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(Instagram photo by @ytajik)

Instagram of the Month: Zion Narrows

Yasmin Tajik (on Instagram @ytajik) is a portrait photographer whose passion for travel has taken her in a new career direction. She brought her stunning images of Utah’s Zion National Park to photo producer Tyler Metcalfe’s attention by tagging her photos with #NatGeoTravelPic on Instagram.

Here’s a peek at how she managed to capture this winning shot:

Tyler Metcalfe: Where are you from? What is your background with photography?

I live in Las Vegas and have been a professional photographer for six years. Photography was a longtime hobby of mine; as I built up my skill level, I decided to start my own business. I worked a day job for four years while I grew my studio and clientele, then eventually quit and became a photographer full time. I primarily shoot portraits, including weddings, and now travel.

Based on your Instagram feed, you seem to be in a new place every week. Have you always traveled this much? What’s next on your bucket list?

I took my first international trip, to London and Pakistan, at the age of five, and grew up traveling both domestically and abroad with my family. I feel very fortunate that my parents taught me to value education and travel from a very early age. My parents immigrated to the United States from Pakistan and have a unique perspective on embracing and learning about different countries, cultures, and history. [I think that’s why] I strive to delve deeply into the inner workings of each place I visit.

Right now, because travel photography is a developing part of my business, I travel often with my own family and utilize that time to also work on my storytelling.

My bucket list is very long and I’m constantly adding to it. There really isn’t any country I wouldn’t visit because I am so curious about the world and how people live. At the moment the top five on my bucket list are India, Morocco, Nepal, Ethiopia, and Mongolia.

This image captures the grand scale of the Narrows. What brought you to Zion National Park? Had you been before?

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve lived in Las Vegas—a two-and-a-half-hour drive away—for the past 15 years, but only visited the park for the first time last October. What prompted my trip? I had taken an all-women photo trip to Thailand and bonded very well with the other participants. So I put together a mini-reunion trip for the ladies and showed them around Las Vegas and then we ventured up to Zion for a few days.

I had heard so much about hiking the Narrows and it was such a fantastic experience. One of the ladies who went to Zion with me last year decided to come back and visit the park with her family. I’m lucky that she invited me along so I could capture this photo.

Can you tell us about your experience in the Narrows? Do you have any tips for travelers looking to follow your lead?

The Narrows is really the highlight of the park and like nothing you’ll experience anywhere else in the world. The trail we took follows the Virgin River (yes, you actually walk in the river most of the hike!), which has carved out a gorge where the walls of the canyon can soar over 1,000 feet high above you on either side.

There are two options, both of which can be completed in one day. The Bottom Up hike, which does not require a permit, is an out-and-back hike through the prettiest colored walls and some of the narrowest parts of the canyon. The Top Down (permit required) is a strenuous 16-mile downstream hike that can be split into two days, if that’s preferable. Most trekkers opt for the Bottom Up route.

For anyone wanting to do this hike, proper clothing and footwear is essential to ensure a safe and pleasurable experience. You can rent gear from any of the local outfitters, including water shoes with strong ankle support, neoprene socks, a walking stick, and, if conditions are cold enough, dry pants or a dry suit. Make sure to be mindful of weather conditions, the water level and flow rate, and likelihood of flash floods before entering the canyon. I also suggest carrying items such as food, valuables, and camera gear in a dry bag to protect them from water.

The Narrows is such a unique and dynamic location to visit and hike, and each person who ventures out comes back with a big smile on his or her face—and with a story they will enjoy sharing for many years to come.

Tyler Metcalfe (on Instagram @TylerMetcalfe) is an associate photo producer on Nat Geo Travel’s digital team and manages the @NatGeoTravel Instagram account. 

Want to see one of your photos featured on Intelligent Travel? Tag your Instagram photos with #NatGeoTravelPic.