Bear Claws
After the Storm
Emerald Pools — Zion National Park, UT — 2006

One of the more magical moments in Zion occurs when brief heavy downpours create temporal waterfalls cascading off the high cliffs throughout the main canyon of the park. While I'd witnessed the waterfalls on a number of occasions, I'd never been fortunate enough to see a full waterfall running through the Emerald Pools section of the park.

My luck changed in October of 2006 when I woke up to an early morning rain storm passing over the park. Excited, I scrambled into clothes, grabbed my gear, and headed into the park taking the shuttle system up the main canyon. As we came into view of Emerald Pools, I gasped. There were the falls I'd been hoping for.

As soon as the shuttle stopped I scrambled out and across the canyon road to a known pullout that provide a direct view on the Emerald Pools area. Once there, I took in the scene and quickly realized that while impressively beautiful, I needed a significantly higher vantage point to (1) include a fuller vertical view of both sets of falls and (2) stand above the canyon floor trees which were obstructing a clear view of the scene.

Time was of the essence too because the flow of these waterfalls was unpredictable. They could slow to a trickle in a matter of 10-15 minutes. I quickly surveyed the canyon slopes behind me and determined I could get about 200 feet higher which would likely provide the compositional

position I wanted. I huffed and puffed up the slope as quickly as I could scrambling amongst trees and boulders until I had a clear angle of view to the scene. At this height the view was now exactly as I'd hoped for with the added distance lending some nice formality to the image.

“The ground we walk on, the plants and creatures, the clouds above constantly dissolving into new formations - each gift of nature possessing its own radiant energy, bound together by cosmic harmony..”

- Ruth Bernhard
  Photographer

Using my longest lens at the time (450mm), my camera to subject distance was over 1/4 mile so I had little concern over depth of field so long as my film plane was properly aligned. But I wanted to smooth the flowing water which meant an approximate 2 second exposure. Metering the scene and choosing my placed exposure value, a 2 second exposure required f32, the sweet spot of sharpness for that particular lens.

I made 3 exposures and quickly packed up my gear intending to walk over much closer to the falls and seek out some additional photographic possibilities. But by the time I got back across and close to the scene, the falls has run down nearly in half and eventually dissipated alltogether.

Exposure: f32 for 2 seconds • 4x5 R.H. Phillips View Camera • Nikkor 450mm f9 lens • No filter • Fuji Velvia film