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Entrance to Zion Narrows - "Gorge of Generations" | by Stephen Oachs (
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Entrance to Zion Narrows - "Gorge of Generations"

Aperture Academy Photography Workshops


Zion. I love this place.


Zion is such an amazing place -- it's one of those places where, if you just drove through, you'd say "ya, that was nice" but when you get out the car and actually 'experience' it, you realize it's like no other place on earth.


I've been going to Zion every year in the fall for the last few years and each year I was either early, late or missed the fall color all together...


This year however, I nailed it!


This years trip was a little different -- we decided to conduct a "meet up" shoot in Zion by inviting some Aperture Academy Alumni...past workshop participants who had attended several workshops...and those we felt were up to the challenge that the Zion Narrows dishes out.


We met Friday night for a really great dinner...recounted our past shooting trips and shared in a few drinks. Then, off for a good nights sleep.


Saturday morning we started our hike into Zion Narrows in the dark...arriving at the mouth of the canyon with just enough early morning light to see our way.


We hiked deep into the narrows, finally stopping for lunch at Big Springs, resting, then starting the journey out.


All told, we trekked a total of 9 miles and by the time we exited and got back to the cars everyone was feeling the day. Hiking in a river nearly 10 hours solid takes a toll as you literally have to plan every step you take...on slippery rocks, or under water far enough that you can't see what you're stepping on...much harder than a 9 mile hike on flat earth.


Here's a few "behind the scenes" photos of this amazing trip we took!


Oh, so to the shot...


This is near the entrance of the narrows. I actually shot this on the way out...9 miles of hiking behind me...some very soar feet and cold legs, I revisited a spot I've shot a dozen times before but finally on this day it was what I had hoped for...nice color, good clean water flow.


Now the behind the scenes portion...


I had packed super light for the hike, only bringing a Canon 17-40mm and a Canon 24-105mm thinking I'd just focus (ha, pun intended I guess!) on the Narrows itself this trip but when I saw this little spot on the Virgin River was so nice I was kicking myself for not bringing something wider angle...


So I got creative...real creative. I setup with my 17-40mm vertically and tried to level off my tripod.


NO dice.


I needed to be shooting down for the best composition and wide angle feel. So, here's where it gets tricky...I actually did a half-assed pano by making mental notes of what elements of the scene were at the tops and bottom of the frame, then using a ball head, manually adjusted the composition a little more to the right, shooting, and shifting.


I took three passes, three frames each pass, in hopes one of them would work out. Sure enough, the first one was good! (the other two were NOT...yikes!)


So, I was able to stitch them together (had to do it by hand, Photoshop barfed on it) then cropped down to the correct aspect ratio. And, in the end, I ended up with an original that was just over 32MP so I gained some resolution in the process for the big print version. (something I've done many times before but either with a tilt-shift or a nodal bar)


Given I'd missed it so many times before, I was willing to do just about whatever it took to capture it this time.


I hope you like it!


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Taken on November 14, 2010