Light & Shadow

Journey to Reflection Canyon

Journey to Reflection Canyon
Joshua Snow

Recently my girlfriend Lacey, my dog, my good friend Jesse, and I set out on a trip to the legendary Reflection Canyon on Lake Powell through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon Recreation Area. For months we planned the trip. First we picked a season and date where the Milky Way would line up with the iconic view of the islands in the canyon. It turned out that was April, near the new moon! We used Photopills to plan our location and the time of morning we would need to be ready to shoot. We watched the weather leading up to the trip as well as the lake levels. Many believe that the scene and view rely on a low water level. Although I partially agree, it wasn’t a breaking point for me if we were to have high water. Luckily the water level was near perfect and it seemed that all the stars were aligning.

We arrived to the trailhead after the 6 hour drive from Moab around 11pm. Jesse wouldn’t be arriving until nearly 5am after his late flight from LAX to SLC and a 5 1/2 drive. I woke up just as Jesse was pulling in and was excited to see him after our last trip a few months ago. We decided he should get some rest and we would start hiking when he woke up. As the sun rose, I began repacking my pack and preparing for the hike. I decided to make my famous steak breakfast fajitas so we would be ready for the hard hours ahead.

The sky was bluebird blue and not a cloud in sight which meant full exposure for us on the ten mile hike in. It was around 10am when we started hiking. We were in high spirits but the sun quickly drained us of that. After 8 or so miles the sandy trail turned to sandstone and we were then relying solely on GPS weigh points. After about a mile, we stumbled upon a massive water filled pot hole 50 feet long, 20 feet wide, and full of ice cold water! It was a very welcomed sight as my 9 liters of water had nearly been consumed between the dog and I. We stopped, swam, and filtered several liters of water to make it through the rest of the hike and the night ahead.

When we finally arrived to the view point and scampered across the scary, sheer slick rock face of a huge butte, the wind kicked up and it was almost impossible to get the tents set up. We ended up lashing them down with the few rocks we could find and our heavy packs. Once we made camp we began boiling up water for our awesome Mountain House meals (the dog ate an entire 3 servings of beef stew). Lacey passed out almost immediately with exhaustion and the dog followed soon after. I sat around scouting for compositions and enjoying the breeze and resting my feet. I eventually tried to get some rest, knowing I would be up a good part of the night shooting and we’d have the long hike out ahead of us.

When we woke up around 2am the wind had died down to a soft breeze and the sky was perfectly clear, and you could almost see the green airglow with your naked eye. I shot away for a few hours building a huge panorama and then hit the sack again to wake for sunrise. Without an alarm I shot up just before the sun peaked and sky caught fire. It was a really magical morning and the shot below marks a trip I will never forget!

Joshua Snow: I am a 29 year old, life long east coaster that picked up his whole life and family and dragged them to the middle of nowhere Utah. I am pursue my dream of spreading my knowledge, skills and techniques with others in the form of photographic, adventure based workshops. For more information visit my website: