Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Three – Inside the Subway

The first major stop on the Subway Trek is Archangel Falls, covered in part 1 of the Subway trek. Moving upstream, one comes up to a flat area where flowing water carved a deep crack in an otherwise flat surface. The second area is known and “The Crack” and was covered in part 2.

This set of images is from inside the Subway.

Feature Image Details

The key to this image is reflected light. In fact, that is the key to all the images in the subway series. Direct sunlight would ruin any of the shots.

There is no direct light in the subway, but you do need strong sun and no clouds to have light bouncing off the canyon walls to light up the subways walls. Noon, normally an awful time for photography, is perfect for the subway (at least it was in November when we went on the trek).

Polarizers help intensify the colors. They also increase the shutter speed, a very desirable effect to enhance the swirls.

Hike Comments

The subway hike is 6.5 miles round-trip and is rated strenuous. I would rate it moderately-strenuous. The elevation change is mostly gradual except for a steep 600-foot change at the beginning (down) and end (up).

For comparison purposes, I would rate Angel’s Landing with a 1500 foot elevation change as strenuous. Yet, the Subway requires scrambling and the trail is very slippery in spots. I fell twice and one person slipped into the pool at the Subway (it’s deep). Get or rent a pair of shoes suitable for wet slippery conditions. The outfitters near the park can help.

Mark your entry/exit spot with GPS, by time, or both. There is no clear path to the end of the Subway trail. Two hikers we came across were convinced they passed the exit spot. They were going to scramble up loose rocks to the top. They were convinced their car was at the gap at the top. I talked them out of it.

It is better to be lost on the main route than lost where only a search party may find you. It turns out, they were a mile away from the path up.

Lens Selection

If I had to pick two general purpose lenses, the 16-35 and the 24-105 would be clear standouts. Those were the only two lenses I had with me for this 6.5 mile hike.

Reduce weight and hike happier!

Since there is overlap, I would prefer the second lens to be 35-135 or 35-150 instead of 24-105. Canon does not make my preferred choice.

Equipment

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

Second Subway Image

Notice the flowing water next to the wall on the upward slope. That area is extremely slippery. One person took a plunge. The waterfall and the cascade in opposite directions show the source of the beautiful swirls.

What Could I have Done Better?

I always ask myself “What could I have done better”. In this case, I should have used a longer exposure. Most of my images showed few swirl patterns that I like, but these images did have nice swirls. A longer exposure would have been much better. Somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute would likely have been ideal.

A problem with anything over 30 seconds involves “sharing”. About 5-6 people can take the first image without getting into each other’s way, but precisely one person fits in the spot immediately above. Also, the above image requires others to back off. You cannot exactly ask six people to back off while you take a 2-minute exposure.

I got the image when a cloud passed overhead, the light vanished, and most of the people left. The light came back out and there were only a few of us still inside the subway. The others did back out for the time it took to get the image.

The waterfall shot was at 16mm. 14mm would have captured more of the subway walls. But 14mm would have been too wide, making it very hard for people to get out of the way.  Also, you cannot use a  polarizer or filters of any kind, other than gel filters in the rear, with the Canon 14MM F2.8 L Lens.

More Subway Images

For more information regarding the “Subway Trek” and a nice shot of Archangel Falls as well, please see Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part One – Archangel Falls

Also, see Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Two – The Crack

Equipment List

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

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Two – The Crack

The first major stop on the Subway Trek is Archangel Falls, covered in my last post. Moving upstream, one comes up to a flat area where flowing water carved a deep crack in an otherwise flat surface.

The area around The Crack” is exceptionally slippery. I fell twice as did a couple of other people. I recommend having or renting a pair of shoes suitable for such conditions. I had no such shoes and paid the price. The weather was warm enough we did not rent wetsuits but such gear is nearly mandatory for hiking “The Narrows”

Feature Image Details

Someone asked me what the yellow leaves were in the Archangel Falls image. Apologies for the delay in answering. There are at three different yellow leaves. There are smooth oval leaves and I do not know what those are at all. Aspens, Poplars, and Cottonwoods are all in the same general family, and they are toothed. The aspens are generally yellow. I do not know the variety. Bigtooth maples can also be yellow but they were mainly red or orange.

The red and orange leaves, and a couple of the yellow ones in this feature image are bigtooth maples. I have more images of brilliant maples coming up later.

Perspective Control

The best way to take this image is pointing straight down. Otherwise, you will see the railroad track effect. To shoot straight down, one needs a tripod with a center arm that will collapse to a horizontal position. My tripod does that, but that setup takes more time, and people were stacking up behind us. I did not want to get to the Subway so late as to miss the best light or not get a good position.

My straight-up image of the crack does have a bit of a railroad track effect, but I partially corrected that in Lightroom.  Here is the image without perspective modification.

Notice the leaves get smaller away from the lower end of the photo. I could not eliminate the railroad track perspective issue completely without causing unwanted cropping distortions, but the effect is barely noticeable now. The next image shows how.

When you change perspective, you will end up clipping a portion of the image.

It is conceptually easier to simply take the shot horizontally and display it vertically but I kept getting my tripod legs into the picture. Again, using an extension arm that moves horizontally is the correct approach.

I intended to take more images of the crack after photographing the subway but the light had changed. Direct sunlight ruined the shot.

Hike Comments

The subway hike is 6.5 miles round-trip and is rated strenuous. I would rate it moderately-strenuous. The elevation change is mostly gradual except for a steep 600-foot change at the beginning (down) and end (up).

For comparison purposes, I would rate Angel’s Landing with a 1500 foot elevation change as strenuous. Yet, the Subway requires scrambling and the trail is very slippery in spots. I fell twice and one person slipped into the pool at the Subway (it’s deep). Get or rent a pair of shoes suitable for wet slippery conditions. The outfitters near the park can help.

Mark your entry/exit spot with GPS, by time, or both. There is no clear path to the end of the Subway trail. Two hikers we came across were convinced they passed the exit spot. They were going to scramble up loose rocks to the top. They were convinced their car was at the gap at the top. I talked them out of it.

It is better to be lost on the main route than lost where only a search party may find you. It turns out, they were a mile away from the path up.

Light Tips

To get the best images, be at the trailhead before dawn and set out as soon as you can see, if not before (using headlamps). Once the sun hits the waterfalls the best light is gone. Reflected light is best. Strong reflected light is required for a great shot in the Subway itself.

Lens Selection

If I had to pick two general purpose lenses, the 16-35 and the 24-105 would be clear standouts. Those were the only two lenses I had with me for this 6.5 mile hike.

Reduce weight and hike happier!

Since there is overlap, I would prefer the second lens to be 35-135 or 35-150 instead of 24-105. Canon does not make my preferred choice.

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.

Next up “Inside the Subway”

For more information regarding the “Subway Trek” and a nice shot of Archangel Falls as well, please see Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part One – Archangel Falls

Equipment List

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

Please Subscribe: Click to Subscribe by Email.

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

You can also follow me on Twitter! I have both an economic forum and a photography forum.

  1. Photography: MishMoments
  2. Economics: MishGEA

MishMoments is a subset of MishGEA. Those interested in photography only should follow MishMoments.

Please Subscribe and Follow.

Thanks!

Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part One – Archangel Falls

The “Subway” is the premier hike in Zion National Park.

The route is not suitable for masses of photographers all vying for the same spot at the same time. The park’s solution is a lottery system and competition for slots is very high.

We went in the second week in November. Starting in November there may be openings without having to use the lottery system. That was the case for us. As an added bonus on our trip, Autumn was a week late so our timing was perfect.

Feature Image Details

Here is the image from the lottery link above.

Yikes!

The light is clearly better in my shot but that is not my key point. Notice the viewpoint angle. I was very low and very close to the waterfall, no more than a foot away. I was also inches above the river bed. In the group I was with, the photographers were all standing up, taking pictures at eye level. Their perspective was similar to that in the brochure.

Also, instead of standing mid-stream, I stood way to the left as that was the prettiest rock formation. Finally, a long exposure (3.2 seconds) provides a nice smooth flow to the water.

Joe’s Guide

Before your trip, the first thing you should do is pick up Joe’s Guide to Zion National Park. It’s free. Joe describes all the major trails and offers recommended hikes including information on the Subway.

Hike Comments

The subway hike is 6.5 miles round-trip and is rated strenuous. I would rate it moderately-strenuous. The elevation change is mostly gradual except for a steep 600-foot change at the beginning (down) and end (up).

For comparison purposes, I would rate Angel’s Landing with a 1500 foot elevation change as strenuous. Yet, the Subway requires scrambling and the trail is very slippery in spots. I fell twice and one person slipped into the pool at the Subway (it’s deep). Get or rent a pair of shoes suitable for wet slippery conditions. The outfitters near the park can help.

Mark your entry/exit spot with GPS, by time, or both. There is no clear path to the end of the Subway trail. Two hikers we came across were convinced they passed the exit spot. They were going to scramble up loose rocks to the top. They were convinced their car was at the gap at the top. I talked them out of it.

It is better to be lost on the main route than lost where only a search party may find you. It turns out, they were a mile away from the path up.

Light Tips

To get the best images, be at the trailhead before dawn and set out as soon as you can see, if not before (using headlamps). Once the sun hits the waterfalls the best light is gone. Reflected light is best. Strong reflected light is required for a great shot in the Subway itself.

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.

Next up “The Crack”

Mike “Mish” Shedlock