I spent a week cruising through the Arizona desert about a month ago with a good friend, Chad Neufeld, chasing sunrises and sunsets that were pretty elusive. I was down there to specifically research the area for an upcoming workshop that I am going to be offering this upcoming summer with Dan Ballard in the Page and White Pocket areas. We will be co-instructing camera techniques, how to read light, find simplicity within all of the chaos we see in front of us and how to use our camera meters to expose properly in difficult lighting situations.
To find dramatic clouds and light (which I LOVE!) in this part of the country can be pretty challenging and we had limited time. After spending a couple of days in the Monument Valley area thwarted with zero clouds we made our way towards Page where we met our Native American guide, Lionel Bigthumb, who I had been in contact with to get us into the canyons. The difficulty with the Page area is you must have Native American guides to get you onto their land and in doing so you are ideally looking for a guide that is going to be knowledgeable about the area, professional and hopefully a great photographer to understand light and what you want as a photographer. Fortunately Lionel was just this and we spent the day in a private tour going in and out of different canyons, some which are exclusive to his company as his mother has land rights. This really offers an incredible opportunity for some pretty unique images in an area that is saturated with imagery.
One concept and key idea I was keeping in mind was simplicity within a cluttered zone. The Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are absolutely gorgeous and when standing and taking them in with the eye they look completely different than what you want to convey in your image. One thing I see consistently when viewing photographs is clutter and distracting elements that detract from the strength of the image. One way to achieve this is to isolate your subject and to do this you must start off by asking yourself, “What do I want to show/achieve with this image?” If you cannot do this immediately, sit back, take a breath and come back to it.
I chose to shoot this image with my telephoto lens and spot meter specifically for the brightest part of the image to add drama and also not over-expose or blow-out my highlights. In using the longer lens I was able to focus the eye within the frame to what I wanted to show the viewer – lines, texture, light, color and depth. When you’re in the caves and looking around all of this is apparent and inspiring – you smell the earth, hear the wind blow past you, sink in the sand as you walk; however, as a viewer at a computer screen or in a gallery, you must remember that the impact must come immediately and visually is your only asset.