Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A tale of dirty slots, busted knuckles, and personal redemption!


     I had to return to Coyote and re-shoot my favorite waterfall, it's been roughly eighteen months since my last visit.  Another chance to take some friends and have another adventure with my son. So, I began planning this in November of last year after a summer and fall of focusing on my photography skills. If you check out my earlier posts, you can watch my skills improve with each entry. Everything finally fell into place for me after my last trip to Southern Utah to visit Zion and surrounding areas. 

     This waterfall was my final test, as far as I was concerned (Kanarraville Falls).

More can be found here: www.insharpfocus.blogspot.com/

     The Coyote cascades (as I refer to them) just east of Jacob Hamblin arch, inspired my desire to improve my photography skills. I had read about a canyon in southern Utah, while googling warmer hiking climates and struggling with the winter doldrums. When I googled the gulch, up popped many different shots of this gorgeous waterfall, not a tall one, just a flowing cascade, but oh so beautiful. The one that stood out to me the most had received quite a lot of photoshop and the water's hue was changed to blue (i found out later it couldn't possibly be blue due to all the flour fine sand in the water). So I called my buddy Greg and we made plans for an April visit. When I returned and looked at all of the photos I had taken, I soon realized that I knew nothing about photography and I need to do something about it! 

     I spent that summer shooting waterfalls, joined a photography club, and watched hours and hours of YouTube. I spent most of early summer searching for waterfalls while out hiking until I discovered a set of five waterfalls that captivated my attention (also available on my blog). I made several trips to them trying to perfect my long exposure skills. Unfortunately though, I didn't really spend anytime making sure I was doing it right. Most of the time, my shots would be way overexposed, however I was able to fix them in photoshop, they weren't great. I like to shoot in the 15 to 30 second range and to this day, I still do not know anyone that shares the same style, so it's hard to compare my work. Half second shots will blur water, but it doesn't convey as much light or emotion, in my opinion.
     As summer wound down, I decided I need to go back to Coyote and redeem myself! I had a few friends lined up to go, including my boy, however as the big day approached, they started abandoning ship. Even my own boy changed his mind! Undeterred, I knew I needed this shot to complete my soul! It may sound weird to those of you without a passionate hobby, but I needed this, and went by myself!

     When I returned, and by this time fortunately, I had just began shooting in RAW format. I was able to salvage most of my shots from that attempt. The above picture is decent now, but not when I imported it into photoshop, it was over exposed and the focus isn't great throughout the whole image. At the time I was happy, until I discovered hyper-focal distance and manual focusing. This was a blessing and a curse, the blessing portion of it improved my shots exponentially. The curse part occurs every time I go back through my old photos! With my new found focus (pun intended) and a new camera, I gathered my son, a few friends, and headed back to Coyote!

Coyote Gulch Redo part 1

      The plan was set and I had five days off! Coltin and I picked up Jeremy around 2 pm and headed straight for Chris. By four pm, we were all loaded in my truck and began the five hour trip to Escalate, Utah. Man, that is a long drive and we reached our first camping spot and hit the bags for an early trek across the desert. We slept under the stars and wow, that was that beautiful way to fall asleep! 

     Meet the crew, Coltin, Chris, Shannon, Greg, Jeremy, and of course, myself!

     After filling out the permit at the trail head, we headed towards Jacob Hamblin Arch. The first mile is nothing but sand! It gets into everything and very tiring to walk through.

     I call this the Pour, simply because it looks like the sand stone was poured onto the desert floor and dried.

     Life finds a way.

     Beauty in the middle of desolation.

     The final approach, before our decent, down a 45 degree slick rock wall.

     Top of JHA.

     This was as much of the arch and surrounding walls I could capture in one 24 mm shot.

     This is four vertical shots, stitched together into a 66 MB monster, this is a smaller version, of course!

     One of the most amazing things we noticed coming in, was how green the trees were. It was intense!

     As you can see, the canyon walls are very tall.

     After a brief exploration of JHA, we headed farther into the Gulch, to find a decent camping spot and visit my favorite waterfall.

     We set camp close to JHA and the toilet, mostly because of the pack everything out requirement! We made it to my cascades soon after, however the light was very harsh and it was windy, as you can see in the images below. I usually wouldn't share these, however they are necessary for my story and relatively unprocessed. Notice the vignetting from my ND filter? It was stacked on top of my UV lens (I only use them in sketchy environments). Even with the bad light and wind, I couldn't resist taking some shots while everyone else had their cell phones out snapping away. Jeremy brought his DSLR along and I was able to help him capture a few long exposures. I knew I wouldn't be happy with these because of the wind, but I couldn't just stand there!

     After a few shots, we made our was deeper into the gulch. The canyon had about half of the water it did, back in October of 2014.

     A group shot in front of Coyote Natural Bridge.

     Along the walls, you can find quick sand, as Chris happily demonstrated. He lucky it didn't keep his shoe!

     The east side of CNB.

     Low water level, indeed!

     Broken Arch.

     Jeremy found a small hole just after broken arch and posed for a picture.

     Same hole, smaller explorer.

     The wind began to slow, so we made our way back to camp and the cascades.


Here is my final image and my drop the mic moment. I had prefect light, the sky was full of clouds and almost no perceivable shadows. I manually focused my shot, adjusted my shutter speed to 30 seconds, dialed my aperture to F16 and pulled the trigger. When the rear screen flashed the finished photograph, it was all I could do to not tear up. I had finally done it, I new exactly what I wanted and how to do it, and on my favorite waterfall! One shot and drop the mic! Chris was there while I took the shot and I tried expressing what I was feeling, however I'm not convinced he truly understood. 

To be continued...

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