Moonrise and sunset over Thor's Hammer in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Full Moon rising over Thor's Hammer at sunset

Shooting (at) Sunset in Bryce Canyon National Park

It’s commonly thought that Bryce Canyon National Park is best for photography in the morning.  Bryce Canyon mostly faces East and is the edge of a large plateau.  At sunset, much of the canyon is in shadow due to the orientation.  Sunrise in Bryce Canyon is no doubt a beautiful experience, especially in Winter with snow.  I’ve been to Bryce countless times and firmly believe evenings and sunset can be every bit as spectacular as the morning.  I’ll go through a few scenarios and reasons why I believe evenings are just as good as mornings in Bryce Canyon. 

Evening Light at Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon Sunset with fog and clouds.
Sunset and fog over Bryce Canyon. I have this printed in hy home:)

As afternoon progresses, Bryce Canyon mostly fills with shadows and fewer and fewer features are illuminated.  Another way to see this is the features are becoming more isolated and more photogenic:)  One of my favorite features at Bryce Canyon is a castle type feature which takes advantage of this evening light and isolation to create a beautiful frame.  As the light fades you can visibly watch the last light hit a feature then disappear.  It’s easier to do versus trying to catch the first moment of light on a feature because you can see it BEFORE it happens!  Throughout Bryce Canyon there are numerous features like this which work better at sunset and evening, the trick is knowing where to go to see them in the first place.

Bryce Canyon at sunset on a photography workshop in Bryce Canyon.
Strange formations after sunset in Bryce Canyon

Strategic Hiking: Finish BEFORE Sunset

There are several trails in Bryce Canyon which take you down into the canyon and to various places around the landscape.  They’re all stunning and definitely recommended to see Bryce Canyon.  There is a trick here to time your hiking to put you in position for good photography light.  In general, hiking in the canyon will lead to amazing photographs before sunset and during the afternoon.  You can hike and shoot all afternoon but finish your hike at the spot you want to shoot sunset from.  One suggestion: hike Navajo Loop to Queen’s Garden during early evening for a great setup with the sun position.

Tree and roots with snow at sunset in Bryce Canyon Photography Workshop.
The classic Walking Tree with backlit snow

Look behind You

This one is fairly obvious and one we’ve all heard a thousand times, to look behind you!  The sun in the afternoon and evening is behind you at Bryce Canyon and looking back can offer some unique backlit scenes.  Above is a Bryce Canyon classic in some unique conditions and taken at the same time as the next image.  Much of the trail along the rim of Bryce Canyon has views in one way but the trails twist and turn so keep your eyes open in all directions!

Sunset and snow in ponderosa pines at Bryce Canyon national Park from sunrise point.
Backlit snow in the Ponderosa Pines

What is BETTER at Sunset?

As I mentioned at the beginning, certain features are illuminated against shadowed backgrounds in the evening.  Below is a favorite of mine and was quite challenging to capture.  The lighting is particular and it had to be from the right angle.  In my opinion, this feature is more “photogenic” in the evening, especially in Summer.  Other options for scenes which are better at sunset are the forests of Bristlecone Pines, various areas of shadowed colors throughout the canyon, and much more.  Storms are also another option in summer and fall and there’s no finer vantage point to watch the storm than Bryce Canyon. Rainbows, lightning, fog and bizarre light can all occur in storms and with the setting sun behind you, the canyon is below interesting atmospherics.  

Lastly, the full moon rises over the hoodoos and can be  a fun experience to try to capture it.  There are a million options for hoodoos below the moon but the trick is working with the light and how much hiking in the dark you want to be doing! 

Sunset photography location in Bryce Canyon national Park.
Last light in Bryce Canyon National Park (3 image pano at 300mm)

It's Right in Front of You

Another benefit of having the sun behind you at Bryce Canyon is the trees along the rim are all fully lit with Bryce Canyon in the background.  This presents a few challenges though.  Be careful with our shadow and also shooting with the sun directly at your back.  it works MUCH better when the light is at an angle to give depth and texture.  Another challenge with this is aligning the background in a visually interesting way which works with the foreground (tree).  There are many scenes at all viewpoints for this and none is really better than others, it just depends on conditions.


Bristlecone pine at sunset in Bryce Canyon national Park.
Bristlecone Pine at sunset in Bryce Canyon National Park

Sunset is more comfortable

Bryce Canyon is shocking to many people with how cold it is.  Sunrise is generally cold unless it’s summer and I’ve rarely been warm at Bryce Canyon.  The landscape is at 8000 feet above sea level and the temperatures are ice cold overnight.  When shooting sunset though, the day is already warm and is much different than early mornings.  This itself makes for a more comfortable experience and will naturally lead to personally meaningful images.

This is especially true in Winter with morning temperatures below zero on a regular basis.  If you have a hard time in cold weather, sunset may be a better option for you and you can have equally as great image potential. 

Make it a Full Day

I’m sharing this information to help you make the most of your day in Bryce Canyon.  Many people limit themself to one morning to shoot here and I would suggest at the bare minimum one full day to shoot.  Conditions change here in ways the forecast misses and I’ve been surprised here more than anywhere.  Ideally, 2 full days are nice for variation and to just enjoy the place too.

Shooting at sunrise usually involves an early morning, mid-day break, then more shooting in the evening.  During Winter, the light is great almost all day but summer is a long period of harsh light.  One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon in Bryce is to go for a hike after a late breakfast and rest. The afternoon light slowly fills the canyon with shadows and hiking is a perfect way to explore the different perspectives in the canyon.  I finish hiking an hour before sunset to give time to find a location.  The same could also be done driving to the end of the park, then returning an hour before sunset.

Sunset light over Bryce Canyon in Winter on a photography workshop.
Sunset light over Bryce Canyon and beyond.

I offer a full day workshop in Bryce Canyon to help you make the most of your day in Bryce Canyon.  It’s a wonderful landscape to learn about composition, light and exposure in all seasons.  For those who are more into hiking, Bryce is incredible for hiking and photography together.  I will share my tips and favorite trails as we spend the day exploring and creating.  I love this playful landscape and I see something new, in a new way, every single time.  Join me and come see for yourself why Bryce Canyon is a playground!

I offer these Private 1 on 1 workshops year-round and they’re tailored to your learning and needs.  This is my favorite way to teach and I hear it over and over, this is the best way to learn.  I hope to see you outside:)

A small collection of images made at sunset in Bryce Canyon National Park

All Private Series Workshops are 1-Day Workshops and based near Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.  Workshops may be combined over multiple days with custom locations upon request.

Sunset photography location in Bryce Canyon national Park.

Bryce Canyon 1-Day Workshop

You Choose the Date

Learn and create in stunning Bryce in this full day workshop. Combine this with Greater Zion workshop for the best value!

Zion at sunset reflected in a puddle on a Zion Photo Tour

Greater Zion 1-Day Workshop

You Choose the Date

Photograph the grand landscapes of Zion at sunset. Combine with the Bryce Canyon workshop for the best value.

Utah Photo Workshops and Photo Tours with Eric Erlenbusch.

Brian Head 1-Day Workshop

You Choose the Date

Escape the heat at 9600 feet! This landscape has so many hidden gems. Combine all 3 for an epic SW Utah experience!

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