Virgin River in Zion National Park

Zion National Park in Utah will astonish you with its extremely tall cliffs, carved over the ages by the (sometimes) gentle Virgin River.  In the first week of November when the last of the yellow foliage remained, I photographed locations in the Park that included sunrises on the mountain peaks as well as pastures full of deer and turkeys, and at dusk, the Virgin River cutting its path through the valley floor. Most of the photographs that included the sky included a very wide range of contrast from the bright sky and sunlit mountainsides to the shadowed parts of the canyon and the foliage in the shadows. I used the tripod to take five bracketed exposures of these scenes, so that I could process these images together with layer masks to create a perfect print, with no under or over exposure. I have some work to do!

This week I am living in my Naples FL home where I can only work on a laptop. The processing of five images into one with good contrast will have to wait until December. However, I can share with you two sweet images of the Virgin River looking quite creamy — thanks to the long exposure I used in photographing the scene.

How do you make running water, tripping over rocks and waterfalls looks smooth and creamy ? First, you need a steady tripod, like my Really Right Stuff tripod and ball head. Find a composition. I climbed on top of a boulder for this viewpoint. Focus carefully. I set the ISO on my camera (the new Nikon D800 with improved dynamic range) to 100. This low setting will give me very crisp detail and no grain. I closed the lens way down to a tiny opening of f/22; this setting will also give me depth of field throughout the foreground to the background. Last, I needed to find the proper exposure, checking the histogram to see if the highlights and shadows are balanced and not clipping. Here is the close-up with the lens zoomed to 120mm at 2.o seconds.

Working the scene, I tried some other compositions. This next image shows more of the scene with the impressive canyon wall and the yellow tree.  My lens was 28 mm for this image, and was open for 3.0 seconds. Of course, this image only worked well because the wind was not blowing. A gust of wind would have blurred the tree! If you look carefully, you can see the two rocks in the close-up in the foreground of the scene.

I look forward to sharing more photographs with you soon. If you wish to visit Zion National Park for some amazing hikes, you only need to drive 2.5 hours northeast of the Las Vegas, Nevada airport (LAS). Just arrive well rested and ready for strenuous exercise!

Author: cathykellyphotography

Independent photographer based in Pittsburgh PA and Naples FL. Nature, landscape and portrait photography. Portfolio includes international work in USA, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Email to review work in your area of interest. Nature portfolio includes flowers and wildlife. Prints and digital files for sale. See website:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s