Wide Angle Lens at Horseshoe Bend

Jason Daniel Shaw

Wide Angle Lens at Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend | Page, Az

Horseshoe Bend is an iconic spot that has graced a lot of photos, calendars and screensavers throughout the years.  This was my third visit to Page, AZ and my third visit to Horseshoe Bend but the first time with a DSLR and a wide angle lens.  The first visit, in what I call my more creative days, I had nothing more than an iPhone and one of this all-in-one lenses that included a wide angle.  By the time that my second visit came around, I had graduated to a DSLR but still didn’t have a wide enough angle lens to capture the entire scene.  This time, I made sure to specifically rent a Sigma 14mm f/1.8 (for night shots) to capture Horseshoe Bend in its entirety.

Page Az Horseshoe Bend

Getting to Horseshoe Bend

The parking lot for Horseshoe Bend is just a few miles from the center of Page, AZ on highway 89.  There is a large dirt parking lot just off the highway that is usually extremely crowded.  There are primitive restrooms in the parking area but none at the overlook itself.  From the parking lot, it is about 1/2 mile to Horseshoe Bend via a rocky/sandy trail.  There is a little elevation gain as you cross over a hill before arriving but not a difficult walk.  The overlook itself has historically not had a rail or anything to protect you from falling over the edge of the cliff so if you are traveling with kids or pets, be aware.  The National Park Service (NPS) is in the process of building an overlook with railing and improving the parking lot.  That means that currently (as of March 2018) there is a lot of construction going on and in the future they will be charging for parking and/or access.  I think that this will ruin the environment and natural feel of the place.

Photographers at Horseshoe Bend

Wide Angle Lens at Horseshoe Bend

To really capture the whole scene at Horseshoe Bend, you need a wide angle lens.  That is not to say that you can’t capture great shots without it.  The widest lens that I have is my Canon 24-105mm f/4.0L.  I had done a little research before going and decided on the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 because I knew that I wanted to do some astrophotography in addition to capturing sunset.  The other option that I seriously considered was the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L and having a chance to choose again, I would have probably chosen that one.  The 14mm definitely captured the entirety of Horseshoe Bend but gave me a lot of distortion when I placed someone in the shot.  I also think that it may have captured a little too much.  I would like to try out the 16mm to see if that was enough.  Two reasons that I initially opted to not go with that one was, as mentioned above, the night photography (the f/1.8 allows that much more light) and I read from someone that the 16mm wasn’t quite enough in their mind.  If you have tried it, I would love to hear your opinions on it.  When you go, make sure that you think about the shots that you want ahead of time and be prepared by taking the appropriate lenses.

Saturated Sunset Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend at Sunset

Sunrise and sunset are the best times to visit Horseshoe Bend, in my opinion.  During the day, the sun is high in the sky and it mutes a lot of the colors of the canyon walls and of the Colorado River below.  Sunrise and sunset are also probably the most crowded times to visit Horseshoe Bend, though.  There are a lot of photo opportunities around the area, just be careful if you want any of the classics that involve hanging over the side of the cliff.Night Photography Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend at Night

Horseshoe Bend at night is special because you can experience it without all of the crowds.  As the people all leave after sunset, the blue hour is a great time for some long exposure shots.  As the stars come out, Horseshoe Bend is transformed into a surreal scene.  If the moon is out, it really lights up the river and canyon walls, however, it also drowns out the stars.  This last trip was my first time visiting at night but I highly recommend it.  Unfortunately, it was too bright to get any Milky Way shots but I was still happy with the shots that I did get.  If you make it out there at night, be sure to take care and watch your footing.  The cliffs still exist at night, they are just harder to see.

Sunburst Heart Horseshoe Bend

First Trip to Horseshoe Bend

As I mentioned, my first trip to Horseshoe Bend was before I had even bought a camera and during a time that I was taking a lot of photos with my iPhone (iPhone 5).  It was the Thanksgiving of 2013 and I had been doing a lot of traveling and seeing unique places.  It was also around the time that I started using Instagram.  During that period, I feel that I was more creative than I am today, I guess in part because I had to be.  I will try and create a post with some of the photos from that trip in the future.

A perfect place to combine with Horseshoe Bend is Waterholes Canyon as it is just down the road.   You can also see some my other recommendations here.

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