Light and Darkness
The slot canyons around Page, Arizona is a mesmerizing place to visit. These slot canyons abound in photographic potential. Unfortunately, experiencing the slot canyons for serious photography is an opportunity lost. The crowds remind the visitor of a cattle stampede. Even when I paid extra for the so-called "photographic tour" we were still hurried along and permission to linger was refused. It seems, in my opinion, that the tribes in control don't understand that originally it was our images that brought the cash cow cattle stampede about in the first place. Since the crowds now flock to this green pasture, I suppose, great photographs are no longer needed.
Since I have written a previous blog on the slot canyons I am not going to talk about managing the experience and the photography here. When the crowds overwhelm the area it seems as though the only safe direction to shoot into is straight up. Try to avoid including the sky as the dynamic range will most certainly exceed what your camera can handle. You will either blow out the sky or have black sandstone formations.
This is a place to capture shapes, texture, and color. When shooting up into layers of rock it is difficult to create depth. The layers seem to be right on top of each other. We don't want our viewers wondering what on earth they are looking at. Another issue is not having any central focus of attention. We don't want the viewer's gaze to have to keep on searching unsuccessfully for an anchor point to come to rest at. So how do we create a bit of depth? How do we find a central focus point when it is just all rock? How do we capture the best shapes and textures?
We use light and darkness. You will remember from previous blogs that our eyes always go to lighter parts of the image and do not spend much time in the dark areas of the image. We can use that to lead the viewer. What we need is contrast, lots of it. We need dark areas and light areas. Ideally, we want the dark areas around the edges and bottom of the image and the lighter areas in the middle areas of the image. This draws the viewer into the image (depth). This keeps the viewer from wandering to the edges and out of the frame.
Also, understand that texture disappears with diffused light and lessens with light shining directly head-on. The best light for texture is light from a low angle or sidelight. Shapes also pop out nicely with directional light and diminish with diffusion and direct head-on light. Therefore, pick the angle you shoot at carefully to maximize texture and shapes.
Combining light and darkness with directional sidelight we can now pick out our compositions to create images that keep the viewer looking into the image for as long as possible.
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