Brimhall Point Panorama
Brimhall Point Panorama, Maze District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The Maze District in Canyonlands National Park is one of the most remote and spectacular places in the Lower 48. Reaching it requires driving 60 miles of teeth-chattering washboard gravel road, then descending the incredibly tight, steep, four-wheel-drive switchbacks of the Flint Trail and bouncing over another 13.5 miles of 4wd road for several more hours to reach the Maze Overlook and Brimhall Point. There are only two campsites at the Maze Overlook, which must be reserved months in advance. In April 2017, I made my third trek to the Maze Overlook. After arriving in late afternoon, I scouted carefully along the rim of the Maze and selected a spot for a Milky Way panorama, which I planned to shoot at about 4:30 a.m. the next day. At astronomical dawn, around 5:30 a.m., when the Milky Way would fade into the brightening sky, I planned to pack up and hike to a different location about a mile away for a sunrise panorama.
The last of the night’s thunderstorms were receding to the east when I shot a Milky Way panorama over the Maze. I packed up quickly and hiked back along the rim to my truck by headlamp, dumped the night-photography gear, then hurried to the location a few hundred yards from Brimhall Point that I’d selected for my sunrise panorama. A large cloud bank to the east threatened to shut down any chance of sunrise light. The light on the panoramic view I’d selected was dull and lifeless. Almost too late, I noticed that the cloud bank to the east was starting to light up. My usual instinct is to stick with the composition I’ve scouted in advance rather than try to move at the last minute, but in this case I decided to gamble that I could set up my multi-row panorama equipment in time to shoot a new composition from the easternmost edge of Brimhall Point.
I dashed to what I hoped would be the right position, leveled the panorama head, and shot a panoramic sequence, bracketing widely to capture the broad range in light intensities across the scene. I was only able to shoot two sequences before the light faded. When I examined the histograms for images on the camera’s LCD, my heart sank. It looked like I had not bracketed widely enough, and even the darkest frames had blown-out sky. Fortunately, I was able to recover just enough detail in Lightroom to make the best image I’ve ever created of the view from Brimhall Point.