a colorful image of the hoodoos and rocks of bryce canyon national park

Tips and Tricks for Photographing the Amphitheaters of Bryce National Park

It’s just about that time of year, when the U.S. Southwest’s “canyon country” thaws out and becomes a treasure trove of spectacular photo ops.

If you’re headed out west, chances are you’re including the magnificent Bryce Canyon National Park.  But if not, perhaps this will encourage you to add this to your itinerary!

However, if you’re already joining a specialized photo adventure throughout the US National Parks of the Southwest, chances are this is indeed already a planned destination on your photo expedition.

Bryce is a wonderland of color, texture, and wholly unique photo ops.  Be sure to photograph “the whole picture” with iconic shots from the rim of Bryce and return home with perhaps some of your most treasured landscape photographs of all time.

a colorful sunset emerges over the rim of bryce canyon national park

Getting that “iconic” shot from above

It’s hard to resist taking a million photos of the various “amphitheaters,” as they’re called. And while you’re sure to love what you get, excess quantity doesn’t necessarily mean excess quality.  There are a few tried and true rules of photographing these amphitheaters from above.

First, make sure to go in early morning or late evening for the best light.

Mid-day light is notoriously harsh for landscape photography, and this is exacerbated by the tall hoodoos and high desert sun of the Southwest deserts in the U.S.

Thus, to get the best photographs, aim for being there within the hour just after sunrise or hour just before sunset for better angle, color, and softness of light.

an exquisite sunrise shines over bryce canyon

This is just after the sun rises over the Aquarius plateau, which you can see in the distance.  Although the sun will rise quickly, the next hour remains stellar for photography from the rim of Bryce Canyon.

During the early and late hours of the day, you can get unique light that illuminates hoodoos, seemingly from the inside out.

the colorful hoodoos of bryce

Zoom into specific elements

Don’t leave your zoom telephoto behind, as this can be a super helpful tool to fill the frame with the colorful rocks and spire-like hoodoos.

the colors and textures of the hoodoos of bryce

Although the above was photographed at mid-day (good example of the harshness of the shadows and contrast) you can still get a neat shot when picking out specific regions of the rim-top view.  And getting some trees in the frame helps provide scale.

Try and get some people in your photo

Speaking of scale, there is perhaps no better way to show scale, provide context, and put your viewer in a “picture yourself here” mood than to show some fellow adventurers in your shot.  From the rim, use that telephoto and try and pick out some hikers in the distance to really tell the story.

hikers are on a trail at the bottom of bryce canyon national park

Or perhaps you’ll see a photographer to really tell the story!

a photographer takes photos from below the rim in bryce canyon

Combine techniques for maximum effect

Great light + good technique + interesting subjects = happy photographer.

At the end of the day, you are the most important person to impress with your own photography.  If you like your photos, you’ve done your job.  Humbly speaking, when you are extra conscientious and deliberate about what you take photos of and how you capture them, you will like your photos more.

Combine these tips and you’ll get an exponentially better photo.

a colorful image of the hoodoos and rocks of bryce canyon national park

The “shot from above” photo is no doubt one of the first photos you’re likely to get, and perhaps even the photo you’re dreaming of most.  However, as you’ll see in previous posts on Photographing in Canyon Country, there are some sensational photos as you descend into this stone labyrinth.

Now get out there and give it a shot!