Kolob Terrace, Zion National Park

Of all the images I made on my recent trip to Zion National Park, I think this one is my favorite, although I suspect most others won’t share my view. I’ll admit that my feelings about this image are biased because of my emotional connection to the place and moment. I made this photograph in the rarely visited Kolob Terrace section of Zion. Most people who visit the Terrace do so in order to access the hike to the Subway, but fail to explore the area further. Which, in my opinion, is a real shame.    

Kolob Terrace, which is a high plateau overlooking deep canyons and red sandstone mountains, has many unique and beautiful qualities. One of my favorite areas is a massive ghost forest of dead trees, killed many years ago by wildfire. I spent several days working this area, trying to find an image that would capture something of its essence.    

"Kolob Dreams" - Zion National Park

"Kolob Dreams" - Zion National Park

I made this image on the edge of twilight  (click on the image above to see a higher resolution version). I scrambled looking for an image during sunset, and only after the light had faded did I find this view where a number of  compositional elements came together to my liking. Lucky for me, the twilight glow turned out to be perfect for the scene. I stood here for half an hour, taking exposure after exposure in the fading light. Clouds were moving quickly through the area, and each exposure was different.  

I’m really happy with the results from my evening shoot on Kolob Terrace. In fact, given the subtle light, juxtaposition of unusual elements, and motion blur in the clouds, I feel that this image might even qualify for Dreamscape status. Not many of my images actually live up to the brand name. Maybe my emotional connection to this place is skewing my view, but I grow more and more attached to this photo every time I look at it.    

My best exposure turned out to be one of the earlier ones, but I’m glad I stayed longer. I had this whole beautiful area to myself, surrounded by miles and miles of wilderness, and all I could hear was the faint gurgle of water coming from the valley seven hundred feet below. It was a magical experience, and although my image doesn’t even come close to capturing the moment, I hope that it in some small part brings back the essence of this wonderful place. But in the end, the simple joy of my time alone on Kolob Terrace was enough for me, and the reason I do this for a living. Everything we are, and all of our deeds and accomplishments, will eventually turn to dust. Fleeting moments are all that we have, and I for one intend to enjoy those moments as much as I can!    

Technical details: Canon 5D Mark II camera, 14-24mm lens (@14mm), ISO 100, f/11, 30 seconds, and a big smile on my face.

Ian Plant

Author: Ian Plant

World-renowned professional photographer, writer, and adventurer Ian Plant is a frequent contributor to and blogger for Outdoor Photographer Magazine, a Contributing Editor to Popular Photography Magazine, a monthly columnist for Landscape Photography Magazine, and a Tamron Image Master. Ian is also the author of numerous books and instructional videos. Ian leads photography workshops and tours around the world to help beginner and advanced photographers explore and expand their personal vision.

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