Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Photographing Horseshoe Bend in Glen Canyon National Recreational Area

Horseshoe Bend is a fantastic and very unique feature of the Colorado River near Page, AZ. Here the river has actually created a 270 degree bend in the shape of a horseshoe!

The overlook is reached via a 1.5 mile round trip trail from a parking area off U.S. Route 89, just south of Page.  You can't miss it.

The trail itself is an easy, albeit sandy walk.  It climbs from the parking lot up to a ridge, then descends the other side to the wide overlook.  The overlook has no railings.  It is an exposed cliff with a 1000' sheer vertical drop to the river below, so watch your step!

The overlook area is large and there are many vantages to enjoy your view from, or in this case, compose your image.  For the top image, I ventured south along the rim away from the people for some morning solitude.  The image to the right was taken from a location that allowed both river channels to be viewed.  I like both perspectives, for different reasons.  I've seen other compositions that include more of the cliffs and even cut off one of the channels.  A lot of things work here.  Be creative and play a bit.

The Paria Plateau and Vermilion Cliffs serve as colorful backdrop to the west, and catch the morning light well.  The colors of the rock change throughout the day as the angle of light changes.

Horseshoe Bend is best photographed at sunrise, though a dramatic sky at sunset would also work.  Surprisingly, only a small handful of photographers were present the mornings I visited.  Be warned that by mid-day this place can become a zoo as the tour buses and RVs show up!

A wide angle lens is necessary to capture Horseshoe Bend in its entirety, unless you plan to stitch.  A 2 and 3-stop GND filter will also be needed, unless you are shooting hdr or bracketing for post-process stacking.  A warming filter might also be considered.

To get all of the Colorado River in your frame, you will need to stand right up to the lip of the rim!  This can be daunting, with a 1,000' vertical drop at your toes!  I found that having a camera and tripod in front of me gave me some false sense of security and allowed me to focus on the task at hand without worrying.  I'm not sure why.
I would recommend including some rock in your foreground to give scale to the scene.  Truth be told, it will be hard NOT to get rock in your foreground with a wide-angle lens!  Keep the amount of sky to a minimum, unless something interesting is happening.

Have fun and enjoy this beautiful stage as the show unfolds before you!

To view more images from the Southwest, view my Southwest Gallery (this will be updated in the near future).  As always, thanks for looking!

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