Virgin River Reflections, Big Bend, Zion

When leading photo workshops, I try to be active in the experience. I don’t just herd my clients to photogenic areas—when I get there, I take out my camera and explore as well, as even spots that I have been to over and over again offer something different with each visit. By taking some time to assess light conditions and to explore for new angles, I can often find unique and interesting things for my clients to photograph. Such is the case with the image below (click on the image to see a higher resolution version). I had taken my workshop down to the Virgin River at the Big Bend area of Zion National Park. I pointed out a few possible shots, answered some questions, and when everyone seemed settled and doing their own thing, I took out my camera and began to explore. I noticed one of the canyon walls glowing with late afternoon light, so I searched for an angle that would allow me to capture reflections in the water. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the best place was in the middle of the river, so I took off my boots and socks, rolled up my pant legs, and waded into the frigid water.

"Light's Journey" - Zion National Park

"Light's Journey" - Zion National Park

When I got there and set up the shot with a wide angle lens, I was pleased with what I was seeing: beautiful reflections of the glowing sandstone wall in the water, and compositional lines flowing from the lower corners of the image, pushing the eye from foreground to background. I called over to my students and encouraged them to join me. Only two of the thirteen decided to brave the chilly waters. We worked fast, as the light only lasted a few minutes, before returning to shore. When others in the group gathered around to view our photos, several of them expressed interest in returning the next evening to give it a go.

A much larger group entered the water the next day, and I was delighted to see everyone enjoying themselves, from the first shock of cold water rushing over their feet, to the delight of photographing a unique and beautiful landscape scene. I spent much of my time assisting people in and out of the water, and making sure everyone had a chance to photograph the best angles. For some of my students at least, I think it was the most fun they had on the workshop. I know it was for me! 

P.S. I have recently listed my Hidden Zion workshop for November 2011. This year’s workshop filled up quick, so you might want to consider registering early! 

Technical details: Canon 5D Mark II camera, 17-40mm lens (@19mm), polarizer filter turned partially to remove glare and intensify colors, ISO 100, f/16, 1.6 seconds, cold feet and lots of laughs.

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.

Share This Post On

Be Inspired

Subscribe to my newsletter for regular photo tips, awesome images, great deals, and more!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest