Saturday, October 6, 2012


On Saturday, September 29, Jeff, Bei, Geri, and I headed down to south central Utah for a three-day hiking trip.  Our first stop was to be Little Wild Horse Canyon, a popular slot canyon located near Goblin Valley State Park.  I was pretty excited because I had seen a lot of stunning photos taken in slot canyons and I was fantasizing that I could get some of those same shots myself.  Not as easy as I thought it would be, but the hike was amazing and a lot of fun.

The canyon is located about 240 miles south of Salt Lake City, so we had a long ride to get there.  The fall colors were peaking at this same time, so there was a lot of beautiful scenery a long the way.  We were anxious to get to the hike by mid-day, so we minimized our stops to take photos of the scenery.  I took the following shot out a side window, while we were on the move.

This was purely serendipitous, as I was hoping to minimize the motion blur when I took the shot.  When I saw the impressionistic look to the shot, I took a few more, but none of the others came out as well--either too much blur or not enough.

Before going on the hike, I had looked up some tips on taking photos in slot canyons.  One of the keys was to try to shoot at mid-day.  This seems to be counter to the usual advice to the effect that the best light is during the hours just after sunrise and just before sunset.  However, sunlight has difficulty getting into slot canyons and the best time really is when the sun is most nearly overhead.  A second tip is that the range in the amount of light in a slot canyon can be very great.  So the the advice is that one should avoid letting any sky into the shot, since it will be "blown out."  Likewise, one should avoid, where possible, shooting any surfaces that are bathed in direct sunlight.  In other words, one should focus on shooting surfaces that are lit by reflection off one or more other surfaces--second or third hand light.  One also should be prepared for long exposures, so a tripod should be in order.

Well, those are the recommendations, which are very good.  But the reality was that we did not get to the canyon until after the best light, so our chances of getting "award winning" shots were much diminished.  Even so, I brought a tripod (which Jeff was kind enough to carry), although I did not use it for many shots--too much rigamarole.  I will have to say also that, while the canyon was stunning, there were perhaps fewer opportunities than might have been available in certain other locales.

My early efforts were to try to capture both the narrowness of the canyon as well as the indirect light illuminating the canyon walls.  Here is one of those attempts.

OK, but I realized that it might help to have one or more people in the photo, as in the following shot.

Here are a couple more people shots that give a good feel for the narrowness of the canyon, as well as the texture of the rocks.

The canyon included a great deal of interesting rock formations caused by the erosion forces that created the canyon over time, and I took a great number of shots attempting to capture those formations.  Here is one of those shots.

Nice, but again I think it was even more powerful to include people in the shot.  Here is essentially the same shot that included Geri, Jeff, and Bei.

And here is another "people" shot featuring Geri and Bei.

Over time I decided that simpler might be better in terms of shooting the rocks.  In a lot of the shots, rather than trying to capture the narrowness of the canyon, I focused to some extent on the patterns that the rocks were creating.  Following are a few examples of that.

Here is a shot of a fairly straightforward rock face that was nicely positioned to bring out its character.

Besides, there was enough light to allow me to get a shot with good resolution.

The following shot has the advantage that it features an overhang in the upper right that adds depth to the composition.

Here are a few shots that are perhaps overly simple, but they at least do a fairly good job of capturing some of the "slot canyon" light.

I do like the simple curved line in this last shot.

And here are a few more shots in which I was just trying to take advantage of the texture offered by the rock and the light.

The following is probably my favorite of the shots I took in the canyon.

The light is quite good, which shows off the grain and texture of the rock.  The piece of the path also helps to provide context to the composition.

The canyon is some 3-1/2 miles long and we decided to hike to the "end" and then return.  On the way back to the car we passed a lovely tree on the trail that I took a shot of.

Pleasantly tired, we then headed to Hanksville where we had dinner (not so good) and stayed at a very modest motel (also not great). On the way we stopped briefly, and I took the following shot of a fence post, a shot that I--but no one else in the family--liked.

At dusk I took the following shot of a distant mountain range.  I like this shot for its extreme simplicity.  The only problem was unavoidable utility lines.

Taken with my Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 24-120 mm f/4 lens.

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