Bryce Canyon In Winter
In December 2016, I visited Bryce Canyon National Park once again. I’m fortunate to live relatively close to Bryce Canyon and have been there many times over the past few years. It can be crowded at times but there are also times when you feel like you have the place to yourself. On this morning, we arrived and very few cars were in the parking lot. There was a little fresh snow and the temperature was fairly mild at 27℉ which may sound cold but this is warm for Bryce Canyon in the Winter! It can easily be well below zero with wind! As we approached the rim, we were greeted to an amphitheater full of fog and a clear sky.
There were very few people and I headed away from the group I was with. I didn’t see another person over the next hour or so as I wandered to various locations on the rim yet was only minutes from the parking lot. On this morning, I was alone with the hoodoos, light and my camera.
The 9 images you see here are the only images I made on this morning. You’re seeing everything, the bad ones and the good ones, to illustrate a point. Shooting on film has changed the way I photograph landscapes and I’m far more selective in what I photograph than I was when shooting on a DSLR. You can also see that I don’t bracket my images. I do shoot a 2nd frame occasionally to ensure I captured a moment of light. Shooting with film has taught me to read light better and I’m not too concerned with exposure bracketing because exposures are all measured, not guessed.
Speaking of light, you’ll notice a few of the images have a distinct light leak. This is an issue with the camera that I discovered after I had exposed many rolls of film. I have more than a few ruined images! I’m not really too concerned with this as I’ll explain in a moment. I could’ve easily not shared these images or cropped the images to squares and nobody would know. I’m choosing to share them though so you can see everything I shot in one morning. There are only 9 frames here and out of these 9 frames, 3 are ruined and 6 are acceptable in the full size.
6 images. For comparison, on a different morning with a DSLR, I took over 200 photos and have about 6 acceptable images from that morning. Learning to evaluate light before clicking the shutter along with being more selective in what I photograph has allowed for more time observing and being present. I spend less time behind the lens and WAY less time behind a computer. During mornings like this one in Bryce Canyon, I also spend more time simply enjoying the moments of spectacular light.
This is why I’m not concerned over 3 ruined images. In no way do these detract from the experience of experiencing, creating and sharing. None whatsoever. On this morning with no people around for over an hour, I saw light over an incredible landscape that will never be repeated exactly the same. Nobody else saw this, just me. As an expressive person, seeing and experiencing isn’t enough for me though. There are so many people out there that don’t have the opportunity or ability to see these places and conditions in person. One of the wonderful aspects of photography is that pieces and moments can be shared with others and can bring so much joy to other people.
I think about this morning in Bryce Canyon quite often but not to simply remember this landscape or sunrise. I remember feeling an intense desire to share this moment with someone else. To be honest, being alone and seeing this light over such an incredible landscape wasn’t a purely happy experience. I’m not sure how to describe this but it wasn’t the first time I’ve felt this and I’ve felt it since then. This may not make sense to everyone but I’ll try to explain. I felt hints of guilt and selfishness on this morning, mixed with intense joy and wonder. I questioned why I was there alone to see and experience this beautiful morning and why there were no other people there. It wasn’t cold, it’s not exactly a remote or hidden place and it was “perfect” conditions for many people. These hints of guilt hit me when I thought of all the other people in the world who will never be able to see this place in person. Why was I fortunate to be here while other people will never know this place even exists? Could I really just stand here and soak it all in and be present in the moment? I tried and this thought made me feel incredibly selfish.
These moments of solidarity in incredible places and conditions also bring about intense emotions of joy which far outweigh any others. These complex and opposing emotions inspire me to create and share as much as any landscape will ever inspire me. I’ll talk more about how I use this as inspiration in another blog post sometime. For now, enjoy a sunrise over a complex landscape full of light and darkness.
Thanks for reading,