Zion National Park – Autumn – Hiking “The Narrows” Part III

This is the third and final of a series of posts that covers the “Narrows”, a hike whose only trail is the Virgin River itself. Some parts of the hike are relatively open, but other sections are narrow, between water-carved sandstone walls rising over a hundred feet on each side of the river.

In the summer you can hike in shorts, but in November, when we went, a wetsuit is best.

Water carved beautiful shapes in the canyon walls that rise up on both sides you for hundreds of feet.

If you are in or near the narrows in a flash flood, you will not survive as there is no reachable high ground.

Tip List

  1. Get up early. Be in the river at dawn. If you wait until later in the day there will be masses of people in every shot.
  2. Rent your gear the night before.
  3. Turn around. Look behind you every few minutes. Light in the canyon can change fast
  4. If you see a section of the canyon you like and it is not lit up with reflected light, try again a half hour or so later.
  5. Once you reach the section of the canyon of the feature image with nearby ferns on the wall, the best sections of the narrows are downstream. I recommend spending more time in the narrows than going further upstream.
  6. Be careful with vibrations. The water may move your tripod if the sand or rocks below it shift on long exposures.
  7. Consider taking one exposure for the canyon walls and another longer exposure to smooth the water.
  8. Reflected light is best. Avoid the sky and any direct light on the canyon walls.
  9. I only used two lenses in the narrows: a 16-35MM lens and a 24-105MM lens. Long heavy lenses are not useful and will weigh you down.
  10. Rent a half wetsuit rather than a full one. The latter is too hot and too cumbersome when you have to pee.

Feature Image Details

Additional Images

Reflected light is the key images in the Narrows in general. There is no sunlight on the water or the canyon walls. Rather the light hits one canyon wall and bounces off it providing a glow everywhere else.

I used a polarizer on this image as I did every image in the Narrows.

Moving Water

There is no tripod movement if you are braced on hard rock. But in the water, currents can vibrate the tripod resulting in an image that looks nice on the playback screen but is actually a little soft.

In this particular area, I ruined a lot of images and could not figure out why until much later.

If I am in the narrows again, I will take a much faster image of the walls at a higher ISO then a slower image to get the water the way I like.

Gear

We rented wetsuits, hiking poles, and shoes suitable for river hiking.

For an image of the rental gear you will need, please see link #9 below. There are numerous places just outside the park to rent equipment.

I only took two lenses with me: A  Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens and a Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens.  Add a polarizer and a tripod (the latter is a necessity), and that is all you will need. If you are in the canyon and you think you need a flash, you are shooting in the wrong light.

I saw people carrying massive telephoto lenses and I was constantly wondering “What they hell do they need those lenses for?”

The hike is not strenuous if the water level is low. If the water level is high and fast, they close the hike. There is no elevation change but you are hiking in the river, against the current on the way in.

Relatively speaking, I found the upper Emerald Pools Trail more difficult than the Narrows, but we were fortunate to have easy conditions. The rental places and the park visitor center can assist if you have questions.

Other Zion National Park Images

  1. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Three – Inside the Subway
  2. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Two – The Crack
  3. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part One – Archangel Falls
  4. Zion National Park Autumn – Great White Throne
  5. Zion National Park – Autumn – Lower Emerald Pools Part 1
  6. Zion National Park – Autumn – Lower Emerald Pools Part 2 (After a Rainfall)
  7. Zion National Park – Autumn – Middle and Upper Emerald Pools
  8. Zion National Park – The Watchman – Autumn
  9. Zion National Park – Autumn – Hiking “The Narrows” Part I
  10. Zion National Park – Autumn – Hiking “The Narrows” Part II

Equipment

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Much more coming: Click to Subscribe by Email.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Zion National Park – Autumn – Hiking “The Narrows” Part II

This is the second in a series of posts that covers the “Narrows”, a hike whose only trail is the Virgin River itself. Some parts of the hike are relatively open, but other sections are narrow, between water-carved sandstone walls rising over a hundred feet on each side of the river.

In the summer you can hike in shorts, but in November, when we went, a wetsuit is best.

The feature image is the classic view of the narrows. Water carved beautiful shapes in the canyon walls that rise up on both sides you for hundreds of feet.

If you are in or near the narrows in a flash flood, you will not survive as there is no reachable high ground.

Feature Image Details

Reflected light is the key to this image, and images in the Narrows in general. There is no sunlight on the water or the canyon walls. Rather the light hits one canyon wall and bounces off it providing a glow everywhere else.

I used a polarizer on this image as I did every image in the Narrows.

Additional images near this location.

 

Exposure Tip

There is no tripod movement if you are braced on hard rock. But in the water, currents can vibrate the tripod resulting in an image that looks nice on the playback screen but is actually a little soft.

In this particular area, I ruined a lot of images and could not figure out why until much later.

If I am in the narrows again, I will take a much faster image of the walls at a higher ISO then a slower image to get the water the way I like.

Gear

We rented wetsuits, hiking poles, and shoes suitable for river hiking. For an image of the rental gear you will need, please see link #9 below. There are numerous places just outside the park to rent equipment.

I only took two lenses with me: A  Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens and a Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens.  Add a polarizer and a tripod (the latter is a necessity), and that is all you will need. If you are in the canyon and you think you need a flash, you are shooting in the wrong light.

I saw people carrying massive telephoto lenses and I was constantly wondering “What they hell do they need those lenses for?”

The hike is not strenuous if the water level is low. If the water level is high and fast, they close the hike. There is no elevation change but you are hiking in the river, against the current on the way in.

Relatively speaking, I found the upper Emerald Pools Trail more difficult than the Narrows, but we were fortunate to have easy conditions. The rental places and the park visitor center can assist if you have questions.

Other Zion National Park Images

  1. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Three – Inside the Subway
  2. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Two – The Crack
  3. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part One – Archangel Falls
  4. Zion National Park Autumn – Great White Throne
  5. Zion National Park – Autumn – Lower Emerald Pools Part 1
  6. Zion National Park – Autumn – Lower Emerald Pools Part 2 (After a Rainfall)
  7. Zion National Park – Autumn – Middle and Upper Emerald Pools
  8. Zion National Park – The Watchman – Autumn
  9. Zion National Park – Autumn – Hiking “The Narrows” Part I

Equipment

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

Please Share!

If you like this article, please share by email or use one of the share buttons beneath the article.

Much more coming: Click to Subscribe by Email.

Coming up:  More Narrows 

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Zion National Park – Autumn – Hiking “The Narrows” Part I

The premier hikes in Zion National Part are “The Subway” and “The Narrows”. Competition for the Subway is intense and there is a lottery system as explained in my previous posts (links below).

This set of posts covers the “Narrows”, a hike whose only trail is the Virgin River itself. Some parts of the hike are relatively open, but other sections are narrow, between water-carved sandstone walls rising over a hundred feet on each side of the river.

In the summer you can hike in shorts, but in November, when we went, a wetsuit is best. The feature image is just before the narrows. I have more dramatic images coming up, but I like autumn colors and the stream reflections in this image.

Feature Image Details

Reflected light is the key to this image, and images in the Narrows in general. There is no sunlight on the water, the tree or the canyon walls. Rather the light hits one canyon wall and bounces off it providing a glow everywhere else.

I used a polarizer on this image as I did every image in the Narrows.

Many photographers carried cell phones with HDR (High Dynamic Range) programs to see what images would look like before deciding whether or not to taking their cameras out of their dry bags and setup.

It seemed easy enough to me to tell whether or not I liked an image without having to rely on a cell phone app to check.

Narrows Equipment

That’s what hiking the Narrows looks like. I took the image using my tripod and a self-timer: ISO 800, 21mm, F13, 1/5 second.

We rented wetsuits, hiking poles, and shoes suitable for river hiking. In addition, I rented a dry bag for my camera (the gray bag in front of me). Those are full wetsuits. Unless it is really cold, I strongly recommend a half wetsuit. If you have to pee, full wetsuits are more than a minor nuisance.

There are numerous places just outside the park to rent equipment.

On my back is a CamelBak Backpack. CamelBak makes a great hiking pack. The model I have is called HAWG NV. On B&H, the equivalent seems to be the Fourteener 24 22 L Hydration Backpack with 3L Reservoir. This is a wonderfully light pack and it comes with a water hydration system. It is well constructed and I am not worried about leakage. Pick one that meets your needs. In addition to 3 liters of water, the backpack will hold a couple of lenses, batteries, a flashlight, filters, ect., but not large lenses.

I only took two lenses with me: A  Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens and a Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens.  Add a polarizer and a tripod (the latter is a necessity), and that is all you will need. If you are in the canyon and you think you need a flash, you are shooting in the wrong light.

I saw people carrying massive telephoto lenses and I was constantly wondering “What they hell do they need those lenses for?”

The hike is not strenuous if the water level is low. If the water level is high and fast, they close the hike. If a big rainstorm is on the way, you will not survive the narrowest sections.

There is no elevation change but you are hiking in the river, against the current on the way in.

Riverwalk Area

 

One can take the above image without getting wet.

Relatively speaking, I found the upper Emerald Pools Trail more difficult than the Narrows, but we were fortunate to have easy conditions. The rental places and the park visitor center can assist if you have questions.

Other Zion National Park Images

  1. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Three – Inside the Subway
  2. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Two – The Crack
  3. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part One – Archangel Falls
  4. Zion National Park Autumn – Great White Throne
  5. Zion National Park – Autumn – Lower Emerald Pools Part 1
  6. Zion National Park – Autumn – Lower Emerald Pools Part 2 (After a Rainfall)
  7. Zion National Park – Autumn – Middle and Upper Emerald Pools
  8. Zion National Park – The Watchman – Autumn

Equipment

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

Please Share!

If you like this article, please share by email or use one of the share buttons beneath the article.

Much more coming: Click to Subscribe by Email.

Coming up:  More Narrows 

Mike “Mish” Shedlock