I can’t even remember when this trip started getting planned, but I am sure it was right during the last trip with my friend Rod. Months of planning on what to do for him and a few other guys from down under to make the trip the best it could be for a bunch of photographers. Many ideas, hikes, gear, roads, and places to stay were all sorted out and most of it went well. Of course we had a few snags out and about, but that’s what makes and adventure.
I met was planning to meet the 4 Aussies in Springdale on September 8th midafternoon, so I had some time to kill since I came the day before with my wife and some cousins. We spent the first night out under the stars up on the Upper East side of Zion National Park. It was pretty quiet other than the random car driving by us painting with light and shooting stars. It was a relaxing start to the trip that was going to be a busy one.
Up the next morning an hour after I really wanted to be up hiking the Narrows, but I figured I was going to be doing it again the next day with the guys so I took my time. In fact I think it was the first time I didn’t take any real camera gear too. I am glad I didn’t bother since there were way to many people anyway. We took our time but I was still in a hurry to get down and meet up at the right time since cell coverage wasn’t much and with numbers from Australia my phone wouldn’t let me call anyway. But a good old fashion note at their hotel was good enough. Now it was time to get this party started!
First stop Angels Landing, of course this was going to be a touristy trip, but for those that have never been here before it was the place to go! Being tired and out of shape by the time we got up there then my mental strength was gone about going to the top. I get scared of heights randomly, and this time it wasn’t in my favor. All of us made it past some chains except one who might have been the smartest one. Rod and Daniel were bound to the top though and they made it like real men. After a boring sunset we made it down in the dark and off for some dinner and beer!
We were looking at the weather and seeing if we needed to change some plans since there was some rain heading our way the next couple of days, but we stuck to our plans. Next morning bright and early I said goodbye to my wife for the week as she was heading home and now it was a guys trip. We got to the Shuttle stop for the 1st bus and not knowing they changed the schedule that very day we wasted an hour sitting waiting for it to show up. More people showed up to when if finally got there, so we moved fast up the Narrows to get to some nice spots for shots. However for anyone who has been there before it would be easy, but those first timers looking at the awesome views this was hard to do. Got to stop and take some pictures. We stayed a head of the crowd up to the Orderville jct where we kicked up the very first Jesus Fish I have seen! Well it was a good sized Trout that was spooked and trying to get away from us and once it got over some rocks it had such a good momentum that it cruised on top of the water for about 20 ft. We made our way up to Wall Street and hung out for a while before heading back down the canyon and to the Hotel where we hit the pool. Now I am usually camping and the river is my pool, but this was a nice change for once. That evening we headed back up the Canyon to the Upper East to see what there was to shoot till sunset and worked our way down to the bridge shooting the classic shot to Watchman. It was ok.
The next morning we were up at 4 am and heading to Bryce Canyon for Sunrise. I will say that I think it was the best one I have seen there yet! Plus there wasn’t a tour bus of other foreigners standing next to you like last time we were there. It was quite nice. However the most talked about part of Bryce Canyon was my breakfast. Anyone from the United States knows what Biscuits and Gravy are, but to my Aussies friends it was the most disgusting thing they had heard of. Since a Biscuit is more like a hard cookie to them. So add some gravy to your cookies next time and see what you think! Only one of them manned up to give it a try. Well it is still one of my favorite things to eat. After breakfast we drove through to Cedar Breaks for 2 seconds then down to Kanarra Creek. So far the trip had been pretty sweet, other then I was gonna fall asleep driving. Good thing we got out for a hike to wake me up. It was a Monday so this hike only had a few others there which made it nice for shooting some pictures. Once we got to the first waterfall Ryan told me how awesome the place was, and I just told him we weren’t to the good stuff yet. Shwing, he was… well excited! We made our way up to the last waterfall as the sun was starting to peak around to shine some harsh light in the canyon, along with some other groups catching up to us so it was time to get out of there. It started raining once we got back to Zion which made for some fun times. We set out for a sunset but with the storm that just went over us we kept our eyes open for floods too, since Daniel and I were now standing in the river trying to get a shot of a cloud that looked like a fireball over Watchman. To bad the cliffs didn’t light up though. We all met back up in an open field and started seeing some lightening rolling it. It was a bit to the North and even with a zoom lens on was nothing extra. Then it was coming right at us from the West, and some big bolts too. These guys had never shot lightening before so I showed them what I do and it was an exciting evening. We all got some sweet shots, and packed up as the rain was heading toward us. I didn’t want to stop shooting so I would randomly stop and shoot and it was as if the lightening was waiting for me. Crash! It was pretty sweet. Even once we got back to our room I was still shooting, which made it hard once we went to dinner cause I just watched out the window wishing I was out in it still. At least it died down.
The next morning it was off to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It rained most the night and this morning’s sunrise was a bust! However I got a cool time lapse of the clouds swirling and the rain coming in. We were heading out of the park as waterfalls were flowing down the cliffs and I really wanted to stay cause I had the feeling there was going to be some flooding! No one else wanted to stay, and this was their trip so off we went. Raining most the way we weren’t sure what to expect once we got to the canyon. Oh wait, what canyon? You couldn’t see much of anything through the fog and clouds anywhere until you went to the back of the lodge then you could see the canyon. So we drove out to Cape Royal to see what was going on there. Sure was a lot of fog out that way too till we hiked out to the edge. We could see the canyon with the clouds moving through which was pretty sweet. I thought I would do a time lapse there too. Then I realized how fast the clouds were moving and that I was wasting my time. We were in the cloud now and it started to rain like mad! Good thing I brought my dry bags so I just put them over top the camera on the tripod and waited to see what happened. You would see small rivers forming and hear waterfalls going over the edge, it was pretty sweet other then you couldn’t get any shots. Then the fog went away for a couple mins again then back to the same thing. So we drove back to the lodge and tried some shots from there. It just wasn’t working so we headed to our place to stay. The worst place ever, Kaibab Lodge. Now this place could have been better, but first off having the fog didn’t help, and even more so them not giving us a rollaway bed that had been discussed when the place was booked. They said they would for and EXTRA amount that they never said before. Well one never got brought and Rod tried to sleep on the love seat. Along with their wifi having no internet speed faster then a snail, the food and beer was horrible! We picked out some new stuff to drink that was the worst stuff on the planet, so that was our fault. Then once we started getting some food it was either frozen in the middle or way over cooked. And I don’t know what they think a Filet Minion looks like but just cause you call it that doesn’t mean that doesn’t mean that is what it is. It was like beef jerky, way over cooked and looked odd. To expensive for crap! The toilet didn’t work in one of our cabins either….. so we couldn’t wait to get the heck out of there! One last try though for the Grand Canyon and a sunrise that next morning. It wasn’t bad but still a bit to many clouds. I just told the guys that it was Arizona and to remember the awesomeness in Utah.
On our way to Page now hoping to make up for the wasted day we just had. The sky was looking good with nice fluffy clouds so we stopped overlooking the Vermillion Cliffs. As we were about ready to leave Jason pointed out a big bird flying by, it was a Condor. I have been to a spot around there before when they have released some into the wild years back not far from there, so I was excited to see this one go land on some rocks not far from us. I grabbed my zoom and headed toward it. Daniel was the only one that followed me to see how close we could get. And I can’t believe how close it let us get. I tried to keep my distance still but we got about 20 feet from it. I felt that we were going to have some rangers on us soon yelling at us for getting to close to the rare bird that we left it alone after a ton of shots. No one came though, it’s not like shooting wildlife in Yellowstone when your to close anyway. Once back to the car it flew right towards us going above as if it wanted to give us more photo opps. It was the highlight of my trip so far! The guys that didn’t go with were now jealous when I showed them what I got.
The sky kept looking amazing as we were planning to do Horseshoe bend for sunset, but the first stop was Lower Antelope Canyon. What no cars in the parking lot, this isn’t right, yep it was closed due to the storm that blasted through overnight. We were told that it might be open the next day. So we went to check into our hotel and found that Rod left his credit card at Jacob Lake! At least they had it for us, but now we had to backtrack that way on our way back to Zion. So we kicked back for a little waiting to do sunset and what happens in the meantime, the clouds disappear! This is typical for me and Horseshoe Bend. Good thing I filled my pack full of beer to make up for a crappy sky. The next morning we were up and at the gates in a long line of cars waiting to get into Lower Antelope. Finally the crew shows up and we are excited to get in. NOPE, they need to clean it out and make sure people can go through so it might open at Noon. I would love to go in there with water since that would be a different shot, but it wasn’t going to happen. We had to be back to Zion to get our Subway permits so we decided that Saturday, which had nothing planned, that we would drive back and do the canyon. Arizona was just no good on this trip!
We made it back to Zion and picked up our permits for the next day and decided to do the Narrows that evening. I have always wanted to see the light in the evening there. Hiking up I can see that from the storm the other day it was brutal. I wished we didn’t leave so I could have got some flooding shots, but maybe next time. The river which was clear a few days before was now muddy, and full of sand. It gave us a different perspective though on what the canyon can look like. The light wasn’t anything exciting too, morning is much better. However it was just like the morning with people, not many of them. I think we were the last ones out.
The next morning it was time for the Subway. This was my 7th time doing this hike, and Rods 2nd. So the others were in for a treat! We worked our way down and I couldn’t wait to show them some of the trail that we got to go down. I just love the look of people when they see what we get to do! Once to the first obstacle I started rigging up the rope and showed them the hole we were going down, they thought I was joking. That’s what makes this hike fun though. We made our way down through some of the most debris I have seen in some of the pools with no problems. The only issue we had was once to the bowling ball swim there was a big log lying across the rock and we couldn’t tell if we would make the swim with the packs full of camera gear we had. I have never done the bypass before, but other did last time I was there, so I figured it would be a new adventure. After crawling through the mud trying not to slide over the edge into the canyon I decided the swim is always the better option! Once down to the North Pole other groups caught up as we took our time shooting the heck out of the place. It is tough to get a shot and angle that I don’t have already, but I sure tried. Once into the main section of the Subway there were logs and sticks everywhere. So we took about 30 mins cleaning the place up to make it a bit more photogenic. I always feel bad for the people that hike bottom up to see just part of the canyon and hang for a few minutes then leave. Top down is the only way to do this. The rock hoping you have to do to get out of there sucks and I would hate to do it twice on the same trip. Rod rolled his ankle so many times getting out of there that I was amazed he walked the whole thing after some of the screams of pain he let out. However we had another safe and successful trip with no injuries. “Do the Subway they said, it will be fun they said,” after a long day and first time it wasn’t as exciting to some until the next day thinking about the adventure we had. It was time to relax forget sunset this evening. It was lame anyway. We were striking out on sunsets this trip.
Our last full day we got in the car and drove back to Page to do one of the main things they travelled here to do, and this time it was open. We did our photo trip through Lower which is much better then Upper cause I can do my own thing as long as I am out in 2 hrs. The downside of this place is the amount of people that come to see it. It was expected though, hell I brought tourist too. At least having beams of light here I could shoot them by myself without 30 other photographers around me. Even though this canyon is nice there are many better ones out there without crowds. Next time that is where I am going.
Our last night we spent taking star trails, another new thing for the guys. I showed how simple it can be with the right settings, but it doesn’t always look how you hope. It was a bit colder this night so we weren’t out long. It was a good ending to a fun week. We jammed a bit of stuff in there, but I would like to hit less tourist stuff next time. However that is hard to do when your showing it off for the first time to others. The next morning we said our goodbyes and I headed home. I couldn’t wait to get some sleep finally. Tons of late nights and early rises, however it was a great adventure.