Cedar Breaks National Monument lies peacefully under the subtle but brilliant colors of a Utah sunrise
I had seen Cedar Breaks National Monument on maps before and had been tempted to visit on prior trips to Zion National Park. Cedar Breaks is tantalizingly close to Zion but I had always been on my way further east to visit another of Southern Utah’s constellation of incredible state and national parks. Fortunately, we had actually built a visit to Cedar Breaks into our schedule this time and had scouted our shooting location the night before. As it turned out, I was really happy we had done so. The next morning turned out to be pretty cold and it was nice to know exactly where we would be setting up shop.
It doesn’t happen often, but in this case the best shooting location at sunrise was right at the visitors center in the principal overlook. We had a 270 degree view of Cedar Breaks and could quickly move from one angle to another. At one point I had a camera pointed due east and another looking almost west. Having two camera bodies and two tripods was a great luxury since this turned out to be a pretty epic sunrise and there were lots of shooting opportunities. As the sun rose closer to the horizon and eventually over, the view further down canyon and over to the distant mountains just got better and better.
As I normally do at sunrise and sunset, I was shooting series of three bracketed exposures. I may even have had to go to five shots separated by two stops for the first few series. There was quite a wide latitude of exposures needed to bring out shadow detail and not blow out the highlights of the clouds overhead. Eventually there was enough reflected light to drop to three shots and ultimately one exposure. I’m just happy that good technique and modern equipment allow me to capture these types of scenes. The camera simply can’t always capture what the eye can see without a bit of an assist in post-processing.
Cedar Breaks isn’t one of those places where I would recommend staying for a weeklong visit, but it’s definitely a place you don’t want to miss. I think our overnight stay in Cedar City with a chance to take in a sunset and sunrise was a reasonable amount of time there. I drove away appreciating our time there and ready for another visit in the future.
Deep shadows contrast with walls lit by reflected light in this slot canyon in the desert Southwest
Here’s another image from the slot canyons of the desert Southwest. I could have named it any of a dozen titles, but the thing that is the most striking to me about this image is the beautiful contrast between shadow and light. What’s amazing is that the slot canyon was so dark that I had to use the in camera backlighting system in order to see the camera controls. Yet, the highlights here are nearly blown out. I would have thought there would have been much more light present than appears in this image.
This one was shot at ISO 100 at f/11 with a 1/2 second exposure. It took a while to figure out the right balance of exposure and aperture but I got it nailed down pretty well about halfway through. I used the Cloudy white balance control on site, but since I shoot RAW I can fine tune white balance after the fact in the computer. This is a pretty accurate rendition of the scene as I viewed it. I’ve got many, many more from this shoot, but I’ll only post a few more from there (unless you twist my arm really hard). Enjoy.
The view up and out of a slot canyon in northern Arizona
Once I knew we would be traveling to southern Utah and northern Arizona, I began making a location list of places I would like to shoot. High on that list was one or more of the numerous slot canyons in the region. Of course high on our list was the Virgin River Narrows which is basically a really big slot canyon with a river flowing through it. I had in mind slot canyons like Canyon X, Peekaboo, Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, and the others that are found throughout the area.
The challenge with photographing these canyons is the amount of light available. We were traveling in the fall when the angle of the sun was relatively low on the horizon. Therefore, the amount of direct light making it into the canyons was diminished. So, we were working with long exposures and fairly dim light. However, we were able to capture some pretty cool shots nonetheless.
I’m sure there are some super secret and unexplored slot canyons in the region. Perhaps there are even some untried angles in the more popular and accessible slot canyons. I wasn’t really focusing on that, though. I just wanted to capture for myself some images of these incredible works of nature. I certainly enjoyed my time in the slots. I hope you enjoy viewing them as well.