Navajolands and People – An Amazing Journey to an Award Winning Photo

Author: Ken Brown

Navajolands” with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops is the trip of a lifetime ! There are so many components to this adventure, and in addition to understanding and exploring key places and activities of Native American history and people, there are exciting photographic opportunities at every turn…

For me personally, I walked away with both a huge increase in knowledge of the Navajo culture, and a major award winning photo – my first in 40+ years of photography.

_DSC2073r2We started off the workshop with a Navajo model shoot, up on a hilltop at sunset. This concept of combining location, landscape, and people is a common thread in this workshop and provides so much more than “just” the landscape photo. Leroy DeJolie is truly expert at combining these elements, and gives freely and openly with his experience and teaching.

Here’s my own hilltop, sunset image, of a previous “Miss Navajo” award winner.

It was a lovely day, and with Leroy’s guidance, the participants used a reflector or their own off camera flash, to expose for the model and for the background. Learning techniques like this, mixing lighting, was part of the instruction.

In my case, this image also ended up being used by AHPW for their own advertising purposes. Students do occasionally have their images _DSC2717-2used (with their permission and with photo credits of course), so this is a great way to find yourself in print.

We spent several days after the shoot exploring Canyon de Chelly. A truly iconic location, photographed extensively by Ansel Adams. We had an opportunity to follow in his footsteps, see what he saw, and try to capture our own vision of this amazing location.

We had a cloudy and slightly rainy day, which just added to the atmosphere, and really allowed us to better capture the colors of the rock. We didn’t mind the rain at all, and walked through the drops.

Here’s a scene that you might recognize, one that Ansel Adams had perfected.
What a feeling to follow in his footsteps…

During our exploration of Canyons de Chelly, our local Navajo tour guides shared _DSC2651-2lots of history and stories of their culture and people. One of our guides had particular expertise, and we had a live demonstration crafting hand made stone arrowheads.

We then decided to make an impromptu stop in the Canyon to visit a local Navajo woman who hand weaved rugs. What was really unique about her craft is that she managed the entire process herself, including raising the sheep that would supply the wool. They were curious about our cameras and posed quite nicely for us.

What a great way to end our visit to the Canyon.

Then we loaded up the van and headed to Window Rock to spend _DSC2461-2several days at the yearly Navajo Fair. Having Leroy, a local Navajo, as the Photography leader of our group gave us unparalleled access to the Fair. We were able to get everywhere, behind the scenes, and right up close and personal into all of the events. As you know with any event photography, having this type of access presents opportunities that would be completely impossible under other conditions, and being in the right place, at the right time, in the right venue, was what ultimately helped my capture my award winning image. I’ll tell you all about it in the next Blog on “Navajolands and People”. But if you – want to learn more about the Navajo culture, see and photograph iconic locations and people, and have your own opportunity for award winning photos, this is the workshop for you !!


Ken Brown is a portrait and nature photographer and an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop Trip Leader.