Slot Canyon and Hoodoos, Oh My! – Best of the West, Day 4

By Susan Snyder

This is day four of a series of six blogs about the AHPS workshop, “Best of the West”. Watch for day five on November 10th.

It’s here! The day you’ve been looking forward to most on this workshop: Secret Canyon – a beautiful slot canyon.  You’re up early to pick a few photos for the image critique this morning.  You know that you’re supposed to bring the photos that you want help with, but you sneak one or two in there that you are proud of just for good measure.  After the critique you get your gear and head to the vans with your anticipation mounting.  Slot canyons, our instructor LeRoy DeJolie has told you, are best photographed at mid-morning to almost noon.  He tells you that you want the sunlight to filter down into the canyon and it does that best when it’s right overhead.  So, you and your now 15 best photographer friends pile into this amazingly wide and open-air vehicle to travel to the canyon.  Then after a short hike you’re at the entrance.  The walls start to tower above you as you slide your way past the outcroppings below.  You follow on the heels of the photographer in front of you just trying to absorb the energy and mystique of this place that the winds and sands of time have created.

To photograph this place in all its glory, you’ll have to use the high-dynamic range technique once again which means putting to use your tripod and shutter release cable to keep everything steady, along with LeRoy’s suggestion of using a polarizer.  But wait, you think to yourself, polarizers are used in bright sunlight, right?  When you apply the polarizer in the slot canyon you can extend your exposure time and really get the definition and colors within the shadows, while retaining the same features in some of the brightest areas.  Some of your exposures are 8 seconds long!  You and your fellow photographers spread out in the canyon and photograph from as many angles as possible. You wish you could spend the entire day here, but you only have two hours.  It’s the best two hours you could imagine, and you leave happy and satisfied with what you’ve captured.

After lunch you have some time to review your slot canyon images and get some rest because sunset tonight will be at the Toadstool hoodoos in Sagers, Utah. A hoodoo is a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland. The Toadstools are a grouping of hoodoos, that resemble their namesake, mushrooms, in appearance. The hike into the area is about a mile and a half and quite rocky.  Here, you’re not required to use a tripod although it does have some advantages when you want to utilize the HDR technique once again and again use the polarizer before the sun sets.  You wander around this amazing area feeling a little like Alice in Wonderland.  The tall hoodoos surround you and the landscape is otherworldly in appearance.

However, the clouds are few and far between, and they don’t seem to want to group up for sunset.  While the landscape is dramatic, the sunset tonight won’t be, and it’s decided that you will leave before it gets dark.  This seems like a great idea to get back to the hotel and take advantage of more rest because tomorrow you head to one of the most scenic places on the schedule, Monument Valley Tribal Park.  The very place that Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keeffe and Annie Leibovitz have inspired generations of photographers, including you.

Susan Snyder is a Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.