I last visited Zion and Bryce Canyon in the fall, and although beautiful, I had always wanted to visit these parks in spring as the colors begin to revive. Leading two of our workshops (one non-hiking and one hiking-specific) this past April provided me the perfect opportunity to do just that. The transitional season from spring to summer is wonderful, providing moderate temperatures and budding trees and plants. Each trip provided ample opportunities for great compositions, light, and atmosphere (we lucked out!).
The itinerary for these workshops was part standard and part adventure. It involved visiting many of the popular park locales along with journeying off the beaten path. Day one is always an early mission, leaving from St. George to capture first light in the park, and both groups made the early journey eagerly. During the initial morning with my first group (non-hiker) we made images of the Towers of the Virgin near the Natural History Museum. For this first shot, the hiking-specific group photographed from Canyon Overlook, another iconic sunrise location within Zion. Each location is beautiful and lends itself to wonderful compositions! The first session also provides an initial opportunity to get back into the rhythm of shooting; guests from both groups had no problem adjusting to our new schedule. On both mornings our groups shot for nearly an hour past sunrise, taking advantage of the soft light and pastel color palettes. These had been great mornings to start each trip.
During the afternoon of our first day on the standard (non-hiker) trip, our group explored the area near the Temple of Sinawava. We walked to the beginning of the Narrows, then followed the Virgin River back to where we had started. This is a favorite area of mine, generally shaded and offering views of beautiful trees, the river, and at times, wildlife.
We were lucky, as at one point a group of deer crossed the middle of the river, silhouetted against the darker walls of the canyon. We watched as they delicately picked their way across the river and made a few images before they disappeared back into the brush.
For the first sunset, each group photographed at different park locations. For the standard trip, we photographed the Watchman from the Virgin River, and for the hiker trip, we photographed at a point on the east side of the park.
The second day of the standard trip started at a beautiful pullout that overlooked the main road that runs through the park (similar view as Canyon Overlook). After, we made a quick stop back in town for breakfast and coffee before heading back into the field. Per the hiking trip, day two consisted of an early morning session, breakfast, and then a hike up to Scout’s Lookout. For both the late afternoon and sunset, both groups spent time in Kolob Canyon on the west side of Zion National park. Not only was this part of the park quieter, but it also provided incredible views of large, towering sandstone rock formations that many who visit don’t see!
The third day of this workshop is always a transition day (moving from Zion NP to Bryce Canyon NP). The itinerary for each group during this day was similar. Get up, photograph the sunrise, eat breakfast, and then pack the van and begin the respective drive to Bryce Canyon. Specific to the hiking trip, we made a stop to hike deeper into one of the slot canyons within the park. It was involved and included both steep hiking and scrambling over rock!
During the morning of the last full day, each group made images of and around Thor’s Hammer (maybe the most iconic feature within the park). In the afternoon, the group on the non-hiking trip walked around the rim, while the hiker-specific group walked into and through the canyon proper. Both trips enjoyed dinner at I.D.K. Barbecue–voted best BBQ in Utah–before photographing the sunset at Inspiration Point.
The last morning the groups spent time at Sunrise Point (standard) and Bryce Point (hiker). I can attest that each group had incredible light at their respective locations! It was a fantastic way to end each workshop.
Both drives back from Bryce Canyon City to St. George were filled with the exchange of favorite workshop memories and images made, and future trip itineraries. Each trip was unique and engaging in its own way and had its fair share of great photo conditions.
It’s safe to say each was a success, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to explore these landscapes with future groups.
Alex Hansen is a photographer currently based in Colorado’s Vail Valley. His drive for photography and adventure stems from time spent in our world’s biggest mountain ranges. Alex’s goal with photography is to distill the beauty in the subtle moments we so often experience while out in nature. From extending ridgelines to carved-out river basins he has a passion for capturing these places in a raw and emotional way.
Alex is an active climber and traveler as well. Climbing was his initial foray into the world of adventure–and adventure photography–and he has spent much of his life on mountainsides across North America. Before Alex pursued photography full time he was a project manager for an outdoor digital media publication. This is where he picked up a camera for the first time, helping to build brand stories and share them in an authentic way.
As someone who continually aims to push his own boundaries, Alex is passionate about helping others do the same. He loves discussing everything related to travel, culture, and photography, and how we can use these as vehicles to better understand the world and ourselves. This aspect of the journey is inherent to what he does and he’s excited to share that with others.
You can view more of Alex’s creative works at his website alexjosephalpine.com