A Photographer’s Eye: Upper Antelope Canyon

Behind Studio Doors

Our work takes us round the globe and means our team gets to seek out some of the world’s most stunning shoot locations. This series brings to life some of those unique spots, as our in-house creatives share some of their secrets on how best to capture them.

This piece focuses on Upper Antelope Canyon, located on the Navajo Indian Tribal Lands just east of Page, Arizona. Upper Antelope Canyon is a stunning example of a slot canyon, one of many that are scattered throughout the American Southwest. What makes it unique is that the canyon walls, while wide at the bottom, taper upwards towards the top allowing the sun to cast narrow beams of sunlight across the contours of glowing red rocks, carved and textured through thousands, possibly millions of years of erosion.

 

 

Playing with the light

Capturing the canyons is a skill and an art form as light is either extremely low or blindingly bright. While finding that perfect composition in the narrow confines of a canyon seems difficult enough, you also need to contend with making best use of the available light whilst avoiding direct sources of it that will blow out your shot.

 

Scale & depth

Wandering the canyon, I noticed slightly open areas where the contours of the walls narrow as they approach the entrance to the cave. Here the rocks are lit by the ambient light providing for a very manageable and even lighting situation. So with the tripod in place, and a wide angle lens set at a high f-stop, I shot to capture as sharp an image as possible in order to convey the scale and depth of the canyon.

 

A long exposure      

The long exposure time also gives opportunities to play with blurred motion. Here I had the ability to add a blurred figure by capturing someone walking into the shot resulting in a composition that creates a sense of scale while not overtaking the subject of the shot – the canyon itself.

 

And in post…

Colours are naturally vibrant out of camera, however I found my shots slightly cool and in need of a bit a warmth in temperature to reflect the true colours of the canyon. The tone curves also required a bit of balancing, bumping up the dark tones, while pushing down the light tones. As a final touch, the sharpening was nudged up to give the shots that little bit of pop.

 

By Alex Chan – Designer & Creative Strategist at Studio Black Tomato