The Virgin River in Fall

The Virgin Narrows in Fall

Cottonwood trees at the peak of their fall color in the Virgin Narrows in Zion National Park

This isn’t the shot I had in mind when I entered the Narrows, but it is the best of the ones I took during the hike upriver. I had hoped to get far enough upstream to see where the canyon walls plunge directly into the river with virtually no sandbars or shoals in the shot. But, the elements and the beautiful scenery conspired against me to keep me from making that far into the Narrows.

As it turned out, the water was at least as cold as I had feared but turned out to be bearable. Bearable, that is, if feet just short of frostbite was my expectation. The good news was that there were frequently spots like this where we could get out of the water to allow our feet to warm a bit. The problem with that strategy was that it cut down on our travel distance considerably. The other good news, bad news of the day was that each of the stops also presented another beautiful bend in the river that begged to be photographed. This, too, cut down on the length of our hike.

I think we made it into the river about noon and sun set that day close to 6:00. That meant that we had to turn back about 3:00 or risk making our way back downstream in the dark. When I say dark, I mean the kind of dark where you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Navigating the Narrows in the dark with slippery footing and wading in ice-cold water would have been a recipe for disaster. So, even though better scenes certainly laid in waiting just around the next bend, we wisely turned around near 3:00.

That did leave some time for making images on the way out, though. I had noticed this scene on the way in and snapped a few frames of it. However, using the long exposure I wanted to render the water silky allowed the wind to move the trees and cause blurring in the leaves. I stopped on the way out to shoot the same scene with a bit less wind. If you look at the top of the big cottonwood and at some of the vegetation on the left side of the frame you can see some movement even in this shot.

To get the depth of field I needed to yield sharp focus from foreground to background, I used an aperture of f/18. With the shade and dark walls shooting at ISO 100 I needed an exposure of two seconds. I like results, but I do wish I could have made the wind calm totally for the duration of the exposure. Oh well, that just means I need to go back again with a bit warmer conditions and hike a couple more miles back into the Narrows. It may have to be next year so my feet will look forward to the trip as much as the rest of me will! Enjoy.

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