Finding Beauty in Utah Landscapes Through Nature Photography
Unlike the fine art landscape photography in my Arches and Canyonland galleries, photographing the southwest Utah desert landscapes often involves the use of 4WD vehicles over remote desert roads. I have even experimented with drones to help me find a good photographic location.
Utah southwest desert photography lends itself to photographs that can be dramatic and, in spite of what you may think about Utah desert scenes, these Utah landscape pictures are alive with color. The multi-colored canyon walls in southern Utah create a vivid cascading look that this Utah landscape photographer loves to capture.
The yellow leaves of Cottonwood trees in the fall make great photographic subjects as they stand alone against the red rock walls of Capitol Reef National Park canyons. The Cottonwood is not the only tree that creates the opportunity for a unique photograph….. Aspens in the Wasatch Mountains are known for their fall color as the white bark contrasts with the landscape around them.
Trees are one of the most intriguing landscape “subjects” because the options are varied and thus, spending time photographing trees never becomes dull or boring. I have a Tree Photography Fine Art Prints gallery that displays the beauty that comes from pictures of trees. (For more thoughts on this, please see my article Three Tips for Taking or Purchasing the Best Tree Photos.)
Fine art photography should capture the essence of the scene …..whether it is quiet and reflective or dramatic. Factory Butte is unusual in that it stands alone and thus the opportunity exists to create a striking photograph that displays power and majesty.
As a Utah landscape photographer who loves to take photos, I often travel to the middle of nowhere but watching the purple hues of sunrise lighting up the buttes is worth the trip. The photographs in my Utah Nature Landscape Photography Gallery truly capture the beauty and majesty of the Utah landscape.
Visiting and Photographing Utah Landscapes
Utah has countless opportunities for outdoor photography—from The Mighty Five® national parks to lesser-known but still breathtaking outdoor landscapes—which leads to the question … Where does one start?
The Mighty Five® national parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion) would be a good starting point for your Utah Photography bucket list. Arches are one of the top national parks in America. Its amazing landscape – balanced rocks, towers, and arches—provides the photographer with opportunities for unique sunrise and sunset photos as you try to catch the sun’s rays peeking over the rocks.
Bryce is well known for both impressive red rock pillars (hoo-doos) and its alpine forest. Canyonlands is home to one of the West’s most photographed landforms—the Mesa Arch. The vastness of the land and sky are imprinted in your mind when visiting Capitol Reef. And last but not least, you must visit Zion, a red rock canyon where you walk along forested paths and rivers and streams.
Utah’s breath-taking landscapes are not limited to The Mighty Five®. Your road trip through this state should include visiting one of the most iconic places in the United States—Monument Valley. The towering sandstone formations that rise high into the air have been backdrops for many movies but seeing these formations in person is an unforgettable experience. The contrast between the wide flat plains and the vertically pointed buttes becomes even starker and more majestic.
But sometimes it is nice to go somewhere different—to look for and find the hidden gems. Factory Butte is among those hidden gems as it sits all alone in the middle of the desert far away from the other buttes. The remote dirt road is on the east side, so the magic always happens at sunrise when the light hits the butte as it peeks over the horizon. The colors are just amazing. The gray rock picks up the blue cast creating a photographic opportunity with cascading colors.
In Northern Utah, there are the Wasatch Mountains, which include Mount Timpanogos. Southern Utah should also be on your Utah Photography road-trip list. When you come up from Las Vegas, you'll pass by Snow Canyon State Park and Red Cliffs National Conservation Area before Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Southern Utah also has Lake Powell, Glen Canyon, Alstrom Point, Reflection Canyon, Rainbow Bridge, Temple of the Sun and Moon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Kolob Canyon, Factory Butte, and Dead Horse Point State Park. There are also the Native American Ruins of House on Fire and Fallen Roof.
Whether you are photographing the yellow leaves on a Cottonwood Tree standing against the backdrop of red rocks or have found a grouping of Aspen trees guarding a fern forest, you will find plenty of opportunities for capturing memories through a beautiful photograph.
So, to answer the question—where should you start? The answer is to pick a place that beckons to your soul and to simply start…. to visit Utah and take advantage of the beauty that such majesty will provide.
Fun Facts About Utah
Utah is filled with many iconic film locations due in part to its dramatic landscape. You can take a selfie at Forrest Gump Point where Forrest proclaimed to his followers that he was done running (located around mile marker 13 on U.S. 163). This spot is characterized by a long straight road that runs towards a hill, on top of which sits the profile of Monument Valley. In memory of the Forrest Gump running scene, there is a sign with the words “Forrest Gump finished his run at this point, 1980”.
Monument Valley itself is the iconic symbol of the American West. The sheer canyon walls and the monoliths that resemble two mittens rising from the desert floor created the perfect backdrop for many Hollywood westerns. “Stagecoach”, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne in his breakthrough role, was filmed in Monument Valley in 1939.
Ford and Wayne teamed up again to make “The Searchers” which is considered to be one of the most influential Western movies ever made. Years later, in 1962, John Ford directed Wayne in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence”. Unlike the other movies, this film was shot in black and white, giving the movie a grittier feel. All three movies have been selected by the National Film Registry as films that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and worthy of preservation.
Today you can visit Monument Valley and take a photograph while standing on John Ford’s point, which is located at the top of a very high cliff with panoramic views of Monument Valley. While there, you can imagine what it must have been like—to see stagecoaches, wagon trains, cowboys, and Indians as they crossed the valley.
But Monument Valley has not been the only location used by Hollywood directors. Dead Horse State Park has provided landscape backgrounds for the HBO series “Westworld”. Scenes of the young Indiana Jones (played by River Phoenix) were filmed at Arches National Park.
Southwestern Utah is where Paul Newman and Robert Redford teamed up in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. Filming locations included the ghost town of Graton, Snow Canyon State Park, the city of St. George, and Zion National Park.
Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack filmed the movie “Jeremiah Johnson” almost exclusively in Utah where the scenes of Jeremiah trudging through the deep snows were live action shots as the snows were intense that year.
Robert Redford loved the Utah area and in the early 1960s, purchased land in Provo Canyon which eventually became the Sundance Mountain Resort – a ski and summer resort. In 1981, he founded the Sundance Institute – a place where independent filmmakers could gather and collaborate. The Institute eventually became the Sundance Film Festival which today is an annual event held in Park City showcasing films that would otherwise have had a smaller audience.
Any visit to Utah should include some of these iconic landscapes that have been a part of filmmaking history. Whether you follow in Forrest Gump’s footsteps or explore the open roads of the Wild West, you will find picture-perfect backdrops for your photographs… ones that will make you appreciate the beauty of Utah.
My Personal Invitation To You
I personally invite you to begin your journey as a fine art collector. I will work with you every step of the way from the selection of a style and size of one of my Utah landscape photographs to the tracking and delivery of your print.
The end result will be photographic artwork that will add beauty to your home or office and become a cherished possession.
If you have any questions about the process, see my Q and A page or drop me a note on my Contact page.
Fine Art Print and Wall Art Options
My Utah landscape photographs are offered in the following styles:
- Lumachrome® HD Trulife® Acrylic Prints
- Exhibit Mounted Metal Prints
- Fuji Crystal Archive Paper Prints
Please see my Print Options page for complete details on these museum-quality prints. For illustrations in different rooms, please see my How To Choose page.
Need something different? Please contact me with the details of your request.