"Before there were any Indians, the Legend People, To-when-an-ung-wa, lived in that place. There were many of them. They were of many kinds – birds, animals, lizards and such things, but they looked like people. They were not people. They had power to make themselves look that way. For some reason the Legend People in that place were bad; they did something that was not good, perhaps a fight, perhaps some stole something…. the tale is not clear at this point. Because they were bad, Coyote turned them all into rocks. You can see them in that place now all turned into rocks; some standing in rows, some sitting down, some holding onto others. You can see their faces, with paint on them just as they were before they became rocks. The name of that place is Angka-ku-wass-a-wits (red painted faces). This is the story the people tell."
-Paiute Indian legend
I arrived in the late afternoon on my first day at Bryce. I had been driving all day leaving the valley of fire behind me with lots of wonderful impressions to process. I was eager to finally walk up to the edge of the amphitheater and see with my very own eyes what it is all about. Once I parked my car, I grabbed my equipment and walked over. I wanted to take advantage of the still golden light of the late afternoon. It was much cooler, winter was definitely not over at Bryce, and I had to pull out my cold weather gear to keep warm. When I arrived at the edge of the canyon, I could see that the hoodoos were still partially covered with snow, and it was, of course, crowded with tourists and photographers alike. But, I found a good spot to place my tripod. I took a moment and just stood there and looked…my eyes filled with amazement by the vastness and sheer beauty of this place. I took a deep breath in and despite all the people around me, I felt a stillness and calmness that seemed to consume me. I could hear some voices from some late hikers ascending into the canyon. The snow was melting and the trails were icy and slippery; some people used snowshoes while others just walked very carefully. Part of the canyon was now in shadow and other areas were lit up with golden light. The longer I looked, the more excitement stirred within me. I started to see the different colors in the rocks as the sun started to set, and the hoodoos were showered with the golden light. The lines of pine trees and rock formations in the canyon created all sorts of interesting compositions; the melting snow, still partially covering part of the canyon, was adding interest. Filled with excitement, I framed my first shot. I had spotted a rim covered with snow, which formed a line cutting through the pine trees and rocks. The pine trees, rock formations and the little patches of snow in-between were broken up nicely this way. The sun started to really light up different parts of the canyon in shades of orange. I kept shooting, forgetting everything around me; I couldn't stop…I was mesmerized. After the sun finally disappeared and most people left, I noticed that about 10-20 min after the sun had set, the afterglow of the sunset created beautiful colors contrasting with the now blue sky. I had talked earlier with another photographer from the greater area. He said he didn't quite understand why everyone left right after the sun had set. I agreed, as I had just noticed myself how the hoodoos were glowing. Very excitedly, he showed me a close-up of some which were lit up in shades of red surrounded by the cooler light of the blue hour. It was getting late, and my hands started to get really cold. I wasn't ready to leave yet though. I stayed for about another 20 minutes, but at that point it was really time to pack up, rest up, and get ready for the next morning. I had initially thought of camping, but temperatures were still in the high 30’s at night, so I decided to book a room for my stay in the Bryce area. I was looking forward to sleeping in a bed for the night, take a hot shower, and enjoy hot coffee in the morning. It’s funny how when you remove yourself from some of the conveniences of modern life, a cup of hot coffee and a hot shower can become the highlight of your day….well, besides photographing that is :-) The next morning it was very cold; I put on several layers of clothes, gloves, a hat, and a thick scarf. When I walked to the edge of Bryce, through the snow, I could start to feel the penetrating cold. I assembled my tripod and started setting up my camera. SUNRISE was beyond spectacular here. WOW! I forgot about how cold it was, but it didn't cease being amazing once the sun was up. Now, I started to slowly and carefully descend into the canyon. I was surrounded by the sound of melting snow and people shuffling through the icy trails. Once in a while, I heard some chatter from nearby hikers or a bird of prey flying over. The sun started to light up the deeper parts of the canyon. It was getting warmer, and I was able to shed some layers of clothing. Being inside the canyon was a whole different experience. When I visit a place with my camera I have not been to; it's a little overwhelming at first, because I see a lot of compositions to explore, but I know I have to get over my initial amazement and keep exploring until I’m captured by something that moves me on a deeper level. I allow myself to be open and keep shooting, but most of the time; the moments that truly capture me are those that resonate with me past the first encounter. Sometimes, this does happen at first sight; sometimes it’s during a return visit, and the ones that I missed visit me in my dreams :-) I have said this before, but photographing is like falling in love.
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