Fine Art From Canyonlands
If you had a list of the Top Ten National Parks for Photography, Canyonlands would be included in that list due to the variety of landscape picture options. Canyonlands National Park consists of carved canyons created by the Colorado and Green Rivers. There are four districts—Island in the Sky, Needles, The Maze, and the Colorado River area.
Within the Island in the Sky is Mesa Arch—one of the most photographed arches in Utah. The light reflected by the rising sun lights up the underside of the arch creating a stunning glowing effect that lasts for only a few minutes. Once the sun rises above the arch, the effect changes and the arch takes on a softened appearance more like a pastel watercolor. Pictures of Mesa Arch capture the majesty of sunrise and are truly iconic photographs.
The question for a fine art photographer is always “Where are the best places to take photographs of Canyonlands and their scenic views”? I have provided some thoughts in my article Best Arches and Canyon Lands Photography Locations, but I want to add these thoughts. At the southernmost point of the Island in the Sky scenic drive is the Grand View Point Overlook with stunning views of White Rim Road and the Maze and Needles districts.
These views make wonderful Canyonland pictures. Another location that creates the opportunity for fine art landscape photography is the Green River Overlook. As the sun sets over the river, the sky lights up with shades of blue and gold that contrast with the red-orange colors in the rock formations.
Canyonlands is not the only landscape worthy of a photographer’s time. Nearby is the Dead Horse Point State Park. Its sweeping vistas seem endless as the ribbon-like Colorado river winds through the canyons and crevasses. Pictures of Dead Horse Point capture the sweeping views surrounding the Colorado River and the red rock canyons.
The fine art photography in my Canyonlands Landscape Gallery contains prints that capture the beauty of the area and will allow you to feel a sense of awe created by the rugged and magnificent landscape of the Canyonlands National Park and surrounding area.
Visiting and Photographing Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park in Utah is a short distance from Arches National Park, which allows you to work both Parks at the same time and choose locations based on current weather conditions. The northern section of the park is known as Islands In The Sky, which is where the vast majority of photographs are taken.
Although the Island In The Sky District is the most popular, there is also The Needles District and The Maze District. I’ve been to the park numerous times and have barely scratched the surface.
The Park has great opportunities for hiking, camping, and even river rafting down the Colorado River or the Green River.
Photographically, it can be a challenge as you are pretty much limited to shooting right at sunrise or sunset when the red rock picks up the warm color of the sun.
On the way to the Park, there is a road to Dead Horse Point State Park, which is an incredible photography location at sunrise. It is not to be missed. There are many possibilities there depending on the season and the weather.
As you head out the main road in the Park, you have opportunities at Shafer Canyon, Mesa Arch, Aztec Butte, Upheaval Dome, Green River Overlook, Buck Canyon, Orange Cliffs, and Grand View Point. Many of these overlook the White Rim Canyon, which requires a multi-day 4WD trip down into the canyon below.
Mesa Arch is one of those photographs that most of us feel that we just have to shoot at least once. I was very successful with my effort there and glad I don't need to go back. Because of its popularity, I had to arrive 3 hours before sunrise, place my tripod and sit and wait in the cold wind for sunrise.
Green River Overlook is a stunning scene. After many attempts, I finally obtained a sunset photograph I am happy with, showcasing the white-rimmed canyon below. I have a vision of a big storm cloud with lightning over the canyon, but that will just have to wait for another time.
I need to make time to get to the Needles District where there are locations like The Confluence, where the Green River and Colorado River merge. There is also a Wooden Shoe Arch and Cave Springs.
Along with the southern Needles District, there is much that I have not had the chance to photograph. I know I'll be back as there is so much there that either I have not done or feel I can do much better. I hope you get a chance to visit this park as well.
Fun Facts About Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands was the 31st National Park to be designated in September of 1964 by Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson.
The Park is one of the best places for serious 4-wheel drive exploration. I showed up in April one year and stumbled into Jeep Week, the Easter Jeep Safari, and Vendor Expo.
The city of Moab was filled with hundreds of Jeeps everywhere, many of them custom-built and costing two to three times what standard Jeep costs. I had no idea how seriously people took their off-roading. I was getting a bad case of Jeep envy. Fortunately, I left town after a couple of days before I could do anything stupid.