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My husband and I are planning a trip to the canyons and parks of Utah and Arizona and possibly also Death Valley. When is the best period (photographically speaking) to visit these places? After two holidays with little decent light, I feel much in need of some decent sunsets and nice light.
Tips for unknown photographic gems in this area are also appreciated.
In my view:
I shoot here at least one week each year, so I'm pretty familiar with the place. (If you stay at the Stovepipe Wells Lodge, you'll find my photographs hanging in guest rooms. :-)
The good shooting times in Death Valley (DEVA) for most people are during the less-hot half of the year, roughly from November through perhaps the first half of April. If you are looking for the possibility of desert flowers, the timing can vary (as can the potential) from year to year depending on how much rain comes and when it arrives. Late March or early April have often worked for me. I love DEVA in the middle of winter, too, though it can get quite cold if you get up out of the Valley itself, and snow can close some of the higher areas in the Panamint range.
I'm a relative newbie to shooting in Utah, though not also a confirmed Utah fan. I spent over a month there this year on three visits, one in spring and two in the fall. Spring is, well, spring. Lots of new stuff coming to life and so forth. It is also part of the relative off-season, so the crowds can be a bit diminished, judging by what I saw. Fall is spectacular, and by going to different areas the fall shooting season can be stretched out quite a bit. I shot in the "core" of that season this year, but probably missed the very beginning and the very end. I went first in early October, and caught the tail-end of really astonishing aspen color. It was already well past peak at the highest elevations (we were near Brian Head and in the Boulder Mountains), but wonderful just a bit lower. I returned during the last half of the month, and the cottonwood color was really cooking at this point. Of course, from what I saw and from what I've heard, if you are looking for fall color in Zion Canyon, it can be more like the very beginning of November. (The Zion high country is colorful before that.)
Can't help you much there, I'm afraid. I've barely touched Arizona at this point for a variety of reasons.
As for "unknown photographic gems," I'll instead encourage you to do two things:
1. If this is your first trip to this area, rather than trying to start out with the "unknowns," start by getting acquainted with the "knowns." They are tremendous, too, and they are renowned for good reason.
2. At the same time, while you are "there" (whether Death Valley or Utah/Arizona) keep your eyes and ears open and follow hints and your instincts. You'll learn the locations your own way, and the path of this discovery is, I have found, more rewarding than going to the supposedly "unknown" places that everyone tells you about!
Exploring any of these places - any place, for that matter - can fill many seasons. As we know, there are photographers who shoot almost exclusively in Utah and/or Arizona who don't find any end of things to photograph, and who have learned that by looking and poking around and being sensitive you can find wonderful and compelling photographic subjects almost anywhere - just about any mountain, valley, canyon, road, trail will lead you to many possibilities that you will discover and make your own.
Have a great trip!
Edited on Nov 27, 2012 at 07:48 AM · View previous versions