My interest in photography was triggered by a visit to Zion National Park with a point and shoot camera in 2016. Immediately hooked, I have since returned to photograph the vista-rich mecca of Southern Utah on an annual basis. With a special place in my heart for the area, I believe it should feature on the bucket list of any serious landscape photographer with the means to visit the area.
Iconic locations such as the Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Parks are complemented by smaller photo opportunity gems such as Dead Horse Point (just outside Canyonlands) and Snow Canyon (outside of St George, Utah).
Although I visit this area annually, I never fail to conduct thorough research before each visit. I would thoroughly recommend this to anybody planning a trip to the area, especially if it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Hiking in the area can be challenging, especially in Bryce and Zion, so wearing appropriate clothing and footwear, as well as keeping one's gear as light as possible, are important considerations.
There are so many iconic photo opportunities that one has to be extremely selective and plan accordingly. That being said, some of the best shots can be found unexpectedly right over one's shoulder, so be sure to explore each area to the best of your ability.
In terms of light, the area offers great early morning and late afternoon opportunities. Again, this is where moving around becomes important. I usually shoot an iconic location at sunrise and sunset and explore for a few hours in between with a break at midday to recharge my batteries and download my images.
The area is flush with convenient foreground interest that perfectly complements the expansive vistas when composing a shot. Making the most of these opportunities certainly involves moving around and searching for different viewpoints. But the extra effort is most definitely worth it.
Mesa Arch and Canyonlands are probably the most popular locations at sunrise, so if you go in the high season be prepared to show up an hour or more in advance to beat the crowds. (Often 50+ photographers with tripods bunched together in very limited space).
Other locations I can thoroughly recommend include:
- Dead Horse Point, Dead Horse Point State Park
- The Windows, The Arches
- Landscape Arch, The Arches
- Sunrise viewpoint, Bryce Canyon
- Valley Outlook, Zion
- Delicate Arch, The Arches
- Candlestick Tower, Canyonlands
- Sunset Point, Bryce
- Watchman, Zion
- Balance Rock, The Arches
Finally, if you are looking for a guide on how to approach photography in the area, I can thoroughly recommend Photographing the Southwest Vol. 1 - Southern Utah (3rd edition): A guide to the natural landmarks of Southern Utah by Laurent Martres. A fascinating and detailed guide, it also fits conveniently in one's back pocket. Perfect for when your hands are full operating camera equipment.
My venture into photography started when I retired and visited Southern Utah with just a point and shoot camera. It was then that I decided that I wanted to pursue photography more seriously. I invested in better equipment, took a community college course and went on photo tours when revisiting the Southwest. Since then, I have taken over 5,000 pictures a year and strive every day to improve. I am now studying for the Photography Institute Diploma in Professional Photography and have had my pictures published in a handful of magazines and Facebook groups. I live on Vancouver Island (considered a rainforest) which offers great waterfall photo opportunities and some stunning seascapes. I return to the Southwest of the United States every year for about a month and a half and love the diversity in the environment, ranging from rainforest to desert landscapes.