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Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve

November 19, 2009

Autumn Willows and Cottonwood

The Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve is an oasis in the desert near Moab, Utah.  Owned by the Nature Conservancy and jointly managed with the Utah Department of Wildlife, the 200 acre preserve stands in stark contrast to the dry desert surrounding it.  Spring snowmelt swells the Colorado River, whose waters rise above the banks to flood the preserve.  A wooden walkpath loops for one mile through a lush forest of cottonwoods, willows, bulrush and cattails.  Beavers, mule deer, river otters, skunks and even the occasional mountain lion roam the wooded area in search of shade and nourishment.

Photographers who come to Moab are usually focused on bagging trophy photos of icons like Delicate Arch, Dead Horse Point or Green River Overlook.  Nothing wrong with that.  Icons become icons for good reason.  Big, bold landscapes create national parks and attract people from around the world.  But for those seeking an entirely different experience, one marked by solitude and croaking frogs rather than hordes of tourists, head off the beaten path.  Moab reveals an entirely different side to photographers willing to forego the icons for quiet, intimate moments in nature.

Boardwalk and Fallen Leaves

A walk through the Preserve on an overcast autumn day presents endless opportunities for intimate landscape photography.  Yellow leaves and grey/blue trunks can be used to create graphic semi-abstract images.  Thick foliage overhanging the weathered wooden boardwalk invites the viewer to go for a walk.  Use longer lenses to extract interesting scenes out of the bigger picture.  Think even smaller and photograph a collection of colorful leaves scattered about on the ground.  The Preserve includes a wildlife blind that affords views of mule deer and other wildlife easily photographed with a moderate telephoto lens.  As you stroll the boardwalk keep your mind open to all creative opportunities.  You may miss something on the way in only to be delighted by it on your way out.

Cottonwood Intimate

To make the most of your time at the Preserve bring a tripod, polarizing filter and a lens assortment ranging from 35mm to 400mm.  Super wide angle lenses won’t get much of a workout here.  You can’t go wrong with macro lenses and/or extension tubes.  Think small.  Think abstract.  Think creatively.  You will surely enjoy the respite from the hustle and bustle of the parks.  You might even create a one of a kind image to share with friends who will incredulously respond, “That’s Moab?!”

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