Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Subway, 2nd time around.

Sorry it's taken so long to get this update from last weekend's hike in Zion National Park. People that know me know that I usually have pictures and posts up almost the day of the hike. This had to be an exception though because we didn't make it back to Vegas until 8pm Saturday night and I had a 6am work call Sunday morning. That turned into a long day followed up by several more early calls and late days. So anyway, the moment is here and I can talk about this latest grand hiking adventure.

Our original plan was to drive up on Friday afternoon and camp in an area known as Lave Point campground. It's a free, first come - first serve area north of the park. As it turns out on Thursday morning I was researching the park and campground and found out that this particular campground doesn't open until June 1st. There's only two other campgrounds, Watchman, that is reservation only and was completely full and the South campground that doesn't take reservations and has 165 camp spaces. I called the park and managed to get hold of a human being on phone as was told the South campground is usually full by "early afternoon". So I contacted my hiking partner, Glenn and told him we needed to get to the park early to confirm a space. We agreed to leave Vegas at 7am and that would put us in the park around 10am, forgetting that we lose an hour driving into Mountain Time. So we arrive at Zion at 10:15am (11:15am actually) and find that there are only 6 spaces left out of the 165 spots! Lucky us..... The other spots are taken within about 10 minutes.

We decided to set up camp first then head into Springdale for lunch. Glenn wanted to check out shoe rentals so we did that and he decided to hike in with the hiking sandals he already had.
Later in the evening while sitting around the campfire I grabbed this shot.

That's me on the left and my buddy Glenn on the right.

If you read my post a few days back I mentioned that I've done this hike before. In fact, we did it in late April of 2010. There were a couple differences about the trip this year, one we had control over and the other in the hands of Mother nature.
The one thing that was in Mother Nature's hands was the amount of water running through the canyon. Unfortunately this year has been relatively dry and this entire canyon is fed by snow melt. That meant the amount of water flowing was significantly less then two years ago. In fact, my guess is that it was only 1/4 to 1/2 as much as April, 2010. That meant one good thing though, we were able to keep our feet dry for about 75% of the way up to the Subway before we had to don our water shoes and get wet. Glenn was very happy about this as he gets cold very easily. I personally would have frozen for better water flow!
The other difference that we actually do have control over is the time of day spent in the Subway. Last time around we got a bit of a late start and spent a lot of time taking photos along the way to the Subway. That meant it was late afternoon before we reached the Subway. 4-5pm is the ideal time to be in the Subway for the best light. This year, early start and hiking straight through to the Subway put us there at noon. The worst possible light conditions! The sun was of course harsh and high overhead making photography difficult.
Along the way I grabbed a few shots of cairns, trail markers.

I manage to shoot just about every cairn I run across and one day plan on doing a post just on cairns. They are all unique and many times very helpful on the trail. Some even have interesting stories behind them.

A shot of Glenn out on the trail, rock-hopping to keep his feet dry for as long as possible.

Finally we make it up to the official area known as "The Subway". These next few images are all HDR images, a combination of several different exposures to try and bring out the dynamic range in the shot. If you are not familiar with the process just Google "HDR photography" and you'll find much more info and a better explanation of the process then what I could put into words here. It's most definitely one of those "Love it" or "Hate it" things. I'm not a big fan myself but they look better then any of my single exposure shots.

Speaking of different exposures, all of these shots were taken on a tripod and varying length. Some as long as :30seconds!

Some of you may wonder how it is possible to take a :30second exposure in mid day without completely over exposing the image. The trick is very dark ND filters that only pass a very tiny fraction of light through the lens. In fact, this filter is so dark it is difficult to frame and focus the camera while it's in place. If anyone wants to know the trick, leave a comment and I'll tell you how!

And here's an example of an HDR image where the contrast and detail is simply "over-cooked" so to speak. I'll probably end up re-editing this shot later down the road.

A couple of my favorite shots from this trip.

Shooting right down the "rail" of the Subway.

Inside the Subway there's one area about 4-6" across that appears to just drop off into the abyss. It's a spot called "The Crevice". I'm not sure just how deep it goes but I know I don't want to find out the wrong way. The water builds up and shoots through this crevice like it's in a fire hose. This shot was comprised of three images, the longest being :10seconds. The water just turns into a wispy ghost like string. Kinda neat huh?

After a half hour or so Glenn and I decide the lighting just isn't cutting it and decided to retreat outta the canyon. We've still got about three hours to go. Along the way just downstream of the Subway I take one last image of the two of us before packing up the tripod.

On our hike out we are on the lookout for dinosaur tracks. We saw them back in 2010 when we were here and we looked for them this morning but couldn't find them. As it turns out we walked right by them this morning without even noticing. On the return hike we happen to be on the opposite side of the stream and easily spotted them from a distance.

It's really a cool thought to know that at some point in time, many millions of years ago, we are standing in an area where dinosaurs walked the earth.

I decided to place my hand in the shot to give you an idea of scale.

As always, the main thing is we made it safely through the hike and back home in one piece. Even though the water wasn't flowing all that great and the lighting kinda stunk, there's nothing better then being out in Mother Nature's playground. To see the entire gallery of images from this hike you can click HERE.