Stories from the Field – Bryce Canyon Overhang

If you’ve ever been on one of my photo trips that I guide, you’ll know that I am constantly talking about light, and how it is the most critical of elements in photography.  You can have the most impressive scene, most spectacular beach, or intense wildlife encounter, but without any light, you do not see it and you do not have a photo.

I came across the above scene while on a recent trip that I was guiding to the SW Deserts of the US.  It was a classic instance where I saw an amazing combination of light qualities across the scene – saturation, angle, color, and evenness. It was kind of in an obscure location on the Queen’s Garden trail in Bryce Canyon National Park, as the path meandered under a rock overhang for just a few yards.  Nothing really to take note of…not an impressive cave, or a dramatic line of Hoodoos that are so common and show-stopping elsewhere on the trail.  However, the sun was just right to create a bounce light effect where the underside of the rock was glowing mildly.  It wasn’t in the sun, so it’s not overexposed.  Similarly, the background reddish rocks were out of the sun, too, allowing for a relatively even lighting scheme between the foreground and background.

To make the photo, I had to capture both elements in an evocative way.  To my luck, there was a singular spot on the trail where I could catch a sliver of that magnificent blue sky in between the rock overhang foreground and red rock background.

I moved a little to the left and a little to the right to see if I could do something a bit more symmetrical and composed with the trees.

The final ingredient is to figure out where to focus and what depth of field.  Because the foreground was very close and the background very far, I used a very wide depth of field – f/11.  This allowed me to get both the foreground and background in as much focus as possible.  But, there is always a priority, and I chose the foreground to focus on, which I do about 90% of the time in these instances.

I’ve been guiding canyons trips like these for many years now and this is the first time I’ve photographed this particular area.  I’ve been down this trail many times, too, but this just goes to show you that no matter what, there is always something new to photograph.  Sometimes it may require you to be a bit more creative, or have your “light” googles on, seeking an area that has the right ingredients.  Then, it’s up to you to put it all together to get the shot.


Go forward and give it a shot,