Conquering Angels Landing in Zion National Park (Utah)

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My second day of the trip was entirely dedicated to an exploration of Zion National Park.

The highlight of the day was hiking all the way to the top of the famous Angels Landing trail.

Angels Landing in Zion National Park (Utah)

I have visited Zion previously, knew what to expect and had all the facts about the trail.

Distance: 5-miles
Average Hiking Time: 5 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous uphill hike.
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Trail Usage: Heavy

Since the average person does not hike with a tripod and does not stop every 100 meters to take photos, I estimated the average travel photographer hiking time to somewhere between 7 to 8 hours.

Utah. Zion National Park. Angels Landing Trail
Loc: 37.265410, -112.950776

I also knew that late morning and early afternoon hours in Zion could be very crowded and, in general, I am not very fond of people in my landscapes. Instead of unapologetically removing them from my reality in Photoshop, I decided to beat the crowd and start the hike as early as possible.

I was on the very first park’s shuttle bus in the early morning as I started my hike in a very comfortable cool temperature with absolutely no people around.

In the beginning, it was a steep but very comfortable hike, with amazing open views and plenty of room to setup a tripod.

The last half-mile of the Angels Landing hike became a bit extreme. I had to pack my tripod and climb with the camera hanging around my neck. That was the moment when I really appreciated the switch from DSLR to mirrorless.

For some reason, the hiking down was less uncomfortable than going up.


Once again, after analyzing the scene I could see the very bright area of the sky and the deep shadows at the bottom of the canyon. To shoot for HDR was the obvious choice.

I took 3 bracketed shots (-1, 0, +1) on a tripod.


I keep experimenting with Lightroom 6 new feature – HDR Merge. I like that Lightroom produces an HDR file in DNG format which is relatively small. I also appreciate that Lightroom adds “HDR” to the name of the newly created DNG file.

I merged 3 bracketed RAW images to HDR using Lightroom 6.

For the processing, I used a Lightroom preset based workflow, using Point Lobos present from my Landscapes Collection (you can always download free lightroom presets here).


Deconstructing Featured Photo

Processing: Lightroom HDR Preset Based Workflow

Lightroom: import, tagging, HDR Merge, preset based processing (Point Lobos preset from Landscape Collection)
Photoshop: contrast, color correction, cleaning.

Photoshop Plugins: 

  • Awesome as always. It seems to do a very nice job the new hdr plugin in LR6! Till now I haven’t tried yet to do hdr shoots since I have no tripod and no auto bracketing on my d3200, but I’ll try it however with manual bracketing and post processing align, soon. Thanks Viktor for sharing all this beauty!

      • Roby, it was easy shot from the focusing perspective. I was shooting at 10mm and aperture F/7.1 so DOF (depth of field) was from 0.5m to infinity. I did not even bother to use manual focus, AF was good enough.

        • So it’s not that true what the web talks about 1/3 focusing rule on landscapes? I’m asking this to you because I’ve found that following that rule with my D3200 plus 18-55 lens has always resulted in a slightly blurry background even with small apertures like f/11 or f/16 and even following hyperfocal distance rule, whilst focusing on distant objects in the background always give me sharper photos from the foreground to the background.

          • Roby,

            when I use manual focus and I do not have a specific object to focus on (wide landscapes for example) I always use 1/3 rule. It works. And if you use such a small aperture (f/16) auto focus works pretty much always.

          • Ok thank you so much Viktor for the suggestion, I’ll try to do some focusing practice again!

  • wow the photographs look incredible. It must be amazing to have seen this in real πŸ™‚

  • Bayu Riswandono says:

    It’s so Amazing photo & nice view

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