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Photo of the Week: Bryce Canyon

The sun rises in Bryce Canyon, casting dramatic light on the hoodoos, photographed by Chase Dekker.

The Photo of the Week is coming from the instantly recognizable Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah. While this national park may be small, it easily packs more natural wonders within its borders than most other places. Bryce Canyon is known worldwide for having the largest collection of hoodoos, which are tall rock spires that rise out of the landscape. Bryce Canyon is actually not a canyon at all, but more of an amphitheater where one can either visit one of the viewpoints and gaze down upon the hoodoos or explore even further by hiking through them. I made a visit here during my recent trip through the southwest while photographing some of America’s most stunning landscapes and natural wonders. Of course, Bryce Canyon fit well right into those criteria.

We arrived at the park mid-afternoon and visited a few of the famous viewpoints including Sunrise and Sunset Points. Bryce Canyon faces east and since it is down in the amphitheater, does not get much of a sunset. I knew this would be a good time to do some scouting and decide where the best location for sunrise was going to be. It sounds counterintuitive, but Sunset Point was the winner. Located right over the heart of the amphitheater, the views were spectacular and a small trail from the top led down to the bottom where the famous Thor’s Hammer hoodoo stood. Happy with my decision I called it a night and retreated back to the lodge just outside the park gate.

The next morning was icy cold, around 1 degree Fahrenheit, but I bundled up and shoved a few hand and toe warmers in my clothes and shoes to counter the frigid air. In the dark, I made my way to Sunset Point and walked about a ¼ mile down the trail to the view I had scouted out the day before. I set up my tripod and got my camera into position so I would be ready when the sun rose over the horizon. Since there were no clouds, I wouldn’t have much of a warning when the sun was going to rise, so I adjusted my settings every 3 minutes to make sure they were up to date with the changing atmospheric light. Suddenly, the first rays from the sun began to strike the hoodoos and paint the surrounding landscape with a soft and subtle warm glow. Using a polarizer filter to reduce the glare, I also hand held a graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky and background. While many will put their grad filter within a lens holder, I like to hand hold it to feather the transition zone from dark to light. For example, during a 5-second exposure, by lightly moving the filter, it blurs the transition giving one a smoother more natural looking image.

I spent about an hour that morning shooting under Sunset Point and once the sun was high in the sky and the rich orange colors were fading, I packed up my gear and headed back to the lodge to warm my core with some much needed coffee!


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Hey, I'm Chase Dekker, a wildlife and nature photographer looking to share my stories and expertise with as many people as possible. My blog gives you a glimpse into my life as a photographer - whether it be stories from my travels, or guides on how to make your own trips as successful and special as possible.

I hope to give you valuable insight on everything from travel, to animals, to photography tips and more!


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