Thor’s Hammer, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Capturing the majestic hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park is an amazing experience for any landscape photographer. One in the particular, the Thor’s Hammer, has captivated the imagination of generations, rising approximately 150 feet (46 meters) above the canyon floor. Part of the Claron Formation and consisting of predominantly limestone, it arose from a prehistoric lake 30 to 40 millions of years ago and has withstood millions of years of erosive forces in spite of its seemingly unstable structure.

A snowy Christmas Day's first rays of the sun grace the majestic hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park, including the iconic Thor's Hammer which rises approximately 150 feet (46 meters) above the sandstone floor. (Alexander Filatov)

“Thor’s Hammer Sunrise”


Best photographed in the early morning light, a sunrise image of the Thor’s Hammer is likely to be found in many portfolios of those who love the American Southwest. The photograph above was made on Christmas morning – I cannot think of a better way to spend it! The position of the sun varies widely throughout the year, with the sun rising in the left of the frame during the summer months.

Freezing cold starry Christmas Day's night in front of the Thor's Hammer, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. (Alex Filatov)

“A Midwinter Night’s Dream”


Having obtained the classic image, I wanted to capture the Thor’s Hammer in a way that has not been done by many. My fiancée and I braved the subzero temperatures and spent part of the early night in front of the ancient structure, attempting to capture that incredible, otherworldly experience. We felt no bigger or more significant than grains of sand when standing in the snow under the canopy of stars underneath massive ancient pillars.

Armed with a flash light and a warming gel, a bit of lightpainting during 30-second exposures generated just the kind of results I was looking for. It should be noted that lightpainting should be optimally done at approximately a 90 degree angle to the hoodoo in order to generate natural looking shadows; light painting straight on would yield suboptimal results. While in the photograph above, I attempted to minimize extraneous light on the rock so as to portray the scene in the most natural way, the image below really brings out the textures in the limestone and colors of the fading blue hour.

Starry Christmas night in front of Thor's Hammer, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. It was really the kind of moment one would remember forever - one cannot help but feel the presence of a higher power. (Alexander Filatov)

“Silent Night”


All images are ©2012 Alex Filatov Photography. All rights reserved.

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