Thor’s Hammer is the tallest and perhaps most famous hoodoo in Bryce Canyon National Park. You can see it from the rim at Sunset Point, or hike a short distance down the Navajo Loop Trail for a more dramatic vantage point. On my first day at Bryce, I hiked the Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trails, which took me 550 feet down into the canyon and gave me about 3 hours of high-altitude (over 8,000 feet) exercise. I captured this late morning view of Thor’s Hammer from the trail. I like the little tree in the foreground, the way the ground forms a steep slope and the color contrast of the sky, trees and mountains in the distant background.
For an even better way to photograph Thor’s Hammer, I set my alarm for an hour before sunrise (11/6/13), bundled up and hike down the trail with my tripod over my shoulder. As the sun rose, I enjoyed the sight of golden rays brushing the east side of the hoodoos. This first image was shot at ISO 200, f/11 for long depth of field and 1/5 second shutter speed. From this angle and in this light, the contour of the ground takes on interest, and the tiny trees on the rim give you an idea of the size of Thor’s Hammer. I like the color of the early morning sky, facing northwest.
As I continued to work the scene in the early minutes after dawn, I changed my vantage point to look more to the right and toward a more distant section of the rim. This image was shot at f/11, ISO 200 at 1/8 second. The subject (Thor’s Hammer) calls for a vertical composition, but it is interesting how the second composition shows better the expanse of the canyon.
This golden side light was worth waking up early, to witness and to capture. But, before we left the scene, our efforts were rewarded with one more unusual treat — an encounter with a fox running down the trail as we began to climb back up. With no time to set up the tripod, I did my best to snap a few photos in low light with the camera handheld. Then, it was time for coffee and a warm breakfast.