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Spring Trip to Utah – A Night and a Morning in Zion

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Spring Trip to Utah - A Night and a Morning in Zion

This blog and the sebsequent postings about my trip to the Utah desert this spring are dedicated to my sweet Mom, Terry Doolittle, who passed into the Next on Thursday 05-17-18, the day I was returning home from this trip.

Life and all the gifts it brings are precious beyond words or photographs.

My travel day to the first stop of Zion, en route to Moab where I had signed up for a five day photography workshop with Robert Rodriquez Jr, unfolded not in anyway how I was expecting. My Mom, who was 88, had been in declining health since the beginning of the year when she took a tumble that shattered her pelvis and fractured her spine. Like she had countless times before in her life, she pulled from her innate, incredibly strong will to survive, to recover and left the rehab facility at the end of March. We all had hoped she would make a move from her home in Washington state to be near one of my sisters and three generations of family in Colorado but Mom chose to stay where she has always felt most at home. The ups and downs of her wellbeing, and clearly it was becoming a downhill journey, continued until I was on my way to Utah when she took a final turn from which she and all of us knew she would not recover. She was transported from home, where she was under hospice care, to the hospice facility. Though I feel I had been in  the process of seeing the longest relationship of my life getting close to an end, there was shock and grief upon hearing this news. When I spoke with her a few days before, she very clearly encouraged me to go on this trip saying, "Go have fun and photograph a beautiful sunset for me." Needless to say I was conflicted, questioning why I was headed in the direction I was headed but I somehow knew this was best and that the trip would offer space to go deep within. I have no regrets. I have deep gratitude for my sister Jeannette, who was able to make the trip up there and care for her that final week. She was so inclusive with the family, that I personally felt as if I was right there with them. I had several opportunities to express my love and gratitude directly to my Mom right up until shortly before she took her last breath. It was perfection.

Everything I experienced, every photograph I made and every breath that came was somehow intimately connected to my Mom during that week. The journey of words and photographs that follow in this post and others to come about this trip, celebrate the gift of life.

I had a plan to get two opportunities for photograhs in Zion. Having never been to Zion before I had come to understand from other photographers that Zion is a place where it takes time to discover and learn what the beauty of this extraordinary place has to offer. Since my stop here was very limited, I chose to take advantage of a couple of iconic locations near town for a sunset and a sunrise photograph, the Watchman and the Towers of the Virgin. I was behind my intended arrival time, and add to that the disorientation I experienced arriving in a new place in my state of mind, made it a bit of a scramble, albeit a magical one, getting the image of the Watchman. This was taken from the bridge over the Virgin river, near the canyon shuttle stop, where I slotted in alongside several other photographers. The light was happening as I was approaching the bridge so I knew it would be a close call getting a photo. It was. The image above was the first I took. After making a subsequent compositional adjustment, the light was gone. It was all ok though, as the light was wonderful with the glow on the mountain and the Virgin river shimmering below me in the wonderful teal color. The feeling being there was profound and filled with appreciation and love and she was with me.

I awoke the next morning and took off down the road from my room to the museum parking lot where the deck behind provided the view of the Towers of the Virgin, a well known sunrise spot. I was joined by a few other photographers and enjoyed some conversation while waiting for the sun to light up the cliff faces. As is the case with other similar scenes, where first or last light hits cliff faces, the light descends or climbs very rapidly as the earth rotates so it is vital to be setup and prepared to capture the light before it's gone. This image is a five image stitch and was shot with my 63mm mounted vertically on the tripod.

We are already planning a return trip to Zion next fall during the change of the cottonwood and maple trees. We will have several days to begin an exploration of all the park has to offer. I must say that the numbers of people visiting these locations makes me want to find quiet secluded spots to hike and photograph. I know they exist by getting clues from others and while we will explore the main canyon some, we will also spend time finding and enjoying canyons that have no names. On my way out of town, going a back route to Moab, I pulled over and took one such hike down into a small draw that turned into a nice little slot canyon as I walked further along and there was no one else there. Though the light was overhead at the time, I saw potential for some reflected light opportunities as the canyon snaked back and forth across the path of the sun. We will look forward to discovering and the possibility of the fall colors in reflected light against the backdrop of red canyon walls, when we return.

As always you are welcome to leave comments below.


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6 thoughts on “Spring Trip to Utah – A Night and a Morning in Zion”

  1. Dear Jim,
    These photos are gorgeous and I enjoyed them very much. The dedication to your Mom and their story makes them richer still. I want to return to them later. Thanks for the opportunity to view your work. I had no idea your visual archive was so developed until recently!

    • Hi Kelly!
      Thank you!
      Every day as I have worked on images from our trip I am filled with such fond memories of being with you and the guys. What a fun time. I’m so grateful for the new friendships and I hope our paths will continue to cross. I’m looking forward to being with everyone in our upcoming webinar and seeing everyone’s photos. I hope all is well with you and your preparations for your journey to NM are going well.

  2. I thank you so much for sharing the story of this journey. I cried as I was reading this knowing where you were at this time. Jim, this picture has brought me to have tears of beauty & joy knowing that you accomplished what Mom said to you…” to go & take photos for her”. This has been a really rough day for me, full of lots of tears. Somehow your picture has comforted me & I now can sleep. Thank you
    my dear bro for this gift. Love you

    • The Watchman photo is one taken thousands of times by so many but my copy is so full with feeling, it will always be unique for me. I’m glad you felt the deep peace that is there. Nature helps to heal. We can only embrace all we feel and not hold back any of it and trust. We are fine, she is fine and she is always with us in our memories. There are many filled with joy and laughter, I visit those and feel grateful. Love you too

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