The Watchman, Zion National Park, Utah

The Watchman, Zion National Park, Utah

On my trip to the Southwest in February our first stop after departing Las Vegas was in Zion National Park, just across the border in Utah. Zion is an obvious first stop if you're heading into Utah from Vegas, as it's only 3-4 hours away, and with everyone arriving in the morning, accessible for sunset.

The issue I've had is that I can't seem to find a niche in Zion. I have found eastern Zion quite interesting, and a lot of fun to shoot, but for some reason the main features of the canyon have eluded me. That being said, I still think it's a beautiful place, and with this being such an obvious first stop we knew we'd be shooting there, and some planning was in order.

The most obvious feature of the canyon for sunsets is "The Watchman" - this large sandstone wall towering a half mile above the canyon floor. It's at the southern end of the canyon right where you enter the park, and as such is unobstructed to the west, which means it can get bathed in warm sunset light.

This was quite a calculated shot, for how simple the composition turned out. When we shot here last year we shot from "the bridge" about a mile north where most Watchman shots are taken. Using google earth I scoped out a number of locations and found that because of the angle of the sun at that time of year you'd really only see shadow at sunset from the bridge. A couple locations closer to the park entrance looked more promising and we spent a little time checking those out in person when we arrived. Finally, about an hour before sunset we parked at the campground at the south entrance of the park (after checking that it was okay with the Rangers) and we actually all went in different directs. John and Scott headed away from the peak, while Suad and I headed closer. We eventually climbed quite a good hill to get right underneath the wall to set ourselves up for as much sunset light as possible.

In the end Suad and I both favored shots with Velvia slide film and a relatively simple composition to basically just let the colors do the talking and in the end we were all pretty happy with sunset in Zion. I was pretty amazed with the colors and very happy we shot there. It's a good thing too because I think it was actually the only sunset we managed to catch on the entire trip (missed sunsets seem to be an common occurrence for us).

Tachihara 4x5 | Schneider Super-Angulon 90mm f/8 | f/22 | 1/2s | Fuji Velvia 50 | Tripod

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