ZION & BRYCE CANYON
In my search for contrasts and adventure, I decided to escape the lush rainforest landscapes that I’ve grown with, and immerse myself into the deserts, canyons and endless rugged scenery of the Southwest USA. Break out of my comfort zone and capture with my camera a land I’ve never been to before, experiencing the nature of the wild, wild west.
Thankfully I have some crazy photographer friends that decided to join me on this photo expedition, and what a road trip it was! I met Katie and Sarah back in Iceland a year ago and even though we didn’t like each other at first (for like two days), we became really good friends at the end of our Icelandic adventure. We began planning our new journey and researching the perfect locations and itinerary to distribute our time and create the best possible pictures. We set out to meet in crazy, ridiculously fabulous, Las Vegas and start our southwestern trip there. Our first stop: Zion National Park.
The Heights of Zion
We drove through the Smithsonian Butte Scenic Byway to the park. A lesser known, off roading route (AWD car only).
When the horizon starts unveiling the spectacular reddish Navajo sandstone mountains, buttes, mesas, and canyons, you can feel the rush of adrenaline and energy flowing through your system. We were finally in the presence of the epic southwest.
The town of Springdale welcomed us with quaint farms and gorgeous views of the peaks. Zion National Park is definitely a looker, what a stunning location! We photographed the Watchman from the Virgin River bridge and trail, the impressive Court of the Patriarchs as well as the Towers of the Virgin at sunrise.
But the ultimate Zion adventure was waiting for us at Angels Landing. A tall rock formation that provides spectacular views of the canyon and a great, strenuous hiking experience. It roughly follows the path of the Virgin River for some time, slowly gaining elevation. As the trail gets steeper and leaves behind the river, it becomes a paved series of steep switchbacks. The route to Angels Landing involves travelling along a steep, narrow ridge with support chains anchored intermittently along the route. Footing can be slippery even when the rock is dry. Unevenly surfaced steps are cut into the rock with major cliff drop offs. One of the most dangerous hikes of the United States. Definitely not for people with vertigo or intense fear of heights.
Once you gain elevation, the hike is no longer responsible for taking your breath away, the views are.
The majestic, awe-inspiring Zion Canyon from an almost aerial perspective, is a sight I will never forget. A 360 visual experience of this wonderful world we live in. The southwest trip got off to a great start.
Our next stop: Bryce Canyon National Park.
This giant natural amphitheater of red, orange and white hoodoos, is an absolute geological wonder that inspires many photographers to visit and capture its otherworldly scenery. We had only one night there so we had to make the most of it.
Our first stop was Sunset Point, an incredible overlook of the canyon and the start of our hike through the Navajo trail.
Hiking down into the canyon is an immersive experience, surrounded by tall hoodoos and deep blue skies.
We were already tired by the Angels Landing hike we did the day before so we followed the advice of our trusted travelling companion: “Photographing the Southwest Vol. 1” a book Katie bought to guide us along the trip. So instead of hiking back up through the same route, we hiked all the way to Sunrise Point which was said to have and easier climb back up. Certainly it did but our legs were exhausted and it took us a while to reach the rim of the canyon. We got there just in time for the sunset.
I won’t lie, photographing this location and the Southwest in general was tough. A challenge in every possible way.
I’m used to the outdoors and photographing in harsh conditions but the massiveness of the landscapes and the overwhelming amount of elements you are not familiar with, can put a strain on you. But we loved it, cause it pushed us out of our comfort zones and ultimately this makes us improve as photographers.
We checked the weather conditions and the position of the stars for that night and our best shot at photographing the milky way with the hoodoos was before sunrise so even though we got to our hotel at 11pm after two days of intense hiking, we decided to leave at 4:30am the following morning. No sleep though, our hotel’s air ducts created weird intense sounds throughout the night and kept us awake, but the Milky Way was waiting and even Sarah, our not-so-morning-person got up and we were on our way.
Thankfully we did, after a little hike back down into the canyon, we got to our shooting location and the stars put on a show of shine and glimmer, revealing the milky way with all its inspiring power. We were able to take some shots but the sunrise came too quickly and erased the stars from the skies.
Receiving the first light of the day from Bryce Canyon was sublime. We decided to enjoy it with our hearts instead of our cameras. Sometimes you need those breaks to realise that you’re witnessing the grandeur of nature. That you are there. Alive. Thankful. Fulfilled.
Luis Solano Pochet
Founding Photographer & Director
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” – Jack Kerouac