Colors of Lower Antelope Canyon, AZ Thursday, Jul 21 2011 

While I was looking for more photos to post from our trip to Zion National Park, I kept running into some scans from rolls of medium format Fuji Velvia film that I shot in 2009. That year, John, Tyler and I were joined by Scott Jones in our adventures throughout the American Southwest. One of the most satisfying destinations was Lower Antelope Canyon, near Page, Arizona.

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Even if you don’t bring a camera, this stretch of real estate is amazing to behold. It’s a tight slot canyon carved over eons by sand and water, which inexorably pushed through the layers of sandstone. The Lower is much more difficult to navigate than the nearby Upper Antelope Canyon; there are several places where steel ladders were installed to assist the hikers.

The light comes from many dozens of feet above and it is generally reflected back and forth off canyon walls. This brings out a wide palette of colors, which is what this photo attempts to show. There are the fiery oranges where the light is more direct, but as the canyon walls deepen, so do the shades of red and even purple.

Regardless of what I said a few paragraphs earlier, you need to bring a camera here (I brought three!). You also need a tripod, but most of all, bring your sense of focus. It’s easy to get lost in the majesty of this place and snap away. Many of my shots were lost to lens flares or poor composition. And yet, this one stood the test of time – nearly thirty months later, I still find joy in looking at this image.

Note: My Flickr gallery has a few more shots from the Lower Antelope Canyon (“Straight Up“, “Lower Antelope Canyon“), and quite a few more from the Upper Antelope Canyon (“Spotlight“)

Virgin River, Zion National Park Friday, Jul 1 2011 

On our first full day at Zion National Park, Tyler and John and I wanted to take another stab at the Emerald Pool Lakes trail. We had done it a few years ago, but felt we could come back and get some good photos on it. While the jury is still out on some of those photos, after we came back down to the valley, we had time to kill before sunset, so we went to the Riverwalk Trail, at the very end of the canyon.

Record snowfall has turned Virgin river into a raging torrent, much like what we saw in Yosemite a year ago. At the end of the Riverwalk trail is the start of the Narrows, for which Zion is famous for, but the Narrows trail was closed because, well, there was no trail, only a river.

Virgin River

Virgin River

So we took a leisurely stroll, taking our sweet time setting up our gear in between the children and squirrels and other critters roaming around us. With no direct sunlight inside the canyon, we were trying to look at unusual scenes that you wouldn’t normally notice if you looked for grand vistas and bold scenes.

This was shot on Kodak Ektachrome 100 slide film with my medium format Mamiya 645 1000s camera, and, while I had some nice results with this film before, this was just flat and boring. I loved the composition, and the watery blur was in a perfect balance between a milky artificial look and the instant snapshot. There was depth there, and content, but the colors just didn’t work. This was a “maybe”, and that’s how I presented it to Tyler.

Virgin River, before Tyler-ification

Virgin River, before Tyler-ification

He made a few subtle adjustments, some of which are beyond my scope as a digital artist. He made some color enhancement – there was a lot of reflected blue light from the sky, and the green trees now look a lot better against the red canyon walls. He also encouraged the shadows and made the highlights behave. I’m posting the main photo the way he edited it, with the “before” image (direct slide scan) posted smaller, for comparison.

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