Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Zion National Park

with 28 comments

Two years ago today we reached Zion National Park in Utah.

Even late into the afternoon, with shadows already creeping up on the formations and the light fading, I kept taking pictures for as long as I could.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2018 at 8:12 AM

28 Responses

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  1. I don’t think I’ve ever been to this one. I particularly like the last two images you have here. You can tell the sun is sinking, creating dramatic lighting conditions.


    October 22, 2018 at 8:55 AM

    • On our first visit to Utah, about 20 years ago, we hit (at least briefly) the state’s other four national parks but ran out of time for the fifth. That’s why Zion became a prime destination for the western trip two years ago. Now it’s my favorite of the five, well worth a visit if you can swing it. And if you do swing it, try to avoid the tourist season, which doesn’t taper off till after Thanksgiving. At the time we were there, the main road into the valley was still closed to cars, and swarms of people had to line up for the buses that would take them in.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 22, 2018 at 9:04 AM

      • Oh that sounds awful. I imagine after Thanksgiving it would be worth the trip.


        October 22, 2018 at 8:11 PM

        • Yes, it would, although I’d still avoid the weekends even then.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 22, 2018 at 8:32 PM

          • sigh.


            October 23, 2018 at 9:23 AM

            • Someone working there told us that between Thanksgiving and Christmas private cars could drive into the main valley on weekdays but visitors would still have to take the bus on weekends. Not till after Christmas could private cars go in on weekends.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 23, 2018 at 9:59 AM

              • It’s good that they have a system for controlling the hordes. I just miss the good ol’ days when our parks were well-kept secrets. Presumably, though, the hordes love the places they flock to, and hopefully they vote. The Orange Tyrant wants to open them up for mining and development.


                October 24, 2018 at 9:17 AM

                • I’m afraid there are few well-kept secrets among the main national parks. When we went to Joshua Tree National Park on November 5th, a couple of weeks after Zion, I assumed that date would put us past the main tourist season. It didn’t. I hadn’t realized that only in November did that desert area finally cool down enough for most visitors to feel comfortable.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  October 24, 2018 at 10:00 AM

  2. You wouldn’t think looking at bare rock would be such a pleasure, very nice shots. The beige, gray, and taupe shales and limestones in central NY cannot compare to the beautiful rock colors in Utah. Especially those reddish and ochre sandstones

    Robert Parker

    October 22, 2018 at 10:53 AM

    • Upstate New York is scenic, but the west far exceeds it in colors, ruggedness, shapes. Zion was wonderful, and I can easily imagine myself revisiting. There was only so much we could see in our two days there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 22, 2018 at 4:27 PM

  3. I think this was my favourite of the three we visited (Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion). Loved the pretty colours and the extraordinary patterns to the rocks. I checked to see if you’d been to see my post and you had (2016).


    October 22, 2018 at 11:18 AM

    • Right. I commented on your Zion post at the time I first showed my own Zion pictures here, less than a month after returning from the great western trip of 2016. Zion became an instant favorite of mine, too, for the reasons you mentioned. I’d love to go back.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 22, 2018 at 4:44 PM

  4. Beautiful photographs 😊

    Nomzi Kumalo

    October 22, 2018 at 3:20 PM

  5. I couldn’t help thinking of Austin’s water problems when I looked at that first dry, desert-like image. It always intrigues me to see trees and other plants marching across such apparently inhospitable terrain. They really do add to the interest of the photo, as well as to the landscape generally.

    My favorite is the second. The way you’ve divided the image between red and white rocks, and superimposed the red over the white in the center is striking, and very appealing. This is a place I missed while living in Utah; I certainly would love to remedy that in the future.


    October 22, 2018 at 8:26 PM

    • That first image reminded me of the land around St. George, which isn’t so very far away. An old pioneer song, written by Charlie Walker, who was himself a pioneer, ‘celebrates’ early life there. I thought you might get a kick out of some of the lyrics. It was recorded in 1947, but I can’t find it now in the Smithsonian Folkways archives. I’ll have to have another look.

      Oh, what a dreary place this was
      when first the Mormons found it.
      They said no white man here could live
      and Indians prowled around it.

      They said the land it was no good,
      and the water was no gooder,
      And the bare idea of living here
      was enough to make men shudder.

      (Refrain): Mesquite! soap-root! Prickly pears and briars!
      St. George ere long will be a place that everyone admires…

      The sun it is so scorching hot
      it makes the water sizz, sir.
      And the reason that it is so hot
      is just because it is, sir.

      The wind with fury here doth blow,
      and when we plant or sow, sir,
      We place one foot upon the seeds
      and hold them ’til they grow, sir.


      October 22, 2018 at 8:44 PM

      • That’s a funny song. I can well understand how harsh the early white settlers would have found the land there, especially in winter.

        I remember St. George from having bought gas there.

        Steve Schwartzman

        October 22, 2018 at 10:08 PM

    • As you can imagine, I took hundreds of pictures at Zion. Looking back at just a portion of that haul a few days ago, I quickly picked three views for this post. I, too, liked the way I superimposed the red peaks over the white one in the second photo, something I’d forgotten about in the two years since then.

      Like you, we also missed Zion our first time in Utah, even if we just visited and didn’t live there. You’re right that you should remedy your having missed it.

      No matter how inhospitable a piece of land may seem to us, there are always some plants and animals that find themselves at home there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 22, 2018 at 10:05 PM

  6. Very pretty!


    October 22, 2018 at 10:26 PM

  7. Zion is on my list of places to see. These are all beautiful photos, Steve, but my favorite is the second one with the red and white rock.

    Lavinia Ross

    October 23, 2018 at 10:58 AM

    • Zion was on my list, too, over the two decades since our first trip to Utah, when we visited the other four national parks in the state. It’s definitely worth going if you can manage to.

      I hadn’t remembered, till I looked back at pictures for this post, how well I managed to line up the red rocks near the center with the white peak beyond them. Score one for rediscovery.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 23, 2018 at 11:10 AM

  8. […] Following my pattern at Zion, I kept photographing as long as the light lasted. Though the day remained heavily overcast and we got some real rain for a while, late in the afternoon the sun briefly emerged beneath the lowest clouds and its light drenched the formations in warm colors—the fire in the Valley of Fire. You can see that I photographed the rocky Art Nouveau castle below when the shadows had already started climbing its base. A minute or two more and the magical illumination was gone. […]

  9. Marvelous photos of this majestic place. One of these days, maybe we’ll get there…

    Birder's Journey

    October 24, 2018 at 7:18 AM

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