After one of the best nights of sleeping in a tent ever, Lindsay and I got up bright and early, ate breakfast and got ready for our day of hiking in the Narrows. I have wanted to hike the Narrows for a long time and was really excited to finally get to do it. We walked over to the visitors center and hopped on a tram for the ride up the canyon to the Temple of Sinawava stop where the River Walk trail head is. A quick mile walk along a paved trail leads to the Virgin River and the start of the Narrows. We tightened up our new Salomon Canyoneering shoes, checked our dry bags and headed into the river. By most standards the water was a pretty cold 63 degrees. Eventually our feet numbed enough that it didn’t matter how cold the water was. I know I was too excited and in awe of the canyon to even think about the water temperature. We hiked for several hours and made it a little past orderville canyon before turning back. We turned around at the right time; by the time we got back to the trail head the weather had turned south. The sun was gone and it had started to rain a little bit. The Narrows was one of the best hikes I have ever been on. Possibly better than 30 miles through Yosemite.
I brought my D3 and large tripod with me on the hike. There was no way I was going in the canyon with anything other than my best camera. We got in the canyon around 1030am which was still early enough to not have too much direct sunlight coming into the canyon. The diffuse light gave me shutter speeds around 1/2 second which was plenty to get some nice soft water and saturated colors. I kept my camera double dry bagged inside my hiking pack and the tripod strapped to the outside. The deepest water we came across was about waist deep so I was not too worried about getting my gear wet.
After 3 weeks of more or less not leaving the house, Lindsay and I were starting to get a little stir crazy. Our original plan was to go up to Kings Canyon and Sequoia for the weekend but the weather had other plans. The forecast was calling for rain and snow all weekend almost everywhere in California. On top of that we were unable to find a campsite anywhere from Point Reyes to San Diego that had sites available at the last minute. So on Thursday night we were without much of a plan. We had been wanting to go to Zion National Park for some time and the idea kept coming up in conversation about places to go soon. With that in mind we made the last minute decision, 7pm on Thursday night, to go to Zion National Park for the 3 day weekend. We had no campground picked out and just decided to wing it and try to get in the South Campground which is first come first serve. Within a couple hours we had packed up all of our camping and hiking gear into Lindsay’s Toyota Scion (My Jeep is about dead and taking the smaller car saved a TON of money on gas 30mpg vs 12-15mpg) and went to bed for a few hours. The alarm went off at 330am on Friday morning and we were out the door by 345am. We decided to skip breakfast so we could get some miles behind us and eventually stopped for a healthy meal on the road at McDonalds. Seven hours later and a few switches of drivers we were in Zion National Park
I had two immediate goals upon arriving in the park; one was to try to get a campsite at the South Campground and the second was to try to get a permit to hike the Subway. We managed to easily get a campsite but the permits were already taken for the next day by 10am. No worries though, turned out we wouldn’t have had the energy to hike Angles Landing, The Narrows and the Subway in the same weekend. The original idea was to hike Angels Landing immediately after getting to the park and setting up camp, but after the 330am wakeup call and seven hour car drive we were more in the mood for a nap. After sleeping for a few hours in our tent with a nice cool breeze we decided to hike around the visitors center and campground. It made for a very relaxing late afternoon and evening.
Lindsay and I hiked along the Virgin River in the evening to try to find a nice view for sunset. The colors in the water from the red cliffs and green trees reflecting were fascinating and really beautiful. Unfortunately I had a harder time than usual capturing what I was seeing and feeling at the time. Being inside such a steep canyon makes for huge extremes of light. Once the sun had set behind the mountains it was either really bright cliffs across from the sun or near complete darkness down around the river. Even a strong split gradient couldn’t handle the extremes; especially with lots of trees in the scene that went black with the filter. I took a few shots but called it quits after not really getting what I wanted. There were no clouds at sunset either which made for a pretty quick and dull sunset. I was hoping for some nice color and ambient glow from the clouds after sunset. I did manage to get one ok panoramic as the last bit of light played on the canyon walls. I setup in the middle of the river and took a few shots and the sun was gone. I hurried back to camp where Lindsay was already cooking up a storm. We had a great dinner, nice fire and passed out.
In early May Lindsay and I went down to San Diego, California for the 2009 Red Bull Air Races. We had been down the year before and loved it so headed south again this year. My friends Camilo and Karina came out to shoot the races with us. Overall a great weekend of photos and fun. The lighting was not the best with constant fog keeping the sun hidden away. Last year I shot witha 300mm f/2.8 and various teleconverters and this year I opted for a 200-400 f/4. It was nice to have the versatility of one zoom lens but the quality was a bit below the faster 300mm.