Photographing Lon Sanders Canyon
Granite & Water
There is something about water and resilient rock that draws nature photographers from miles around. Sometimes, though, places can be "forgotten" or overlooked because they live in the shadows of more grandiose locations, like Johnson's Shut-Ins or Castor River Shut-Ins.
That appears to be the fate of the 130-acre conservation area in Wayne County, just outside of Piedmont, Missouri. Located on Mckinzie Creek there is a small section of shut-ins where the creek narrows and interacts with large chunks of granite.
The canyon is so close to the city limits of Piedmont that it could be considered a city park, but it is managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation, which acquired the location in 1988. The area holds the name of Lon Sanders because he was one of the "original" owners who tried to make the area into a resort. Most of the man-made features that were created during his ownership can still be viewed today, even though it is slowly weathering away.
Quick Stop .. Oh, Wait
As a nature photographer, I am guilty of rushing from scenic location to scenic location with my limited time. I usually visit just to the west of the Lon Sanders along the Current and Jacks Fork River and to the north along the St. Francis Mountain Range, which is home to pink granite and scenic overlooks, but there are times when I transition between the two areas and manage to visit Lon Sanders.
Usually this quick stop is at less than optimal time for photography. I took the short trail from the parking lot and walked up and down the canyon looking for compositions. Each time I knew there were areas to photograph, but the light was usually not right, so I would pack up and head to the next location to the west or north.
Recently, it was during one of these transition times, that a quick stop held me for well over two hours. I arrived in early May around 4pm and the light was harsh, but I was able to find some of the lower sections of the shut-ins that were in the shade. I positioned my camera low as I set up my gear on a large slab of granite that jutted into the water. I varied the angle and continued photographing for over 20 minutes.
As the time passed the shadows grew deeper and covered more of the canyon. So I ventured up the canyon to where an old dam gave life to a scenic waterfall. Over the years I had photographed this waterfall, but something always seemed off, either the lighting was wrong, the foliage was not right, or the water level was off.
That day as I positioned my camera at its widest angle and setup low to the water and the scene just seemed to leap off the camera. This was the scene that I had quickly passed by in the last decade as I ventured off to other photogenic places in the Missouri Ozarks.
As the light began to fade, I walked back to the parking area with my tripod over my shoulder, my camera in my hand, and the knowledge that I was blessed to be able to visit this shut-in when it revealed its natural beauty to the patient eye.
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. - James 3:13