Catching an Arizona Sunset – Best of the West, Day 1

By Susan Snyder

This is day one of a series of six blogs about the AHPS workshop, “Best of the West”. Watch for day two on October 29th.

When you only have a week to photograph some of the most scenic places in the American Southwest, you book a Best of the West workshop with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes. With six iconic areas lined up and the Navajo Fine Arts Photographer, LeRoy DeJolie, as your instructor you know you are in for a great experience.

This particular workshop started in Sedona, Arizona, a place known for its red rocks and mystic energy. You have your camera equipment ready and are eager to get started. The first classroom session begins, and you think to yourself, “I already know my camera and how to take great photographs. I know I won’t learn anything new here.” Then LeRoy starts to tell you about the Zone system. What is this? A technique you have heard of before but never in a setting like this or in such detail. Your pen flies across the page of your notebook while you capture this intriguing information. Your first chance to put it to use will come later that afternoon during a Sedona sunset from the Airport road overlook.

Grey skies greet you as you climb out of the van at your destination. The hopes for a spectacular sunset diminish as the afternoon wears on into evening and the skies remain the color of steel. You console yourself by photographing the red rock mountains of the area, thinking you could change these photos to black and white to bring out the contrast between the clouds and ground. You wander here and there trying to find that perfect composition for the sunset that probably is not going to happen. Deciding to put into practice the lesson of the day, you set up with your camera facing west. Tripod and cable shutter release in place, you watch and hope for just a little sunlight to sneak through the barrier of clouds. Then it starts to happen. A little pink tinge on the underside of the heavy clouds. Then a bit more creeps up the clouds you are facing. Before you know it the whole underside of the clouds look like a wildfire that has just been waiting to roar to life. You snap pictures madly while trying to remember to check your images, your histogram and in which Zone you are. Luckily, LeRoy is there to make sure you are on track! Then, just as suddenly as it appeared, the light fades from the clouds and disappears into the encroaching night. Happily, you know you can checkmark “An Arizona Sunset” off your workshop to-do list with these images.

If this was just the first day of a week-long workshop, what else could be in store for you to see in the coming week?

Image by Bloom Photography

Susan Snyder is a Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.