The Best Time to Enjoy Bryce Canyon National Park

As a landscape photographer, I find myself working mostly around sunrise and sunset. In general, these are the best times to make landscape photographs because of the beautiful and colorful light they provide. At Bryce Canyon National Park, however, I mostly prefer to work around sunrise.

Shadows and Light at Sunrise, Bryce Canyon National Park

The main reason I prefer sunrise is because more of the Bryce amphitheater gets the earliest light. At sunset, except in a few areas, the entire amphitheater is in shadow well before the sun has set. Under these conditions, the light is flat and dull. We really want that rich, golden light to fall on the rock formations to help bring out their deep orange and red colors.

Here’s an example, which I made very shortly after sunrise. The sun only shines on the right side of the highest formations. Another benefit of this time of day, which you can see here, is that a lot of the golden morning light reflects around and helps bring out the color of the surrounding hoodoos. It creates a glowing effect. This photograph has depth because of the play of light and shadow, and these kinds of scenes are more plentiful in the morning.

Morning light begins to illuminate the hoodoos, Bryce Canyon National Park

There are certainly good opportunities at sunset as well. Here’s one example from the first night of my trip last month. Here, the last bit of light on the landscape lights up the features in the distance, opposite of where the amphitheater is located. The sky, of course, is still getting light, which provides the benefit of having the sunset colors bouncing off the clouds in this photograph.

Evening Clouds Over Bryce, Bryce Canyon National Park

It is easier for me to find great photographs to make at Bryce during sunrise, however, so I prefer that time. This photograph, which I made from Bryce Point at sunrise during a previous visit, best illustrates my point. Look how much of the amphitheater on the left side of photograph is illuminated in the early morning light. To see the corresponding photograph at sunset, take a look at this blog article, and you will see exactly what I’m talking about.

Sunrise, Sunset - Bryce Canyon National Park

I last visited Bryce Canyon National Park almost three years ago. Bryce is an other-worldly place of hoodoos and other colorful, sculpted rock formations. When I make landscape photographs, I especially like to photograph at sunrise and sunset because the light is best at those times. During this trip to Bryce Canyon, I decided to create two panoramic photographs from the same location--one at sunrise, and one at sunset. Here’s the sunset photograph, which I made first.

Bryce Point Sunset, Bryce Canyon National Park

When I arrived at the viewpoint, the sky was cloudy and mostly blocking the sun. The entire landscape was in shadow, and these conditions were not good for the photograph I wanted to make. One thing I’ve learned from landscape photography, however, is to have patience. I’ve also learned that the sky conditions can change quickly, especially at sunset. It wasn’t completely overcast, and if the clouds broke enough to let some sunlight through, it would be a really good opportunity for a beautiful photograph. After an anxious wait, while the sun was still just above the horizon, the clouds started to break and the sun came through. The clouds above were lit up creating a beautiful sky, and the landscape on the southeast side of the canyon was glowing a deep orange color. My patience paid off, and I was very happy with the photograph I was able to make.

The next morning I returned, but unfortunately the clouds were completely blocking the sun. I couldn’t get what I wanted that morning, but I returned the following morning. It was perfectly clear that second morning, and now the sun was casting its early morning golden orange glow on the Bryce Canyon amphitheater to the northwest.

Bryce Point Sunrise, Bryce Canyon National Park

It’s really interesting to me to compare the two photographs. I like them both for different reasons. I like the way the sun lights up the landscape at sunrise. At sunset we get some of that light, but we also have a much more dramatic and interesting sky. The feel of the photographs is completely different, which I find fascinating. If you think about it, what’s the difference between sunrise and sunset? At both times, the sun is low in the sky, and the landscape fills with yellow, red, and orange colors. But when I look at these two photographs, they feel completely different. The sunset photograph feels like sunset. That couldn’t be sunrise. I don’t know why. And the sunrise photograph feels like sunrise. It feels like the start of the new day. Maybe it’s just me because I was there, but when I look at these photographs, those are some of the feelings I get from them. Whether you get those feelings from them or not, I hope you enjoy viewing these photographs.

In My Own Backyard

A couple months ago in this blog article I joked about that great view of the Las Vegas Strip being taken from my bedroom window. That was a joke, but this photograph of the first morning light falling on the mountains at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is pretty close to being in my backyard. OK, again, not really, but Red Rock is only a short 15 minute drive away from me.

FIrst Light at Red Rock

FIrst Light at Red Rock

I love being so close to such a beautiful place as Red Rock. It’s great to be able to drive over there any time I want to hike, make photographs, or just relax on a scenic drive. It’s also a great contrast from the Strip, which is under half an hour away from Red Rock. The contrast between the excitement of the Strip and the serenity of Red Rock is striking.

On a Sunday morning in December, I woke up early to visit Red Rock. The weather lately had been allowing for beautiful skies at sunrise and sunset, and I finally had some time to take advantage of it. The sunrise was amazing, and the sky was spectacular. I made three photographs that morning, two of which are displayed here.

FIery Sky at Red Rock

FIery Sky at Red Rock

In the photograph immediately above, I am showcasing the amazing sky I experienced. The red and magenta clouds filled the sky and allowed me to create a beautiful photograph of the mountains with the colorful sky in the background.

The first photograph of this post was taken a little later than this one. By this time, the sky was no longer lit up with the red and magenta clouds in the second photograph, but now the golden sunlight was much more present on the mountains. I love the drama of this photograph. The light was perfect, and it was creating a dramatic contrast between the fluffy, soft blue of the clouds and sky and the golden, rigid, and sharp mountains of Red Rock.

On mornings like this one, the light changes very rapidly. There is only a short window of time during which the clouds glow with the red and magenta colors here. Before that, other areas of the sky are lit and colored in different ways. After that, the light starts to wash over the terrain as in the first photograph of this article. The rapidly changing light conditions provide a variety of opportunities for different types of photographs, each having a different feeling. For me, it’s a lot of fun to be in a place like Red Rock with the chance to take advantage of those opportunities and create some beautiful photographs.