Utah 2017 Spring | Jim Kofron Photography | Jim Kofron

Utah 2017 Spring

Utah Trip—Spring 2017

So, we’re all returned from a fabulous 8-day trek around the southern Utah parks and monuments, and I’m going to do a blow-by-blow write up along with photos and maps. Let me thank Rick Decker up front for organizing the trip, as well as being a great traveling companion. And Kendall Gelner as well, who joined us in Utah and brought along his wife’s Jeep Cherokee to help shuttle us into areas that would have been relatively inaccessible by car (although mountain bikes would have been great!).

Rick and I flew into Las Vegas and met at the car rental area. We grabbed a car, headed to a local Starbucks, and then went over a couple of different itineraries that Rick had written up. One thing I want to mention is how great it is to have a guide with local knowledge. Rick was driving around this entire area like it was his backyard (knowing stores, coffee shops, etc)—and he’s from Hawaii. He does come out west often though, and it shows with his ability to navigate pretty much anywhere we needed to go. So—the itineraries were ambitious, and had us starting out at Death Valley and areas west shooting some dunes (which is awesome). Sadly for us, the southern California deserts are in beautiful bloom this year, and we couldn’t get a room. This pretty much destroyed the itineraries, so we began to improvise immediately. We decided on spending a day or two (or three, as it ended up) in Zion, and we would work our way to Moab to meet Kendall on Sunday. We had no reservations, so we’d play it by ear as we ambled from town to town.

Utah Trip—Camera Notes

So, one of my goals on this trip was to get to know my new Sigma sd Quattro camera. I had taken it out to the beach last summer and had gotten some nice shots, but I didn’t do any hardcore landscape work (I preferred to float on the water). Starting out this trip, I was shooting mainly handheld, and using ‘normal’ exposure techniques. I was manually focusing most of the lenses without the magnification aid. By the end of the trip many of the shots were on a tripod, I was using the SFD mode of the camera—which takes seven consecutive exposures bracketed by a stop of exposure, and I was making good use of the focus magnification to focus the lenses.

Speaking of lenses, I brought the following:

10-20 mm (older version, f4-f5.6)

Utah Trip–Tuesday Afternoon, Kolob Canyon and Kolob Terrace Road

So, as I mentioned in the previous post, there was no rooms in Death Valley for us to do Rick’s itinerary. We made our way from Las Vegas to Zion, and after a brief delay of overshooting the turn (I was driving…), we headed into our first destination for the afternoon, the Kolob Canyon Visitor Center (1).. This was my first time here. Rick and I had done a bit of shooting in Zion in 2010, but it was off of route 9 on the way to Bryce. We got in around 1:30 pm, so clearly the sun was going to be challenging for creating keepers; however, we did have a bunch of puffy-fluffy clouds (the non-technical term for cumulus) that would give us some nice light.


The parking lot at Kolob Canyons. See the beautiful sandstone in the background.

Utah Trip–Wednesday Morning, Kolob Terrace Road

So, after a good nights rest and a bite to eat at Cafe Sol in Springdale, we headed out to do some more exploring. Rick decided to drive along Kolob Terrace Road again, going a few miles north of where we were the previous afternoon. We explored a dirt road (1) that went into a cool valley, but there were eventually gates and private property signs. We got out and looked around, but didn’t go any farther.

But from another dirt road (with another gate, 2), we decided to take a few shots of the surrounding countryside. This is a cool area, basically south of Kolob Canyon and north of all the ‘usual’ part of Zion that people visit. A nice combination of some forest and sandstone.

From (2) we jumped back into the car and starting driving up the road. A little way later, I saw an area that had some water on the side of the road with some nice open forest area, so Rick stopped the car at (3), and we started to explore the area.

Utah Trip–Wednesday Afternoon, Kolob Reservoir, Northgate

So, Wednesday afternoon became an afternoon of exploration, getting lost, some massive milage (we did over 10 miles of hiking on Wednesday), great sites, and comparatively little photography. We started by driving from our last hiking spot (1) up Kolob Terrace Road towards the Kolob reservoir. It was some really interesting scenery, and as we got higher into it, there was still quite a bit of snow (!) up in the area. At the reservoir itself (2), we found a few groups of fishermen who were donning wetsuits, waders, and other warm gear to brave the trout fishing. Apparently this is a trophy lake for trout! There was a road closed sign going around the east side of the reservoir, but that didn’t stop us from blasting through the mud and gravel to try to make our way to some roads that Rick knew. However, the big pile of snow (at 2) did—we turned around and headed back. The good news was that the mud on the road left the Nissan covered with a layer of bad-ass mud; we kept this on the vehicle until our last day in Moab.

Utah Trip–Thursday, Zion

So Rick had been real easy on me so far this trip. No super early sunrises. Being in a valley helps too, the sun doesn’t get up over the sides for a while. This morning, we decided to do a classic sunrise shoot; the cliffs behind the Zion Human History Museum. That’s (1) on the map, and it’s just a mile into the park from Springdale. This was going to be our last full day in Zion, so we wanted to make sure we got our money’s worth.

The pre-sunrise light puts some nice colors on these rocks. It was pretty windy and cool this morning, and that probably helped to cut down the number of photographers at this popular spot. This was also my first attempts at using the SFD mode on the sd Quattro—it takes six exposures in rapid succession, followed by a 7th (wait for it!). These are all bracketed by 1 stop around whatever your base exposure setting is.

Utah Trip–Friday Morning, Zion

Oh no—it’s Friday, and this is our last day at Zion! No more luxurious cabins, no more Cafe del Soleil, no more Sol Foods!! It’s been an incredible three days in this area—made more so because this really wasn’t on the initial plan. Sometimes it’s best to just show up, and make the best of the environment and the light! So, Rick’s plan this morning was to head east out of the park, and stop for a while at a spot he knew near Checkerboard Mesa. Checkerboard Mesa and the unnamed mesa next to it are impressive sandstone formations; 900’ tall, and striated in all sorts of interesting ways. We parked at (1) below, crossed the road, and headed a bit west to shoot the sandstone flats.

The walk in. Have I mentioned how fantastic these rocks are?

Utah Trip–Friday Afternoon, Devil’s Garden in color

It was time to jump in the Rogue and drive to Escalante. Starting in the lower left of the map, we continued on 9, hung a left at 89, and then a right at 12. We went through Bryce with no stop, and continued on this scenic drive until we hit our destination in Escalante. I can’t remember the name of the hotel, but we got rooms, T-shirts, and then made a plan to head to Devil’s garden.

Devil’s Garden (1) is southeast of town, along a well groomed gravel road (probably about 10 miles in). Apparently there are many dirt roads out here that are fabulously secluded and super dangerous during winter and when it rains—but potentially worth some exploration on another trip. Also, there are lots of dinosaur bones and tracks in this general area—of course, we weren’t on the lookout for these.

Utah Trip–Friday Afternoon, Devil’s Garden in B/W

The pallet for Devil’s garden is really wonderful; blue sky and orange/brown rocks. But it also shines when you take the color out… 

Now, I’ve found for my blogging software, if I don’t put enough words in the opening paragraphs, the ‘shortened’ version of the post ends up including all the images, which is not what I was hoping for. If I only would learn a bit more html and css, I could write these things entirely by hand! Let me know what you think of the B/W versions versus the color ones—I’m thinking of printing a series of these, and I’m tempted to do the B/W.

Copyright 2014, Jim Kofron. All rights reserved.