Zion in mid-Autumn 1: The Watchman

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In mid-autumn—November 19 to be exact—I arrived at Zion National Park around four in the afternoon, after taking off earlier that day from Westley, CA, some 700 miles away. The big question for that evening was whether there would enough clouds to produce a photogenic sunset for an evening shot of the Watchman from the bridge over the Virgin River right before the entrance into Zion Canyon. This is the famous shot at Zion — sort of the Zion version of the Yosemite Tunnel view. Other than the having enough clouds to decorate the western sky, the other question is whether there were any leaves left on the trees along the Virgin River. Peak color in Zion is usually around the second week of November. But this is vary from year to year. Earlier that week, there had been some high winds which could very well have blown off many of the leaves prematurely.

I found parking nearby and began to grab some miscellaneous shots:

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As you can see from the following shots, it looks like we were past peak color, with some trees nearly completely denuded, others holding on to their fall plumage:

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As the afternoon progressed, and the sunset became imminent, I worked my way back to the bridge and toward The Watchman, shown in the following images:

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When I arrived at the bridge, I was surprised by the absence of the usual photographic crowd. Only a couple of other “serious” photographers (I.e., they sported tripods) stood waiting for the evening to do its wonders with The Watchman and the Virgin River.

My first picture showed some clouds, but probably not enough. Worse, some clouds were blocking the sun, preventing light to hit The Watchman:

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But more clouds arrived and matters began to look more promising:

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Now if we could only get some fading sunlight on The Watchman, it would be close to perfect. Too bad, however, the trees in front were largely destitute of leaves.

Finally, a bit of light struck The Watchman:

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These were all shot with a 16mm to 85mm standard zoom lens, using a 4 stop soft neutral grad filter on an APS-C camera. Next time I photograph The Watchman, I’ll be using a 21mm prime lens, as that seems the perfect focal length for getting this particular shot.