photography story

Sunrise, Sunset - Bryce Canyon National Park

I recently visited Bryce Canyon National Park, an other-worldly place of hoodoos and other colorful, sculpted rock formations. When shooting landscapes, I especially like to photograph at sunrise and sunset. As all photographers know, the light is best at those times of day, and good light is a key ingredient in dramatic photography that evokes an emotional response. That’s what I’m after when I photograph--I’m not trying simply to document a place. I’m trying to create a piece of art that captures the feeling of the location and the moment.

Sunset at Bryce Canyon National Park
Sunset at Bryce Canyon National Park

When I arrived on location, I knew I had a couple different dilemmas. First of all, the weather was not really cooperating. It was partly to mostly cloudy for most of the afternoon, which would have been fine, but it really started to cloud over as the afternoon wore on. I was afraid that it would be completely overcast for sunset. The second dilemma was whether it would be best to shoot at sunset or at sunrise. That was easy to solve, though--I planned to shoot at both times!

At sunset, the sky was as I feared. It was quite cloudy, and the sun wasn’t really coming through the clouds at all. The entire landscape was in shadows. One thing I’ve learned about landscape photography, however, is that patience is a virtue. I’ve also learned that the sky conditions can change quickly, especially at sunset. It wasn’t completely overcast, and there was the possibility that if the clouds broke enough to let some sunlight through, it could be a really good opportunity. I waited and took several shots as time passed. Finally, while the sun was still 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. I had my opportunity and I took it. I was really happy I waited it out.

Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park
Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park

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 orange glow on the Bryce Canyon amphitheater to the northwest. I had my sunrise shot.

It’s really interesting to me to see the difference between the two images. I like them both for different reasons. I like the way the sun lights up the landscape in the sunrise shot. In the sunset shot, we get some of that, 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? The sun is low in the sky, the colors are yellow, red, and orange, and this is pretty much the same at both times. But when I look at these two images, 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 see the photographs, that’s one of the things I get from them. You might not see that, but hopefully you see something worth looking at!

If you like these images from Bryce Canyon, I have a few more posted at www.facebook.com/tesslerphotography. You can also check out my landscape gallery. Thanks for looking, and thanks for reading!

The Story Behind the Photo - Shooting for the Moon

I get a lot of questions about this photograph when I show it to people. The two main questions people ask are what is it exactly, and was the sky really like that? Well, I call this photograph “Shooting for the Moon.” It’s the Moon shining through the clouds on the left with the Luxor light beaming up and reflecting off the cloud layer on the right.

Shooting for the Moon in Las Vegas
Shooting for the Moon in Las Vegas

I was walking around the Las Vegas strip on a cloudy evening. Cloudy evenings are a relatively rare occurrence in Las Vegas. We’re in the middle of the desert here, after all, so there was already potential for some interesting photography. I took this photo from what is now the parking lot behind the High Roller wheel. I wandered back there while the wheel was still under construction. I didn't take any pictures there and was more just curious to see what was going on, but then I looked up and noticed this scene. The Luxor light is so ridiculously bright, I think they even use it as an aeronautical reference point. I love it--it’s so Las Vegas, and it makes me smile every time I see it. So here was this intense light shooting straight up into the sky, and a short distance away was the Moon. I set up my camera and took some shots. I took a few fast exposures where the clouds were more well-defined, but I really prefer this longer exposure where the clouds are more dreamy and fluid. The Luxor light beam is also more visible due to the longer exposure.

So was the sky really like that? Actually, I didn’t manipulate it that much at all. The color was much more orange than you see here, but there was a very strong color in the sky in any case. The cloud layer was relatively low to the ground, it was not that long after sunset, and there are so many lights coming from the strip that it’s easy to get orange-tinted clouds under these conditions. I just shifted it more towards the red/magenta range. Those colors contrast with the blue beam of the Luxor light, and I think the color shift adds to the drama of the photograph. In the end, I was going for a very abstract look, and I am happy with the result I got.

When in Vegas, you might as well shoot for the Moon. And as the saying goes, if you miss, at least you’ll be among the stars!