Many of the scenic locations around the world have their specific locations that EVERYONE takes a photo of. The Snake River Overlook in Grand Teton National Park, Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, and so on and so forth. These famous landscape photography locations have been photographed to death and finding a different view of such iconic spots is extremely hard to do these days.
I recently read a blog post by Matt Kloskowski about why so many people love landscape photography, which addressed this very topic. He hit the nail on the head in my opinion. Each and everyone of those photographers out there captures their own unique image. These images aren’t just of an iconic location where there are thousands of photographs of out there today with very little difference. These images are a part of the photographer. Memories, sounds, views, and all sorts of emotions attach to that image and get portrayed within the image itself.
I typically make my attempt to try and get a different view of these iconic locations. In just the past few years I’ve visited such famous scenic photography locations as The Snake River Overlook, Mesa Arch, and The Watchman in Zion National Park. Have I come away with different images? Maybe. However, I still have that iconic shot of these places that contain much more meaning to me than someone else viewing it.
It is tough photographing in these areas. You’ll usually be greeted with elbow-to-elbow photographers lining up hours before sunrise/sunset all vying for their slice of the landscape photography pie. Many people think of landscape photography and picture hiking through high mountain passes full of flowers and unicorns with no other soul in sight. Sadly this isn’t the case many times, especially with these famous locations.
All that being said, it brings me to my most recent photography excursion to Zion National Park. I dealt with freezing temps, snow and rain all in the few short days I was there. That made for interesting backcountry hiking experiences to say the least, but on one day I was afforded that solitude most people associate with landscape photography.
The Watchman – Zion National Park
My first day I was rained on constantly. Dark, gloomy rain clouds filled the sky and the light and colors I had hoped for weren’t as apparent as I wanted. So cruising around in the car looking for shelter and a few decent shots seemed to be the name of the game that day. After spotting a distant waterfall due to the incoming rain, it was decided that I’d attempt to get some sort of shot of this location as the rain let up a little bit. Driving up to this location requires that you cross “the bridge” in Zion National Park. Many landscape photographer know this spot well. If you’ve seen a photo of Zion, then you’ve probably see a magnificent photo of The Watchman illuminated by the late-evening rays of light as the sun sets on the horizon.
As I crossed the bridge I glanced out to the West and towards The Watchman. I could feel that something special was going to happen. And luckily enough, the rains had kept the typical crowd on the bridge to only a few brave souls fighting the rain.
I grabbed the camera and walked my way down. Minutes after and the sky exploded with some phenomenal gap light from the West. I finally got some luck and managed to be in the right place at the right time, even due to inclement weather. The result was this:
And so I have my iconic Zion Watchman photo to add to my portfolio. Is it much different than anyone elses? Probably not. But at this specific moment it was me and the magnificent light being displayed, along with all the other emotions that happened at this moment in time.
My advice, photograph the icons. Photograph the mini-icons. Photograph the not-so-much-an-icon icons. Just get out an explore and capture this amazing world we live in. I’ve heard before that if a moment isn’t captured somehow, it never existed. That’s a bit of a deep thought, but it strikes home to this Utah Landscape Photographer.