Photography by Jim Doty

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Photography At
Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon at Sunrise

Morning Snow at Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah is one of the most spectacular places on the planet and I finally found a chance to stop there on a trip to California.  It was late April and I was hoping for snow. I arrived about sunset (with no snow on the ground) and I had to leave the next morning after only a few hours of shooting time. Mother Nature must have smiled. There was a dusting of snow overnight.

There are several viewpoints around the canyon's rim. If you have only one chance to photograph sunrise at Bryce Canyon, go to Sunset Point. I was at Sunset Point long before sunrise, shivering in the morning cold. It was not a dramatic sunrise, at least in terms of the sky, so I left the sky out of most of my photos. The best light lasted for only a few minutes and the snow didn't last through the morning.  I spent a few hours at various viewpoints before heading down the road, but the best images of the day were taken when the first kiss of sunlight brushed the snow dappled trees and hoodoos.

Most photos of Bryce Canyon are sweeping views with wide angle lenses in the horizontal format, and I did that too. But I also wanted to go the opposite route, as in the photo above, and isolate parts of the canyon in a vertical format. This photo framed nicely at a focal length of 80 mm.

I used a small lens aperture (f/16) to have enough depth of field so the foreground tree and background hoodoos would all be sharp. I picked an exposure that would not "burn out" most of the snow.

For the photo below I pointed my camera in the opposite direction. I liked the mixture of warm sunlight mixed with the cool, blue light in areas of the canyon still untouched by the sunlight. I metered the sunlit rock surface in the right side of the photo, again being careful not to burn out the white snow.

Lots of information about exposure, depth of field, and landscape photography is in my book, Digital Photography Exposure for Dummies. This book will provide you with the skills you will need to make the most of the scenic location guides in the next paragraph.

You can find the best scenic location guides for landscapes in the U.S., by going here. Most of these books are in my own photo library. The best scenic guide books will tell you where to be, what time of day and year, and some will give you photographic suggestions for creating great images. If you are headed for Bryce Canyon or any of the other stunning locations in southern Utah, be sure to get Photographing the Southwest, Volume 1, Southern Utah by Laurent Martres. It was immensely helpful to me in my photographic explorations in the Parks of southern Utah.

Due to it's convenient location near the entrance to the park, I recommend staying at Ruby's Inn. It is a popular place so book ahead.

Data, top photo: Canon 5D, Canon EF 24-104 f/4 L lens at 80mm.  f/16, 1/10 second, ISO 100.

Data, photo below: Canon 5D, Canon EF 24-104 f/4 L lens at 88mm.  f/11, 1/30 second, ISO 100.

Bryce Canyon at Sunrise

December 21, 2011
Updated February 7, 2012

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