Goblin Valley

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Stephen Fischer Photography

The main valley of the goblins is past the campground to the south just about 1/2 mile down the road. Here you will find a vast field of these fragile rock formations inside a relative large valley that extends to the south and east by at least a 1/4 mile.  Due to a ridge to the southeast and slight slope to the west, morning light photography will be slightly delayed, with the first and best opportunities in the northeast quandrant.  What I found on my first visit when there were literally no clouds, with the best strategy to start morning photography outside this valley to the east, which is more open to the first light of sunrise.  The more isolated "Three Goblin" formation as shown in image 2 on the first page is an example of this as shot at sunrise.  Due to the easterly ridgeline, without clouds by the time the sun illuminated the valley, the best light was already starting to disapper.  Image 3 was taken after first dropping into the valley under these conditions. On a separate morning with a slightly more overcast lighting, photography in goblin valley worked better in creating more subdued conditions.


Before sunset, I explored the southeast quadrant of the valley as it tended to be higher in elevation, thinking the light would last here the longest.  It is further away and thus less trampled, but finding good compositions ended up being trickier due to a more dense arrangement of goblins. Examples of these exposures are shown in images 12-15.  After my creative juices ran out in this area and right before sunset, I decided to try my luck back up at the southeast corner of the viewpoint area from the parking lot. From here I pulled out the 100-400mm telephoto and applied some photo-sniping compositional techniques from a distance.  Images 16 and 17 were taken under these circumstances at or just after sunset, while getting the benefit of some reflected lighting from a soft cloud layer that was forming above.


Trying something more creative, a nighttime composition was also captured of the Three Goblins with the milkway in the distance.  This was captured at ISO 6400 and 30 seconds with my Canon 5D mark III with a 14mm Samyang f/2.8 lens (since Canon still has not caught Nikon with their 14-24 f/2.8 ultra-wide) wide open.  The goblins were light painted with my headlamp to get a proper exposure on the foreground.  The results are shown in image 18.


I would recommend Goblin Valley to other photographers or budding geology enthusiasts as part of an intinerary through southern Utah.  But having a dynamic sky to add some color can be more important than ever due to the relatively open conditions of this landscape.


- Stephen Fischer





All content and images are property of Stephen Fischer Photography, copyright 2011-2013.   Last updated: 9/15/2013