Photographing the Narrows can be challenging since you are hiking up the Virgin River on slippery rocks against the current. Throughout the hike, the water is less than knee-deep, but sometimes the Virgin river can come up to your waist. For the best photo ops take the Bottom-Up trail (no permits are required) all the way up to the section called Wall Street. This hike will take around 3-4 hours from the parking lot of the Temple of Sinawava.
The Narrows in Zion National Park is one of the best canyon hikes in the world and it is an amazing place to experience and photograph. The sandstone walls change color with reflected light from the canyon opening up top and create surreal images.
During summertime, you will have the best weather conditions, however, this also means a lot of people. Avoid the Narrows if there is a chance of rain. Flash-flood is a real danger. Check the National Weather Service and contact the visitor’s center to make sure it is safe to hike the Narrows.
The best time is to start early if you don’t want a lot of people in your pictures. Usually, the canyon formations are well lit for only a couple of hours when the sun is very high up. It is best to find these contrasting colors on the walls or look for the walls that the light is reflecting. For long exposures, use a very sturdy tripod with you because the current in the Virgin river is very strong. Use river rocks for foreground elements, show just a little or none of the sky because the direct sunlight can overpower your image, get very low with your tripod and try to shoot from the middle of the river as well.
Be prepared, be safe, have the right clothes and shoes and enjoy this amazing adventure.
Tips for Photographing the Narrows:
- Start early to escape the crowds
- Rent or buy a dry bag (I saw a guy slipping in the river and his backpack got wet all the way with his camera equipment in it)
- Make sure you have sturdy water shoes. You will be hiking in water for a while and the rocks are slippery. There are a couple of places in Springdale where you can rent your waterproof gear. I will recommend renting your gear the night before your hike not to waste time in the morning. I always rent my waterproof gear from Zion Adventures and very happy with their customer service and their prices
- Tripod is a must since the canyon is lit in very low light and you would want to take a few long exposure shots
- Go light as you can since you will be hiking for a long time
- Use a wide-angle lens in order to capture the whole canyon walls
- Make sure you have few snacks to fuel up and water to keep hydrated
- Use human figures in your shots to show the scale of the canyons
- Use a polarizer