Pines, West Rim Trail, Zion National Park

Pines, West Rim Trail, Zion National Park

Zion Canyon is the sort of place that impresses you with its sheer magnitude. While not the deepest canyon in the world, it possesses a quality in its scale that stands in contrast to the day to day surroundings in which most of us live. I find it's often difficult to convey that feeling in photographs, and even more difficult to photograph it in an interesting way. My early inclination was to seek out the grand vista points - places where you can take in the full scale of the scene. These few vista points are also very often photographed, and harder to photograph with a unique perspective.

Over time I think I have begun to see these kinds of scenes differently, photographically. In reality, nothing compromsises the impression of a place like Zion Canyon, Yosemite Valley, or the Grand Cayon quite like trying to convey it all in a 600 pixel image on a computer screen, or in a tiny print. Instead, I prefer to look for more subtle elements that suggest the scale indirectly.

One quality of these impressive canyons that I became aware of first in Yosemite, is how one side of the scene can be in full sunlight, while well off in the distance the towering canyon walls are in shadow. The distant walls lose contrast and take on a blue haze because of their distance, and because of the sunlight lighting the dusty air in between. I keep an eye open for moments when the elements properly come together for a scene like this, and that's what I found here up on the West Rim Trail in Zion.

While my recent trip to Zion was ostensibly a dedicated photo-trip, we couldn't resist focusing one day on hiking instead. We took a morning to climb the Angel's Landing Trail, which was a fantastic experience worthy of its own write-up. After completing the Angel's Landing hike, we took a small detour along the West Rim Trail further north into Zion Canyon. Somewhere along that distance I found this view of several tall pines growing over a thousand feet abvoe above the canyon floor, with the towering east walls in the distance.

As a consequence of planning a strenuous morning hike with difficult terrain, we opted to take minimal camera gear along. That meant no tripod, no large format camera, and not even any prime lenses! I brought my Nikon 18-200VR lens along, as it is sort of a jack of all trades (but master of none). While its better to have gotten this photograph than not, I am a bit frustrated by softness at the edges, which seemed to be present in each of the few frames I took here (perhaps reality was 'soft', not the lens). Regardless, I was drawn to this scene for all the reasons I described above, and felt it was worth sharing.

Nikon D90 | Nikon 18-200VR@170mm | f/8 | 1/160s | ISO200 | Handheld

Be sure to check out the contributions from my fellow travelers, friends John and Suad, or look in our group photo pool.

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