Hiking and photographing the Zion Narrows is a unique experience. The Narrows, the largest slot canyon in the world, having been carved by the Virgin River, poses challenges and risks to photographers. Due to the fact that in order to experience the Narrows you will need to hike directly through the river, those with thousands of dollars worth of camera gear are naturally going to be concerned with the risk involved in bringing their gear in. I would like to offer some recommendations for those of you that will be visiting this area.
First of all... Bring that gear!!! The narrows are far too good to go without having the appropriate camera gear to capture it's beauty and print it BIG!!! It is an absolutely stunning landscape,unique and dynamic.
Here is a list of camera gear I would recommend for the narrows:
Polarizing filter (I consider this a borderline must)
Dry Bag for camera gear
Wide Angle Lens (essential)
Mid to Telephoto lens (I almost never bring anything beyond a wide angle. However, if you enjoy shooting abstracts, the narrows have plenty of beauty in the details to work with)
Here is a list of non-camera gear recommendations:
2 liters of water per person
Clothing appropriate for the season
Dry Bag (for any food or clothing needing to stay dry)
Extra fleece top (I will discuss this below)
Special footwear has been developed to assist in making your hike safer and more comfortable. In the narrows, the majority of the footing takes place on wet, bowling ball sized boulders. This footwear is made with specially formulated rubber that sticks very well to wet rock. In addition to this footwear, a sturdy hiking stick is recommended. Some people will use their tripod as a stabalizer, and I would recommend strongly not to do so, there is a decent probability of damaging that piece of gear.
During certain times of the year you may need either dry pants or a dry suit. In the spring, winter or fall, these should be taken into consideration. There is a local outfitter in town called Zion Adventure Company that rents footwear, dry bags, dry suits, etc.
The desert is a WILD place and can be highly unpredictable. During mid-July through early September is monsoon season. Heavy storms can roll in without warning which can create very dangerous situations in the Narrows. Be sure to check the forecast before your trip into the canyon. Flash flooding is a potential danger that should be taken very seriously. If you are in the canyon, even if it is mid-summer and you experience a strong rain, tempertures will drop dramatically. So much that if you have to wait out a flash flood, hypothermia is a very real possibility. Be sure to bring a fleece top, even if it's 100 plus degrees out.
Plan your hike, be safe and enjoy photographing one of the most inspiring scenes in the American Southwest.
Seth Hamel is a professional landscape and adventure photographer working and living in the Zion National Park area. Tracking the light in the narrows throughout the year, Seth knows where the best is, and when it occurs. Guided Zion Narrows photography trips are offered daily throughout the year. Please visit http://www.zion-photography.com for more information.
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