Light, form, texture and natural history are the creative elements of the landscape photographer; and few places provide all four, and in rare and multitudinous combinations, as Zion National Park. Located in southwestern Utah, Zion’s palette is uniquely enhanced by encompassing portions of the Colorado Plateau, the Great Basin and the Mojave Desert. Here, high plateaus; a maze of narrow, deep sandstone canyons; and striking rock towers and mesas form ready-made compositions for the landscape photographer with an eye to capture the fleeting moments when light and the atmosphere play among these natural features.
The magical ingredients of Zion are its range of elevation, from 3,666 to 8,726 feet, and the eons of geological activity that has shaped the landscape into spectacular and subtle forms at every turn of the trail. Zion was a relatively flat basin near sea level 240 million years ago. As sands, gravels, and muds eroded from surrounding mountains, streams carried these materials into the basin and deposited them in layers. The rock layers have been uplifted, tilted and eroded into a feature called the Grand Staircase, a series of colorful cliffs stretching between Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. Today, the Virgin River is still excavating the landscape. Upstream from the Temple of Sinawava, the river cuts through Navajo Sandstone, creating a slot canyon. At the Temple, the river has reached the softer Kayenta Formation below. Water erodes the shale, undermining the overlaying sandstone and causing it to collapse, widening the canyon.