In the winter of 2023 we went to southern Utah to escape the winter cold and provide me with yet another opportunity to improve my golf game. Neither goal was fully realized. But I did get to experience the surreal beauty of Bryce National Park under a deep cover of fresh snow.
Winter is the peak golf season in southern Utah. Proof of this is the elevated prices for 18 holes of warm winter golf. (Sky Mountain Golf Course) Not so in 2023 as the weather was generally too cold, windy or snowing for a pleasant golf outing. My golf outings are often not all that pleasant in the best of conditions.
Our home was one of the original homes in town, built in 1910. While it certainly had been updated, there were plenty of quirks to deal with.
Deep Snow and Cold Temps at Bryce
It got so cold golf was out of the question. So I requested a neighbor hand deliver to me my biggest winter down parka so I could to go to Bryce National Park for some winter photography. The temperatures were forecast to be in the low teens and single digits and strong wind gusts.
For the top lead photo, the winds were blowing certainly at least 30 miles an hour, chasing most visitors away. I had to increase my shutter speed, really hold down the tripod to help steady it and shoot between wind gusts. This view is from Bryce Point, the highest overlook at Bryce.
I failed to arise and depart Ruby’s Inn early enough to get the low clouds which were present only 30 minutes prior. So I had to contend with harsh light and shadows. There are several hotels to choose from in Bryce, but the very best choice by far is the original Ruby’s Inn .
The above photo is taken at the same Inspiration Point, just looking the other way. Two ladies from Europe were chatting very loudly with friends back in Germany about how beautiful the sights were they were experiencing. Otherwise, this would have been a very peaceful scene. I blame Facebook, Instagram and other social media for much of the demise and overcrowding of national parks. Another reason for me to concentrate on bug photography.
Similar Views with Differing Amounts of Snow
I had visited Bryce in the early Spring about 15 years ago. Several inches of snow fell overnight but was quickly melting in the sun. As the sun on the warm side of the canyon hill sides melted the snow, beautiful patterns emerged. The photo below is one of my favorites. This colorful scene lasted only a few hours, then the snow was gone.
I captured a photo of this same viewing area in 2023, but with much deeper snow. For me it is interesting to view the same scene in different lighting conditions. It is not the exact area, but the same canyon side with some overlap of the same hill sides.
A Hike to the Bottom of the Canyon
Much of the beauty of Bryce can be seen from easily accessible overlooks next to the main parking lots. However, having already visited them, it seemed logical that I should hike to the bottom of the canyon. The conditions can be very icy, so you must wear ice cleats. I was worried about going so early, trudging along in the deep snow by myself. Cell phones likely would not work down in the canyon. I had a ration of food with me, warm gloves and a down parka, so off I went, hiking alone.
The hike is a popular one in good weather. Starting at either Sunrise or Sunset Point and hiking to the other point. By the time I reached the canyon bottom, I was much too warm and was seeing whole families with young children coming from the other direction. Hummm. When you are all alone, you can blow some concerns out of proportion.
Unfortunately, the Wall Street section of the Bryce Canyon Navajo Trail was closed. Despite this, someone had crossed the closed signs and went down these steep sharp switchbacks. As you would expect, I followed the main trail.
After taking the ‘required’ shots, I feel more freedom to experiment with black and white scenes. For this scene, I waited in the warm sunshine for the cloud to pass by the two rock outcroppings, creating three distinct objects against the skyline.
My Glove Ran Off Without Me
Near the end of the hike, I saw this somewhat abstract scene. The thin golden grass stems against their opposite color of blue and crooked leading line was an appealing scene for me. However, such a scene cannot be captured in one shot. The grass is blowing in the wind, so a fast shutter is required. A long depth of field is necessary to get the grass in focus as well as the distant bush. So this called for about 8 different shots to be blended together at home on the computer. So when one tripod leg randomly sinks into the snow deeper, slightly changing the camera’s perspective, you have to scratch all those photos and start over. People walking by on the trail have no idea what I’m taking a photo of, but will dutifully snap a few pictures over my shoulder, mutter something in a foreign language, and carry on down the trail.
It seems I had enough of one view, so I move the tripod to another slightly different view. The carbon fiber legs of the tripod are quite cold and likely brittle now, so I have to be careful not to put too much pressure on the legs plunging them into the snow. A few more views and more sequences of photos and I’ll be finished.
Suddenly I see an inexplicable line in the foreground of my photo. OOOpps! This snow path is from my runaway glove, sliding down the snow, in front of my camera, ruining the scene. It slid mostly straight down the snow for 50 feet, banked a hard left, down the steeper part and came to rest in a gully a hundred feet below. It occurred to me to rescue my glove, but the snow drifts can be quite unpredictable and deep. For now, my glove still rests in this gully. Maybe I’ll be able to retrieve it one day.
This is the last photo I took of Bryce Canyon. My last photo of Bryce National Park for who knows how long. Get rid of the glove and this is not a bad photograph…
These Bryce Canyon photos and more appear in by Utah Gallery Utah Gallery, No Zion Photos
Little did I know the next photograph I would take would be in Portugal.