The Stormy Side

It was a beautiful sunny day as we drove from the North Rim towards Bryce. Picture perfect puffy clouds dotted the sky, that is, until we got within 20 miles of Bryce Canyon National Park. Across the valley, we could see large, dark storm clouds hanging over what seemed to be the main amphitheater of hoodoos. 

Sure enough, as we sprinted through the pouring rain to check in at the lodge, thunder cracked overhead. Little did I realize that Bryce Canyon experiences a monsoon season. August is the rainiest month and has an average of 12 days of thunderstorms. Somehow I missed this fact when planning for our trip. We hit the jackpot with three days of thunderstorms.

Storms can make for great photography. However, at every view point at Bryce there is a sign that says, “stay in your car if lightning is present”.  It’s hard to see the hoodoos from your car, and it’s even harder to photograph them with the windshield wipers going. I may go out on a precipitous ledge for a shot, but setting up a tripod on a ledge with a storm overhead is close to suicidal. (Although Jeff kept reminding me, “not to worry, the life insurance is paid up.”)

It was time to get creative. Since the storm clouds seemed parked over the main part of Bryce Canyon (the amphitheater), we would venture to the other side. First, we headed south.

“Aqua Canyon”, a stop on enroute to the Bristlecone Pine Trail on the South Side.

The South Side

On the farthest end of the park, the southern side, there is trail called, Bristlecone Pine Trail.  The skies brightened as we drove. When we arrived, we were able to get out to explore the trail. Nowhere was there a picture of what a Bristlecone Pine Tree looks like. Every tree we passed could have been one. Finally, when we got to the farthest point, there were some dead trees.  These must be them?

Found on the Bristlecone Pine Tree Trail, so they must be Bristlecone Pines, right?

Starburst of color just beyond the Bristlecone Pine Trees

North Side

Sunset was a wash. So the next day, we decided to explore the other side, the north side. We went to the northern most viewpoint, Fairyland Point, but as you can see it was not far enough. The dark clouds loomed too close.

North of the main amphitheater is the Fairyland Trail. Not far enough as we watched the storm clouds brewing

So we got back in the car, left the paid area of the park to reach the northern most point, the Mossy Cave Trail.  Although the skies broke for us, the Mossy Cave was a bust,  just a small alcove with moss. But we did come across a nice waterfall to shoot.

One benefit of the storms – beautiful waterfalls in the desert

Finally, we escaped the clouds

Back to the Stormy Side

No trip to Bryce is complete without photographing a few hoodoos. Even if we had to shoot sunrise with no sun. 

Sunrise the first morning – just enough light to make the clouds interesting 

Sunrise the second day – yes, more clouds with a hint of sunrise pink in the distance

Soft light in the canyon

Macro look at the hoodoos

Thanks for joining us as we searched for the light on the other side of Bryce. Remember, it’s all about the light!

P.S. We were in Bryce for the solar eclipse. In between clouds, a $2.00 pair of glasses enabled us to enjoy the eclipse. Bryce had about 85% coverage of the sun.