A few weekends ago, I had the amazing opportunity to spend some time in Zion National Park on a photography retreat, where I got to learn from the incredible David J. West. We spent two whole days wandering around one of the most beautiful places on Earth and taking photos and it was incredible. While I know my photos aren’t anywhere near as good as a professional, I think anyone can learn a lot from going to gorgeous locations and practicing, so I wanted to share some of the spots David took us to on the retreat that I think are perfect to work on different skills.
There are a couple awesome places to take pictures of the sunrise in Zion, even though they are technically of the same subject – the west wall of the canyon. I can’t decide which viewpoint I like more, so I thought I’d share both. The first is just behind the Zion Human History Museum and is a little easier to get to, especially when you’re driving into the park at 6:00 AM to catch the sunrise. Simply park at the museum and walk behind it. This isn’t technically a trail, so don’t wander far or trample down any plants – just set up your tripod near the building and enjoy.
The other great location for sunrise is definitely more fun and possible more pretty, if you’re up for a little hike in the early hours of the morning. It’s called Canyon Overlook and is just past the tunnel on the Mount Carmel Highway. It’s only a half mile each way and is definitely worth it for the incredible bird’s eye view of the canyon.
2. The Jumping Tree
If you decide to check out Canyon Overlook, continue up the Mount Carmel Highway for a bit until you see this tree set back from the road on the right. This is the most photographed tree in Zion and is known as the “Jumping Tree” or the “Jerky Tree.” It grows straight out of the rock and definitely deserves a visit.
This little baby one is on a nearby rock, and I almost liked it even more. It’s so crazy to me that trees can just grow out of rocks like this.
3. Moving Water
One of my favorite things to photograph is water, and I love the challenge of slowing down the shutter speed on the camera to give it that milky, smooth look. Luckily, there’s lots of places to practice this is Zion, but I thought one of the best was at the very back of the canyon in the river just before the Narrows. Take the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava and wander up the path – there are a few places with fast moving water and mini waterfalls that won’t have many people getting in your photos.
I loved these steps going up the slope on the other side of the river. No idea what they lead to or how you get to them, though!
I know it’s not technically “landscape photography,” but I like taking pictures of people. There are plenty of places to take portraits (aka pretty much anywhere) but I really loved this backdrop at the end of this short hike. This location is kind of cheating because it’s not in the main Zion Canyon, it’s actually in Kolob Canyon, which is still technically part of Zion but is a little farther north. This is at the end of the Timber Creek Overlook trail, another short one at the end of the main road in Kolob Canyon. You get a picture of me since I’m too lazy to ask my sisters-in-law if they care if I post their’s.
5. The Watchman
Finally, possibly the most famous photo in Zion – the Virgin River flowing toward the Watchman (the peak in the distance). There are a couple good places to get this image. The first is on the bridge that crosses the river just after the Human History Museum. Here, you’ll be able to get a long stretch of the river, but if you do it early in the day (like I did) instead of during golden hour, the contrast will be a bit hard to photograph.
The second, and my favorite spot on the whole trip, is along the Pa’rus trail. From the campgrounds at the entrance of the park, head up this paved trail until you get to a bridge that crosses the river. Cross the bridge and then make your way down, off the trail, to the water. It’s the perfect place to get close to the water and get the Watchman looming above the river and cottonwood trees.
Have you ever been to Zion National Park, and if so, where are your favorite places to take photos there? I can’t wait to get back outside and use some of my newfound landscape photography knowledge! Also – if you’re looking to learn more about landscape photography yourself, I highly recommend David’s photography workshop! And this isn’t even a sponsored post!