I first passed by this location in the early morning as I traveled up the cool clear water carved its way through the canyon around me. I knew that I would have to make it back in time to capture this spot when the light hit the surrounding walls just right. It was nearing the end of fall and most of the golden leaves had already fallen and flowed downstream, but in this spot, the last breath of autumn was in full display.
Our second day in the cascades led us through some of the most incredible waterfalls I have witnessed in the backcountry. Following the trail, meant walking alongside this booming giant, that endlessly thundered through the trees. Where this photo was taken, there was a ledge overlooking a steep drop into the foreground below. With handfuls of wild raspberries, we sat and we starred in the early morning shade, watching and listening to a symphony of elements.
EARLY TO RISE
The air was still, the sun just peaking over the horizon, enough to bathe the opposite bank in soft morning light. Elk called in the distance, followed by the sweeping sound of a young bald eagle hunted in the glass-like waters behind me. Mist skipped across the Snake River so faintly and slowly as the sunlight forced it’s eventual retreat. The day had finally arrived,
The dry-season fires of the North and Midwest blanketed the sky in a thick lingering haze that seemed to never weaken. The haze stood as a colored veil in front of the sun and sky, filtering and changing the light as it made its way to me. With the sun low, and nearly behind the tree line, I focussed in on the beautiful reflection of colors the sky-sized filter provided.
Zion is a special place where the lines between imaginary and reality seem to wind back and forth. This location has been shot by many photographers due to the vibrant and explosive sunsets that will sometimes appear to the lucky few. For me, I feel lucky enough to have stood there, and marvel at this incredible landscape just as so many have before me.
I turned around once I finally reached Big Springs along hiking through the Narrows in Zion National Park to find the sunlight beaming through the narrow canyon walls in bursts as fast moving clouds swept overhead. Illuminating the shadowed canyon in these pulses, the scale of my surroundings settled in, with the sound of water racing around my cold feet, wind howling from the upper canyon walls, and the echoing vibrations of the Virgin River carving its way down stream.
END OF AUTUMN IN THE SUBWAY
As I left the iconic Subway in Zion National Park, I turned around to look back on this incredible location that I dreamed of shooting for so long. I was struck by the incredible pallet of browns that covered the walls and decaying autumn leaves.
The sun dodged the clouds above, and in a fortunate and much needed moment, cascaded down the canyon walls, brightening the entire scene in front of me. With this light, the walls transformed into red and orange hues that was in complete contrast to the cold water I found myself sitting in for this shot. Autumn leaves trickled down slowly from pool to pool, adding an incredible color contrast to the deep emerald waters flowing through.
OXBOW AFTER SUNRISE
The distant Tetons stood cloaked in a fiery haze that still could not diminish their overpowering presence in the landscape. As I stood facing west along the now sunlit banks of the Snake River for this shot, I could hear and feel the wild world around me awaken. Families of ducks glided up the glass-like river just out of frame, while a distant swooping and splashing of a juvenile bald eagle hunted for breakfast across the bank. “I could stay in this moment forever”, I silently thought to myself.
I woke early in hopes of catching the dreamlike glow of the Tetons during sunrise. Turning around, I quickly realized the spectacle was not just before me, and proceeded to reposition my camera so that I could capture one of the most brilliantly simple and beautiful display of pastel-like colors blended seamlessly across the sky.
The air was a crisp and stung my lungs as I breathed in the now warming air. A backcountry spring could be heard not to far from our camp, and I wandered off with my gear in tow. What I came to find was a fairytale scene of wildflowers and bubbling brooks carving through a shallow bed of rock and greenery now soaking in the first golden rays of the day. Of all the mornings in the backcountry of Yellowstone, this one will stay with me forever.
Along the decent through the waters leaving the Subway in Zion
My first night spent in the Cascade Region of Yellowstone National Park led me to a campsite perched perfectly in the neighboring trees along the left bank in the photo. I set up camp as I listened to the steady sounds of the river flowing adjacent. Nearing sunset, I removed my shoes and waded out into the thigh deep waters corralling a small island perfectly situated in the middle of the banks. Crickets chirped, the water rippled, and the light breeze whistled along through the green grass lining the edges. The sun set was engulfed through a fire haze that tinted the sky in an apocalyptic orange glow that radiated atop the flowing water.
RIPPLES IN FLOW
As I ventured through the Narrows in Zion National Park, I came across and eddy along the right bank that through its flow, painted a beautiful and natural circular pattern of deposits just beneath the water’s surface.
I had long thought about how I’d frame this shot, yet in the moment, my favorite capture was from the perspective of where I was perched along the bridge between adjacent pools. My feet skimming the emerald waters while the fiery yellow late autumn leaves swirled gently downstream. This place had an energy to it that came with the changing of the seasons.
REFLECTIONS IN THE WILDERNESS
I can’t see him now, but he is there. A young bald eagle perches across the banks, scouting me as much as he is his surroundings. The morning mist slowly recedes up the riverbanks with the sun beaming increasingly brighter in the late morning hours. The waters of the Snake River reflect and amplify the beauty of the surrounding wilderness in a silvery mirror as I sit patiently, silently, taking in each chilled and conscious breath.
ALONE WITH THE SYMPHONY
I hiked up the Narrows in Zion National Park for the first time in the fall. Two weeks earlier and the leaves were changing, showing the beauty of change throughout the canyon. As I trekked through the crisp clear waters of the Virgin River, the profound beauty of the Springs rang in clear with the sounds of cascading water from the beautiful Big Spring feature at the end of the hike. I was all alone, and just sat there for so long, until my feet were numb, just listening to the flow of everything around me. Peace and harmony don’t come close as words to describing the feeling of this place.