magazine, and writes a regular blog column for Outdoor Photographer Magazine online edition. Joe is also a co-author and contributing photographer two print books, The Ultimate Guide to Digital Nature Photography (Mountain Trail Press) and 50 Amazing Things You Must See and Do in the Greater D.C. Area, The Ultimate Adventure Guide. Joe continues to travel extensively producing new and exciting images of the natural world as well as leading several photography workshops and photo tours each year.

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Through the Grama

For February at 6500′, it’s a warm day–about 40 degrees–and the sun makes it feel even warmer as we hike across the windswept grassland plateau.  Snow still blankets the north-facing slopes, but the rest of the ground is free of snow, soft, and slightly muddy in places.  Everywhere, almost literally, signs of elk abound; I have never seen so many turds and tracks in one place.  This small plateau must be great winter ground for them.  I haven’t seen (or felt) any invasive Drooping Brome (Cheat Grass) in my socks all day, only native Bouteloua (Grama Grass).  Here on the Colorado Plateau, where some areas have been grazed extensively, that must be one sign of a healthy ecosystem.

Through the Grama we hike, our heavy packs weighing us down more and more, until–finally–the east rim of the Grand Canyon reveals itself to us.

Reflected light in the Colorado River

Reflected light in the Colorado River

Last weekend, Jackson Frishman invited me to join him on a trip to visit the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers.  Jackson’s proposal was ambitious: nearly 40 miles of hiking in 2.5 days, with no water along the route (we had to carry our own water cache).  He introduced it to me as a hare-brained plan, and honestly that’s all he needed to say to get me on board.

Jackson told me he wanted to visit the confluence because the Grand Canyon Escalade–a proposed tourism development on the western edge of the Navajo Nation, which overlooks the confluence.  If the project passes, it would include a tram from the rim down to the Little Colorado River (read more about Escaladeherehere, and here).  For me, it was a good time to familiarize myself with this area, learn a little more about the proposal, as well as to visit the Grand Canyon again; I began my backpacking life there, and the Grand Canyon evokes many special memories for me.

On Friday night, we discussed the final plans over beers and enchiladas, and it was clear that the stress of planning the trip had turned into excitement for what lied ahead.  We started out on Saturday morning; our packs were weighed down with a couple of extra gallons of water for the return hike.  We dropped the water underneath a couple of stiff piñon boughs to keep it from freezing, as well as to keep it away from the ravens which were surely watching us.  As we got closer to the park service boundary with the Navajo Nation, we found an old hogan, with a missing west wall; the doorway of a Navajo hogan faces east to receive the morning sun and it’s good blessings, and when someone dies in a hogan they are carried out through a hole that has been knocked in the west wall, then the home is abandoned.

Little Colorado River Arizona

Little Colorado River Arizona

After several more miles, we crested a hill and scared a large herd of maybe 200 elk out of a drainage.  They must have known about a water source that we didn’t.  We watched the elk until they disappeared into the horizon and would see them several times over the next couple of days.   The final push to the east rim was tortuous; buttes on the north side of the Colorado River were visible, but they never seemed to get any closer.  However, finally, after what felt like hours we arrived at Cape Solitude.

Solitude indeed.  We had not seen any other human footprints all day, and aside from a windbreak built from rocks, our campsite showed no sign of other humans at all.  In the second-most-visited national park, solitude can be tough to come by.  It’s a special feeling to have a piece of the Grand Canyon all to yourself.

Sunrise at the confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado Rivers

Sunrise at the confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado Rivers

We woke up to a windy but beautiful sunrise the next morning and hiked back to our water cache (thankfully untouched) from the day before.  After rehydrating, I was happy to hike to our second night’s camp, closer to our trailhead, but with another private view of the canyon’s rim.  Horned larks flitting through the sagebrush and elk were our only company.  The next morning Jackson and I returned to our cars, shared a couple of cold beers, and parted ways.

We hiked through the Grama–through a healthy ecosystem–to a part of the Grand Canyon only a few people get to see.  Elk tracks went right up to the rim.  I wonder if they admire the view from time to time?  In my twentieth year of visiting the Grand Canyon, I still stand in awe of the vast landscape, and can’t help but wonder if some of that awe would be diminished if I could take a tram all the way to the bottom, or if–consequently–the elk tracks didn’t go all the way to the rim.

sunset on the little colorado river gorge

Sunset on the little colorado river gorge

P.S. You can also read Jackson’s post and see his image of Cape Solitude at his blog here.  His blog is always worth a visit, with fantastic writing and wonderful imagery.
Don Zeck Lens Cap

Greg RussellWendell Berry wrote, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”  This notion of Sense of Place–our geographic location partly defining who we are–resonates with me.  Because I was born and have lived my entire life in the American West, the landscapes, people, culture and values of the West have helped shape who I am today.  I feel at home in the mountains and canyons I grew up exploring.

As a photographer, I continue exploring the wild places I fell in love with as a child.  Through my images, I want to foster in the viewer an authentic sense of attachment and belonging to the environment.  I make images of landscapes that connect me to these places; often they are intimate scenes whose beauty may not be immediately obvious to the casual observer.

I very much hope you enjoy the images on my website and I encourage you to subscribe to my blog.  If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me!  Greg Russell

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The Sound Of Silence

As much as I enjoy making images, I’ve been journeying to the kinds of places I go now to take pictures long before I got serious about photography.  In fact, one of the things I like about image making is that it allows me to capture a moment and relive the  experience whenever I view the corresponding image.

An acquaintance of mine once told me that when he saw my images, he often had the feeling that he was seeing a pristine landscape—as though he was the first person ever to see the setting.  I’ve rarely, if ever, received more meaningful praise, because one of the most appealing aspects of most of the photo shoots I go on is a sense of quiet—at least, in terms of man made sound.  I frequently find myself listening to the sounds of running water, the wind, birds and other wildlife…or nothing at all.

Each of the images accompanying this entry reminds me of a peaceful, bucolic experience.

cades cove great smoky mountains

On this morning, I was third in line at the gate to get into Cades Cove at sunrise.  When the rangers opened the gate, I made a beeline for the back side of the loop road, while others stopped at Sparks and Hyatt Lanes.  That gave me the rare opportunity to experience this open meadow with no one else around which made for a very quiet setting…except for some deer moving through the fields and the occasional gobbling of wild turkeys.

Wooly Back Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

I spent almost two hours at this overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, during which time only three cars passed by.  The rest of the time I heard nothing but the sound of the occasional songbird and the rustling of leaves in the light breeze.

Heart of the Dunes, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

I hiked into the “Heart of the Dunes” at White Sands National Monument about two hours before sunset and returned after the sun had gone down.  I never saw or heard another soul.  In fact, the only sound I ever heard was my own feet in the sand.  When I stood still, the silence was ear-splitting.

Mill Creek Rapids, Cataract Falls State Recreation Area, Indiana

I didn’t see a single person during the late morning/early afternoon I spent at Cataract Falls State Recreation Area.  I heard the unfettered sound of the rushing rapids of Mill Creek, and nothing else.

Swift Creek Overlook at Sunrise, Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

I could hear—but not see—the distant waters of Swift Creek, far below the narrow rock outcropping that I had all to myself on a morning that found the Red River Gorge choked with fog.

The Fire Wave at Dusk, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

There had been a few other people at the Fire Wave during the hour-plus that I had been at this location, waiting for the light to improve.  Fortunately, by the time it reached its apex, I was all by myself.  I could have heard a pin drop a mile away, but there wasn’t anyone there to drop one.

Red Jack Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

I was all alone on a morning so quiet I could hear myself think at Red Jack Lake, miles into the Hiawatha National Forest.  It seemed like the epitome of irreverence to make a sound.

Bandon Beach at Sunset, Oregon

Depending on the time of day, you can wander for miles on Bandon Beach and never see another soul.  Not long after making this photograph, I hiked roughly three miles back to Coquille Point, in the gathering gloom, with only the sound of the surf as a companion.

I don’t know if these are among my best images, but they are among my favorites, precisely because of the memories they trigger.  Perhaps that implicitly makes them among my “best”…

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Kerry-LeibowitzHi, my name is Kerry Leibowitz.  I’m a Midwest-based (I split my time between the Chicago and Indianapolis areas) photographer with a particular propensity for the landscape.  

You can read my other blog posts at my website Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog and see my photo galleries at Lightscapes Nature Photography

The entire contents of my web site, images and text, are the copyrighted property of Kerry Leibowitz and may not be duplicated or reproduced in any form without express consent.  Image rights may be purchased; please contact me to make arrangements.  Images may not be hot linked.

copyright Kerry

Posted in: Nature Photography, Photography Destinations

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Returning To A Familiar Place

Well it’s official… it’s winter. As I type this post a small layer of snow slowly accumulates on my lawn outside. It’s been three days now and it hasn’t left… I have a pretty good feeling that it’s here to stay. This time of year is always an interesting one for photography.

From about November onwards the most prominent colour in the landscape is brown, and most trees are left bare giving the surrounding area a rather dull/dead look. At first glance these attributes are far from attractive and used to leave me with a lack of motivation.

As I’ve grown as a photographer I’ve learned how important it is to be able to look beyond first impressions and really study the landscape. There are images everywhere and it all comes down to choosing the right elements such as light quality and composition to help compliment your subject.

Last weekend I headed out to an area not far from my home named “Torrance Barrens”. This area is a unique conservation reserve designated by the province of Ontario in 1999 as the world’s first permanent dark sky reserve. The area itself is unique compared to anything else in the region. Large rock outcrops and an abundance of plant and wildlife make this a great place to hike and photograph. On top of all this the area is extremely peaceful… every time I’ve visited I’ve either been the only one there or saw few others.

This particular morning was fairly mild and the difference in temperature over night left the land covered in thick fog. I roamed the landscape stopping at a few spots to explore the area with my camera and create some more intimate images. This was my first time out shooting since my recent trip to Hawaii and the scenery couldn’t have been anymore opposite. Soft contrast and subtle shapes and colours, compared to big bold dramatic skies and the powerful ocean.

To be honest it was a nice change and just reminded me of how much beauty there is in any location. I took advantage of the conditions and explored the area for the first four hours of the morning. This particular morning was proof that some of the best things in life are free.

The following is a collection of the images I created that morning. I hope you enjoy! 


Kyle McDougall is a landscape photographer/workshop leader based out of Ontario, Canada.  He specializes in creating fine art images that touch on both a visual and emotional level.  When not outside exploring the land you can find Kyle online sharing his images and helping others through his instructional articles.  In 2012 Kyle was chosen by Photolife Magazine as one of Canada’s Emerging Photographers.  To view more of his work please visit his website: www.kylemcdougallphoto.com

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