Page: Land of Photographic Wonders – Best of the West, Day 3

By Susan Snyder

This is day three of a series of six blogs about the AHPS workshop, “Best of the West”. Watch for day four on November 5th.

You roll into Page in the early afternoon.  Get checked into your hotel room and actually unpack your bags a little because you get two whole days in Page!  Will it be enough?  You don’t have much time for a rest, however, as sunset is once again approaching and you get to capture it at Horseshoe Bend today.  Horseshoe Bend is part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, upstream from the Grand Canyon.  To the east of the canyon, the Colorado river has carved the stone into the shape of a horseshoe. This is a place where the clouds would be welcome at sunset as long as they aren’t too thick and could add drama to the scene like they have for the past couple of days.  However, when you arrive there isn’t a cloud in the sky, but boy is it windy!

Walking along the edge of the precipice, you are on the lookout for the scene you want to portray in your images. You see the wind is rippling the water of the Colorado river causing the sun to glint playfully across the surface.  You wonder what you are going to do about the bright sun, cloudless blue sky and the dark canyon below and how you can incorporate all of that into a single image. Our instructor, LeRoy DeJolie suggests that you use a graduated neutral density (ND) filter and the high dynamic range (HDR) technique.  You find your spot among the many spectators that are here with you to watch the sun slide beneath the horizon.

In order to use the HDR technique you know you must use your tripod and cable shutter release.  You get that set and put your graduated ND filter in place.  The graduated filter is an optical filter that has variable light transmission, typically one side is darker than the other to allow you to properly expose both the foreground and sky in uneven lighting conditions.  Coupling this with the HDR should allow you to capture everything properly exposed.  The high dynamic range technique consists of using a series of images that are underexposed, properly exposed and overexposed according to the histogram and combining them together using post-processing software to get a single image with everything properly exposed.  In this situation, you’ve decided to use a 3-image series for your final image as the sun moves quickly and you need to catch it.

Just at the moment when the sun starts to dip below the mountains in the west, you capture the burst of light through your camera lens and the rays beam down into the canyon helping to illuminate the walls of the canyon closest to you.  The sun sets quickly from that point on and blue light fades to purple while you make your way back to the van and dinner at a local restaurant.

It’s a good thing you get to sleep in a bit tomorrow because one of your photography bucket list items is on the agenda for tomorrow, a slot canyon.  How are you ever going to sleep knowing you’re only hours away from photographing your first slot canyon?

Susan Snyder is a Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.