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John_Morey_Photography

Essence And Substance



While photographing Upper Antelope Canyon, near Page Arizona, the light and space, along with the rock and wood, triggered a memory for me of something so well ...
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While photographing Upper Antelope Canyon, near Page Arizona, the light and space, along with the rock and wood, triggered a memory for me of something so well said by someone else: "In some photographs the essence of light and space dominate; in others, the substance of rock and wood, and the luminous insistence of growing things...It is my intention to present-through the medium of photography-intuitive observations of the natural world which may have meaning to spectators..." ~ Ansel Adams.

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lizziemellis PRO+
 
lizziemellis November 29, 2015
Inspirational, amazing shot.. enjoyed reading the information attributed to all your work, thank you for sharing:-)

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Behind The Lens

Location
While photographing Upper Antelope Canyon, near Page, Arizona, witnessing this scene where the essence of light and space dominate, coupled with the substance of rock and wood, triggered a memory for me of something so well said by someone else: "In some photographs the essence of light and space dominate; in others, the substance of rock and wood, and the luminous insistence of growing things...It is my intention to present-through the medium of photography-intuitive observations of the natural world which may have meaning to spectators..." ~ Ansel Adams. During certain times of day and year, the sun will position itself directly over the narrow and deep gap of this canyon allowing sunbeams accented by dust to occasionally shine through. During other times of the year, flash floods during Arizona's monsoon season sometimes causes this canyon to flash flood, and deposit debris in the most unlikely of places, as seen here. This is an Arizona icon and heavily photographed, but often the wind above does not force dust into the canyon as the sunbeams shine through, so most Navajo guides will throw sand into the air to make the sunbeam visible to visitors. That makes this a common scene, but the observant eye recognizes this trickery for those dust-beams can often look chunky, unbalanced, and not smokey-smooth, unlike this dust-beam, which is genuine.
Time
As a landscape photographer, there are many things I enjoy about photographing slot canyons, but one of the extra benefits of shooting in one is that you have something to do in the middle of the day, when everywhere else outside the Arizona sun has washed out colors and the heat threatens to burn your hair off. The temperature inside here gives great relief from the heat of the day, and sunbeams like this don't tend to happen till the sun is high overhead; typically a deal breaker for landscape photographers outside.
Lighting
The lighting in slot canyons such as Antelope is always all about how the curves of sandstone in the canyon go from extreme shadow to beautiful highlights. When I photograph here, it is always about honoring that light, just as it is, rather than attempt some tricky HDR. Pockets of light high above provide a constantly changing reflective quality, and occasionally break through small gaps above providing brilliant sunbeams accented by dust in the air. When photographing a sunbeam such as this, I let it be as bright and blown-out as it wants while I continue to honor the lighting in the rest of the space.
Equipment
Camera model:Canon EOS 60D Camera lens: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L Tripod: Giottos Tripod and ballhead Focal length:24 mm Exposure:6s at f/22 ISO: 100
Inspiration
It was difficult to get the inspiration to tour and photograph both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. For those that have been here, they know that there is nothing very peaceful or relaxed in this environment, because of the constant melee of Navajo guides and their many groups of 8-12 occupying the space at the same time. It is not uncommon on a busy Summer Saturday to be squished inside that canyon with a hundred other people, with the din of the guides arguing with each other or commanding instructions to their groups, while other guides yell at people to get out of the way of their group's picture taking, while yet another guide is throwing big scoops of sand in the air to cause the dusty sunbeam effect. Knowing this from the report of other photographers, I attempted for the longest time to never bother going here, instead touring other lovely canyons without all the people and getting my own natural sunbeams and peace. But after years of being asked if I had ever been here by my clients, like it might be a measure of how skilled I am, I finally gave up and decided to see it for myself, once. In end, it was all as I expected, but I was delighted to come back with this image and for having had the experience.
Editing
Very rarely does anything ever come out of the camera perfect without the need for some adjustment, but my post processing is always kept to a minimum. I did basic RAW edits, such as a little more contrast and shadow, reducing highlights a little for the sunbeam, and doing some sharpening and slight saturating. Lastly, I don't tend to like how cold the white balance can cause some slot canyon shots to look, so in camera I adjusted it a little warmer to show off the true colors better.
In my camera bag
I am an affiliate partner with Think Tank Photo, and because I use their harness and belt modular holster system, all my lenses and camera bodies are always with me, at my finger tips when needed. These days, you will always see me with a Canon 6D with f/2.8 24-70 and Canon 70D with f/2.8 70-200 always ready to shoot.
Feedback
As far as advice I can give to catch the same or similar scene. I recommend first talking to the tour company to find out when sunbeams are most likely to occur throughout the year and plan your trip with those dates in mind. In the case of this image, it was shot towards the end of July. Second, unless you are happy with an iphone tour where you are moved everywhere like cattle, break out your wallet and pay for the best photo tour they offer. You're guide will attempt to get you the best shots at the best times, while cell phone users in cheaper tours are constantly told to stay out of your way, while you get your one chance at the shot you came for. Lastly, for those familiar with Peter Lik's recent $6.5 Million sale of his image taken in this same location, titled "Phantom", I recommend you don't shoot it like he did, unless you understand why you are shooting it that way and choose to. If you have seen his image, the "phantom" shape in the sunbeam is a result of his guide throwing scoops of sand into the air, and Mr. Lik not letting the sand settle down completely before catching his shot. That makes for a chunky looking and unnatural sunbeam. I recommend waiting about 5 seconds after the sand is thrown before exposing, this way allowing only the dust in the air to be highlighted in a consistent beam from top to bottom. Or, if you are fortunate and it is windy outside, you might get your own naturally perfect dust beam. Of course the guides are there to help and who knows, if you shoot it too quickly, you might come home with your own "Phantom" and retire early.

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