Zion National Park Is Changing the Rules Again for 2019

Zion National Park Is Changing the Rules Again for 2019

Zion National Park caused an uproar among photographers in January of this year when it came to light that photography workshops operating within the park were restricted to using tripods in paved areas and pullouts only. Within two weeks of that initial response Zion had reversed a part of those restrictions. With 2019 fast approaching, there're even more changes coming for photography workshops and their participants.

Earlier this year, Fstoppers confirmed that Zion National Park had limited the use of tripods to only paved areas and pullouts for commercial photography workshop operators and their attendees within the park. After the reporting went somewhat viral within the photographic community, Zion reversed part of their decision and added the Pa’rus Trail to the acceptable areas for tripod use when attending photography workshops within the national park. This was a valuable first step for commercial photography workshops in 2018 to engage in the conservancy discussion with Zion and the National Park Service. With the renewed discussions and input from the businesses operating in some of the most delicate areas of the park and who are many times additional eyes and ears for park personnel, it seems Zion National Park has been very open with the dialogue and listening to the criticisms while evaluating their expectations for 2019. With regard to photography workshops operating in one of the most sought-after areas in the park, The Narrows, Zion is allowing tripod use for workshops for next year in 2019. 

The usage will be evaluated throughout next year by the National Park Service for impact on the area and balancing the concern that other visitors traveling in the same area at similar times may have a negative effect for both visitors and commercial groups. Finding a balance between times of day and group size recommendations is what Zion National Park is attempting with the clarifications in the 2019 Commercial Use Authorization operators letter. This is a great way to increase discussions and additionally, a valuable way to balance conservancy and usage in The Narrows area while demonstrating how impacts can be mitigated through thoughtful and consistent communication between the NPS and commercial operators. 

I’ve always regarded photographic workshop operators as a group of individuals who very directly understand the value of leaving little impact on the areas they visit while maintaining a consistent dialogue with the park personnel to work together to conserve these areas year after year. These values are taught to the individuals within the workshops and explained in a way many of us value: that we need to conserve these areas now so others can appreciate them in the future. Whether it’s for tomorrow or for our children decades from now, conservation is a tenant of anyone who works within and with the national parks. 

Lead Image by Pixabay, used under Creative Commons.

JT Blenker's picture

JT Blenker, Cr. Photog., CPP is a Photographic Craftsman and Certified Professional Photographer who also teaches workshops throughout the USA focusing on landscape, nightscape, and portraiture. He is the Director of Communications at the Dallas PPA and is continuing his education currently in the pursuit of a Master Photographer degree.

Log in or register to post comments

Years ago, I went on a few photography workshops. Conservancy wasn't mentioned in any shape or form. That's not to say some, or even most, don't. Just that it needs to be monitored as the Park folks intend to do.

Some photographers ruin it for everyone else. There was a well known Profoto photographer who went to Iceland to the moss fields and just trashed it. It will take about 200 years to repair the damage he caused.

The biggest hassle with Zion is the forest of selfie sticks ....

They take our most beautiful lands, blast out the mountains, add miles of pavement and say they are preserving the land. They block people from entering unless they pay money. Then they have the gall to tell us we cant use tripods?? Such incredible hypocrites! There should be a class action lawsuit!! I wont obey this stupid rule ever.

Do you not see the irony of suggesting a lawsuit and then stating you won't obey the rules? :-/

the generation that build said roads was different from today. I doubt what took place in ZNP would take place today. We have to deal with the fact the road was built and gives people access to so many places that would otherwise remain untouched. The fact there is a road there already doesn't mean we need to start building five star hotels on top of those rocks to because we may as well complete the trashing.

appreciate the road for what it is and what it brings. it is no excuse to not follow rules to protect the very place you're there to photograph. If everybody had that attitude, then there wouldn't be anything there worth looking at but a wasteland of cheap hotels just like the town just outside the park.

Who exactly is "they"?

Some national parks have lost my interest due to the promotion of visitors which has lead to these rules...visitors bused in with no regards for the land have ruined YNP and many others. Long timers running (Working for the Park District) these parks think the land is sacred alright but only for them.

The yearly changing of the rules of a National Park turned into an outdoor Museum is what they have done, I agree with most but having to pay to be in a workshop that got a permit from the park to ease some of the rules. Come on visitors ruined the freedom in the parks ,but not the visitors themselves in small numbers but the millions of people that are meagerly tariffed to visit all to support the administrators and the employees. Charge a fee commiserate with 2020 and then lets see who enters.

"I’ve always regarded photographic workshop operators as a group of individuals who very directly understand the value of leaving little impact on the areas they visit"

what? You should see what they did in arches by setting stuff on fire and what not. There may be some better apples there but considering how badly daily visitors behave, I imagine the operators of these tours were even worse for the standard is quite low already.

people are literally loving the national park system to death.

I've seen several members of a workshop completely block a trail with tripods and then complain when I tried to get by. I had to go off the trail to pass them. I've seen large workshop groups with tripods so crowd an area that it diminishes the experience for other visitors. I've also seen workshops where everyone was courteous. A ZNP visit is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many visitors. As long as workshops remember and respect that, I'll support their right to use tripods anywhere.

"I’ve always regarded photographic workshop operators as a group of individuals who very directly understand the value of leaving little impact on the areas they visit" I don't. Fstoppers yourselves showed a video where in Ireland Patrick put the tripod outside of the barriers left by the local council. I've seen Nick Page doing the exact same thing on his workshop, on the exact same spot. It's not just for people's safety it's also to prevent erosion. A lot of photographers on Youtube go out of their way to put the tripod as close as possible to the edge, and that must be what pissed off rangers in Zion. You destroy the vegetation, make the rock slicker and more dangerous. Just stop going right to the edge. Stay on the trails. The issue with tripods is probably the holes they leave in the ground, disturbing insects, burrowing mammals and vegetation. Not to mention the photographer himself, trampling the ground around his tripod, waiting for the sun to rise, or set, or for his long exposure to be over. So when on their own videos pro photographers show a bad example, I don't expect amateur photographers to be wiser...

But regarding Zion itself, it's an overrated place. I love observation point, but angel's landing is just for adrenaline junkies. And the park itself is very difficult to photograph. For photography, somewhere like Canyonlands, Arches, or Capitol Reef offer more variety. Too many people go to Zion just for a day it's ridiculous. And how many visit Kolob Canyons ? A few % maybe ? Also, people overestimate national parks themselves. I'm going to Colorado soon and the advice from local was unanimous : the best areas are outside the national parks. So in the end tourists are invading national parks, missing on great stuff outside the parks. The scenery doesn't change just coz you cross the boundary of a park. It's sometimes true, like Joshua Tree, or Great Sand Dunes, but in most mountain parks it's not. Grand Teton continues outside the park,same for Yellowstone, Glacier, Acadia, etc...