BRYCE CANYON MONEY SHOT - BUT THERE IS A LOT MORE TO EXPLORE
A little over twenty years ago my family took an extended road trip in the Four Corners Area of the Southwest. We hopscotched around the incredible collection of National Parks, visiting a park, skipping one or two, and then visiting another. Unfortunately we have never had the chance to make a return visit to see the parks that we skipped. I would encourage you all to make the circuit, and not to skip Bryce Canyon under any circumstances.
THERE IS PLENTY OF FOREST BOTH WITHIN AND BEYOND THE RIM
THE CANYON SUDDENLY APPEARS OUT OF NOWHERE IN A MORE MONOCHROMATIC LANDSCAPE
Bryce Canyon suddenly appears around a bend in the road as a vision from another planet, an amphitheater of mostly orange spires in the midst of the high dessert of pine forests and blue skies. These spires, known as hoodoos, come in an infinite variety of shapes usually only seen in Dr. Suess books, not in the real world. Then you come to Bryce, and are overwhelmed.
ROCKS TO MAKE YOU DOUBT YOUR EYES
YOU NEED TO TAME THE CONTRAST BOTH WINTHIN AND BEYOND THE CANYON
It is tempting to consider Bryce another one-hit wonder like the Grand Canyon or Crater Lake, but the remarkable thing about Bryce is that most visitors can easily explore the Canyon beyond the usual series of overlooks. You don't have to take your life in your hands on steep trails down into a river canyon like the Grand Canyon, or wait all Summer for the park's roads to open like a trip to Crater Lake. A series of short hikes can take you down into the hoodoos for a more personal experience than the beautiful, but distant one available on the rim.
A TOUCH OF CONTRASTING GREEN CAN REALLY HELP BALANCE THE ORANGE
BEYOND THE RIM
It is awfully hard to take a bad photo at Bryce, but you have got to stretch your visual muscles to find a series of images that will be of "your Bryce" as apposed to everyone else's. These images are a sample of what I saw on our one and only trip. The first image is the "money shot" of the amphitheater, featuring the hoodoo known as Thor's Hammer. This view is about as wide as my camera could go in the days before stitched digital images. My scanner allowed me to rescue these photos from my disorganized archives, and after a few minutes of post-processing they have emerged as remarkably better images than the 4 x 6 prints that came from the one-hour place.
THERE ARE OUTCROPPINGS BEYOND THE MAIN RIDGE
PATH BETWEEN THE HOODOOS
Along with usual sharpening and some cropping, Bryce images benefit greatly from several Lightroom techniques. Your film's color balance was probably thrown off by all that orange, so it really helps to adjust the color balance of your newly scanned digital negatives. The light at mid-day when you are probably around the canyon is pretty harsh, so you must balance the light and shadows within the canyon as well as darkening any sky beyond the canyon rim. Sometimes the shadows within the canyon can only be balanced with brushwork since simpler graduated filters never met a hoodoo they could deal with. The Bryce Orange that is so memorable that you can get it from Benjamin Moore as a very bright paint color is so saturated in real life that it sometimes benefits from de-saturation to render it more "realistic" in a photograph.
TOWERS IN THE SKY
LARGE TREES CAN SEEM VERY SMALL IN THIS ENVIRONMENT
One thing that I have learnt in looking at images of Bryce, my own and much better ones by others, is that all that orange really sings only when you get some of the green trees in your images. This natural contrast on the color wheel seems to benefit almost any Bryce image in my humble opinion - and you can't do that twenty years later in post-processing. I have also found that attention to individual hoodoos can bring out their character beyond the overwhelming first impression that this landscape is just too weird to make any sense of - it is still just a rock after all, even if it is unlike any rock you might have ever seen. The great thing about Bryce is that a good dose of de-saturation can allow more attention to texture and detail way before you get to black and white, which can seem both ideological and absurd in such an overwhelmingly colorful environment.
THERE IS NO DENYING THAT SOMETIMES IT IS JUST WEIRD CITY
VERY HARD MUD
IT CAN STILL BE JUST AS WEIRD IN BLACK AND WHITE
I hope that you have enjoyed these images, and that you can get to Bryce Canyon someday. I sure hope to return in the future.