Utah Autumn Photography

Utah autumn photography is my favorite. As I mentioned in one of my last blog posts, the light during the season is magic. Of course, the colors are magnificent too.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of shooting autumn photos are the outings. The mountains and deserts of Utah seem to have palpable electricity about them. Plus, the air is crisp and clear, which makes hiking more comfortable and photos more vivid.

The maples are the first to set off in Park City this year.

Where and When I Love to Shoot

Although it may seem selfish to some people, I try to keep my most special places to shoot a bit of a secret. There’s a reason I do this and it isn’t about being a hog. For me, it’s about keeping the traffic and impact to a minimum. So with that out of the way, I’ll stick to some popular local areas which really aren’t secrets to most people. Before I write about “where” to shoot, let me quickly address “when” to shoot.

When to Shoot

There are obvious considerations when exactly to take images, and most of us plan around them. For example, some people don’t like “bad” weather, but if you’re like me, I’ll take photos in any conditions, unless it’s unsafe. (Especially if the sky and circumstances add to the effects I want to create).

The other not so obvious thing to consider is the timing of the peak foliage. Since Utah has different climate zones based upon altitude and geographical location, you have to use some common sense. There are websites that offer “foliage reports,” but I find them a bit late. I prefer the old fashioned way; get outside and LOOK!

Keep in mind, one of the most exciting parts about autumn photography in the Intermountain West is you can follow the foliage around. You can follow it to lower elevations or you can follow it southward into early November. The truth is, you can’t miss a peak foliage in Utah is you know when to get outside and where.

Time of day and position

Most photographers know about the “golden hour” or the “blue hour.” These are typical during sunrise and sunsets when the sun is lower along the horizon. The best positions to shoot during these times of day will depend on the landscape. As a general rule, east facing or west facing sceneries are best to shoot during the early and late part of the day. Don’t be surprised when a beautiful canyon wall or steep mountain creates unusual angles of light. With that said, the right time and the right place are sometimes the only best moments. At least if you’re outside, during the early part of the day or at dusk, you can position yourself based upon light and composition and wait.

Late afternoon, facing northwest. Boulder Mountains

Where I love to shoot when time is a factor

Let’s face it, when you work full time and your job isn’t photography, you have to get while the gettin’ is good. Time is a factor. I happen to have weekends during the week. (I planned it this way to avoid the crowds.) From home base in Park City, I can walk around town or hike trails above The Canyons Resort and get plenty of beautiful shots in. The next choice is either of the Cottonwood Canyons. I absolutely love Desolation Lake during the early mornings of Fall. The colors and light are magnificent when it’s peaking. Honeycomb Basin near Solitude is incredible too. The White Pine Lake trail in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Mill Creek Canyon is jaw-dropping along the Alexander Basin trail that leads up to Gobbler’s Knob.

Planning Your Outing

In closing, I would like to announce that I will be taking a trip to Vernal, Utah to snap some pictures around Dinosaur National Monument this month. I plan to stay at an AirBnb in town and hike the area. I always take water, food, maps, rain gear and the following camera gear. My Nikon D7100, Nikkor 80-300mm zoom, Sigma 17-50 wide angle lens, a MePhoto tripod and a wide selection of color filters.


Whenever I go remote, I let folks know where I’m going. Always check weather and trail conditions. Plan your hike and hike your plan. Prepare for contingencies such as radical weather changes or God forbid, getting injured or lost. I carry a basic first-aid kit and extra lightweight layers of clothing. I also carry a fire starter kit in case of a very dire situation. I find a radio battery, steel wool, and a waterproof fire cube is best.

Lastly, remember to have fun! I hope to see a few of you in and around the Wasatch. Please subscribe to my email list so you can keep abreast of my outings. When I return from Vernal, I will be sure to post more images of our beautiful state. Thank you for reading!

Desolation Lake Trail, Big Cottonwood Canyon
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