Inside this issue
Zion National Park, Utah
Wayne Bingham is an amateur photographer residing in Utah. He finds joy in making images of the beauty of the earth.
Three rules for life: Pay attention, Be Amazed, Tell About it ~ Mary Oliver
Years ago, my doctor told me that in order to avoid getting diabetes I would need to change my diet and exercise or begin taking medicine. Wishing to avoid taking medicine I asked how far I would need to walk. “Five Miles!” ……. Five miles a day? “Yes, every day!”
Well, what I thought was an enormous burden, removing an hour and a half from my twenty-four hours, has metamorphosed into an enormous gift. I started paying attention, fresh air, constantly changing weather, light, clouds, and seasons. I could not walk into the same river of life twice, the river changed, never the same. Then I began carrying a camera on my walks.
I would not set an agenda for what I might find and shoot, just set out paying attention and allowing some combination of elements to arrange themselves for a possible image. I often recall Mary Oliver’s three rules. The urge to bring the camera to the eye and record those elements has its ebbs and flows as focus and interests evolve. My challenge has been to edit my way through the 30 to 60 images I found that day. My telling about it is an expressive image.
Zion National Park is not at our backdoor. It is three hundred miles south of our home in Salt Lake City, Utah. A six-hour drive. So, our trips there are intentional and last from three to seven days each. Every season of the year has its own rewards and beauty, spring greens, delicate and soft, deep green trees mid-summer, brilliant reds, yellows and greens in autumn and leafless trunks, branches and twigs catch the winter light.
Our recent visits have been during the winter months, January through March. Because the crowds are smaller, we are able to use our automobile to go to starting points for walks. Spring, Summer and Fall shuttle busses transport crowds up and down the narrow road at the base of the canyon that follows the Virgin River, the force that over eons has eroded and carved the place we know today.
A river runs through it. The Virgin River. It has cut through nine layers of soft sandstone over many thousand years, leaving a multi-coloured canyon that is sometimes narrow and sometimes wide.
David Ward has influenced my photography a number of times during photo workshops. When not finding appropriate subject matter while next to a river, he suggested that I look for the energy and force of the water. Another time I was resolved to make an image of an island in a lake when he asked if I had been to see the forest nearby. I was awakened to the forces of moving water and the wonder of woodlands after following him into the forest.
Among other elements that have caused me to see image making opportunities at Zion National Park have been the movement of the Virgin River and the woodlands among the towering sandstone walls of the canyon. The images here are selected from a larger body of work over three decades that we have edited into a photography book. An eBook version is available gratis at Blurb.com - Zion National Park, Utah, Colleen Smith and Wayne Bingham.
Cottonwood trees grow there and show lovely, soft spring green leaves as the season begins, and develop a deep rich green that contrasts with the dark red sandstone walls, then fall brings brilliant colours of red and yellow, again contrasting with the age-old vertical walls of the canyon. And in winter, shorn of leaves the naked trunks, branches and stems stand in stark contrast to the deep reds of the walls.
However, they almost disappear when the shade of the low angle sun absorbs them into the deep shadows. When conditions are just right, with no clouds, the sun’s rays peek above the canyon cliffs and touch the trees and they become luminescent and glow.
I have wandered the trails along the river for miles during this wintertime wonder and been amazed at the different presentations of light captured by the trees contrasting with the dark red sandstone. A singular tree or clusters of them luminescent.
The structure of the trees is fully expressed, gnarled trunks leading to branches that go in all directions leading to small twigs, somewhat like an x-ray of the trees. This in contrast to other seasons where a trunk supports a green or red leaf laden mass. Larger trunks and branches are darker in tone than the smaller twigs.
For the past six years, I have been using Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses made by Olympus. All of the images in this article were made using this equipment. I always shoot in the Raw format and organise utilising the database features of Adobe Lightroom, then develop further to meet my visual objectives.
I’ve asked myself why I am drawn to make images of these trees. No leaves, no deep, rich summer colour, no reds and yellows of fall. Naked they stand, aglow. Perhaps it is the subtleness of the wood catching light against the dark stone. It has been a challenge to get the exposure just right to service both foreground and background, the light and the dark.
Perhaps it is their dormant state having shed their foliage for the onslaught of winter storms, waiting to express themselves again come spring and summer.
It feels like the answer is a combination of both the subtleness of the naked trees and the promise of future growth that has brought me the satisfaction of making these images.
Colleen and I never tire of returning to Zion National Park and it was on our schedule in March of this year prior to the Coronavirus pandemic. Cancelled, but will certainly be on a future agenda.