Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend
Composite image of Horseshoe Bend at sunset

I happened to be in Page for work a couple of weeks ago and took the time one late afternoon to walk out to Horseshoe Bend.  I’d been here once before, many years ago when I was new to photography.  I don’t recall where I was traveling from, but I do remember stopping by Horseshoe Bend as a side stop on my way home.  It was a hot summer day and the walk, though short, was pretty toasty.  I hung out on the rim for a while to cool off in the breeze and take some pictures.  Those pictures have long since been lost but the brief excursion has remained with me in memory.  The view is spectacular.  It’s one of those places I can find a ledge to curl up on, stare out into the wonders of geology on display, and get some good thinking done.  If you haven’t been I highly recommend it.  Just be prepared for a lot of people to be there sharing the experience with you.

That’s the other thing that I remember.  Lots and lots of people.  It’s close to Lake Powell, a major tourist destination, and a short walk from the main highway.  It’s a view that I’d consider worth a long hike  so it’s no wonder it’s popular.  Most of the people who visit don’t stray too far from where the trail ends.  That’s where most of the tripods get set up and pictures are taken.  I’d recommend exploring the rim to either side if you have the time and the inclination, the view varies quite a bit and you’ll see a perspective not often showcased online.

Since the site is so accessible and popular you can imagine that there are a great many pictures out there.  A quick search on the internet will find just about any picture you want – winter, summer, sunrise, sunset, sunset with snow, at night with stars, etc.  The picture I have posted here is likely indistinguishable from many other pictures online, especially since there were people immediately to my right and my left that were taking pictures at the same time I was.  The picture below shows just a fraction of the number of people setting up on the rim to take pictures.

Horseshoe Bend Crowd
If you go, be prepared to share the view with lots of other people…

Whenever I find myself someplace like this I always feel a little conflicted.  As a photographer I’d like to think that I’m creating something unique, something interesting.  But in a place such as this I feel like every angle has been covered utilizing every technique available.  And part of the conflict is due to the crowd itself.  It’s hard to move a few feet to the left or right for a better composition if there’s already a half-dozen people and tripods set up in those spots.  (Odds are they are probably coveting the spot where I’m standing as I covet theirs!)  Sometimes I’m content to leave my camera in the bag and just enjoy the scenery.  Other times I’ll take a picture because I want something to print and frame later, more as a memory than a unique work of art.  In this case all I was after was a picture for my own collection and for my own memories so I wasn’t too picky about the creative aspect.

I found a spot away from the crowd and waited for the sun to set.  Canyons are all harsh shadows with any sort of sun in the sky and I wanted a more even exposure on the canyon walls.  As the sun set directly over the bend the crowd thickened around my once isolated spot and became a part of the masses on the rim.

I had a 14mm with me, but it was too wide for the results I wanted.  The next step up was my 50mm but it was too narrow to get the scene in one picture.  Unfortunately I had forgotten my general purpose 24-85mm at home on accident.  I stuck with the 50mm and took 22 images to merge them into a single photograph later at home (Lightroom does a really good job with this).  22 images was a bit overkill, 8 would have sufficed.  But I was doing some experimenting and I’ve found it’s better to have too many than too few when creating a composite or panorama like this.  All it takes is a bit of a corner missing to severely crop the final image into something unusable.

The Technical Details

  • Camera: Nikon D600
  • Lens: Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G AF-S
  • Aperture: f/9
  • Shutter: 1/100
  • ISO: 2500