After a few days of fun shooting in Page on a recent workshop trip with Rod Barbee, we moved on over to Kayenta for a few days in Monument Valley and the surrounding environs. On our first night, we were planning on shooting from the visitor center area. Generally I’m not a fan of ever taking images from the visitor center. It’s just lame frankly as a landscape photographer to hop out of the car and set up the tripod. However, Monument Valley might be the exception. In these rare acceptable cases, one should ask oneself “How am I going to make a different image than every other person who’s shown up at sunset for this classic composition?” For me, this is always a fun if slightly frustrating challenge. Fun if I get it right, frustrating if it looks like everything else ever snapped there. I used a recently purchased ten stop neutral density filter to add some movement to the clouds and locked in the shutter with my cable release for six minutes. That covered the exposure for the clouds, for the mittens I removed the ND filter to catch the last few rays of the sun catching the tops as things were a little dark in the foreground and I had the intention of bracketing two exposures and combining them in post. This is a neat trick to change the feel of an image, for me it echoes the timelessness of the place. It also softens the colors as they blend across one another. When trying something like this, don’t let your LCD make you chimp out experimental shots. Look at them in post please. You have a lot of pixels there to work with and memory cards are cheap these days.
This might make me sound like I had this all planned out as well. I didn’t. I had no idea what I was going to do or for that matter how I was going to do it. Big landscapes have always been elusive targets for me. I thought I had “IT” just as we arrived. A raven was perched on a rock for an inordinate amount of time, patiently waiting for me to get the camera out of the bag and frame him between the mittens. Sweet, something totally different and I’m gonna get this handheld and win awards…… right! I hit the trigger button only to discover that I was still on the delayed timer since I was too lazy earlier in the day to get out my cable release and hadn’t switched the settings back. As if laughing at me on cue, off he flew squawking away. Yep, it happens to everyone. My message here is not to give up and keep shooting. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t and frustration is just part of puzzle.