Tips to Photographing the Narrows
The Narrows in Zion National Park are world famous—and for good reason. It really is one of kind. I’ve got some bad news though: the majority of the pictures you see of the Narrows are very misleading, including my own.
So Popular It Hurts
98% of everyone that sees the Narrows does so with at least 50 people directly in front of them and 50 more right behind them. Taking a clear landscape photograph without a bunch of random people you don’t care about is next to impossible here. For most people, that’s not a big deal because they just wanted to see it. They don’t actually plan on taking a print-worthy shot on their own. However, this can make it tough for those of us who do want that experience.
Solitude Comes at a Price
The good news is that it’s not impossible to have the Narrows to yourself—it just comes at a price that most people aren’t willing to pay. So what is that price? It’s all about timing. You can wake up crazy early and bike to the trailhead or wake up semi-crazy early and have a really good friend drop you off at the trailhead via car. Getting there before the shuttles are running is key!
Early Morning, Start In the Dark
Some people will recommend being on the first shuttle, but that's a poor substitute for my advice. You will still be with a group of 30 or more people on that first shuttle, and every 10 minutes after you will be another group of 30 or more people joining the hike and potentially getting in your shot.
If you bike to the trailhead, you could have up to an hour and half of light all to yourself. The time of day you will need to start out at will depend on when the sun is coming up, which changes pretty drastically throughout the year. Just get yourself to the end of the river walk right at first light for the best results.
The Best Time is Winter Time
The other option is pretty simple: come in the winter. That’s it, you’re done! Seems crazy, but January is an awesome time of year to do the Narrows. A busy day in the winter will have about 30 people in the Narrows all day! The downside to this is you will need to rent dry pants and neoprene socks—trust me on that one. The water’s too cold to go without. The outfitters are still operating in the winter, so it’s not hard to get the gear you need.
Bonus: There may be some wicked cool ice features if you’re lucky.
However you decide to do the Narrows, the important thing is to know what kind of experience you want out of it. The better informed you are going in the more likely you’ll be able to have the experience you want. If you want great images of your time in the Narrows, then trust my experience—it won’t let you down. Good luck, and happy trails.