Discovering photography and vision on the river

 By Matt Lit, photographer and photography educator

Setting camp the first night a mere few miles downstream from where we launched, I sensed this would be a unique river experience. After all, on other canoe trips I’ve done on this stretch, we’d paddled as much as 15 miles or so before camp. And here we were just a few miles downstream in Labyrinth Canyon, on the Green River, in Utah.

Halfway through the second day, I knew for sure. This was not going to be like any river trip I’d paddled on. This was about exploration by boat. I let go of the urge to rush, let out a breath and took in the view. We had yet to even enter the towering red walls of the canyon when Tom Martin pulled over to shore, again to examine mining ruins and Indian markings on the wall.

Exploring by boat. It would prove itself to be a new and wondrous approach to paddling.

Tom and his wife Hazel Clark had invited me to paddle this 68-mile stretch with them as he documented this stretch for his new river map guide on the Colorado and Green rivers. I told Tom I would photograph and document the experience.

I was not accustomed to doing photography on the river, as my prior trips had been a vacation from photography. Not anymore!

This is a fascinating stretch of the Green River. Labyrinth gets its name from John Wesley Powell’s 1869 trip due to its meandering course. It was a respite for him and his crew compared to the tumultuous waters miles upstream and what awaited them when it rejoined the Colorado River. Following his paddle strokes and exploring sections his group explored was a great connection to this river’s history.

The first miles of Labyrinth are mostly private lands with no shortage of areas to explore along its shores. It is when the canyon walls begin to rise that its true beauty becomes evident. Towering layered sandstone casts a ruddy glow as you slip between the walls. The flow is calm and perfect for practicing paddling techniques and handling a camera in your canoe. Within a day I had readjusted my camera case setup and was able to quickly access and stow my Nikon with a telephoto zoom lens.

An abundance of birds and river mammals made for great subjects during the day. Evenings were spent photographing along the shore and setting up for star trail photography. Additionally, photographing Tom as he explored made for an all-encompassing photography experience.

The trip redefined my photography and vision and has made photography an integral part of my experience on the river and in my canoe. Join me and guide, Lauren Bond Kovsky, and let us help you awaken your love of the river and photography.

Book your trip now

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