Our Navajo guide guns the engine, and we all feel the torque of the low gear push us like a rocket booster up and over steep and tilting rocks. The guides constantly wrestle their steering wheels while feathering the gas pedal. The task at hand is getting the 4×4 Chevy Suburbans across soft expanses of sand in ruts so deep they would trap most any car.
The driver spins the wheel quickly and we all twist around a bend of sandstone on a path that’s barely as wide as the Suburban. It’s a ruckus ride. One you’ll never forget.
In a lurching change of direction we suddenly descend an unexpected pitch. The very last moment of the journey, finally, unveils the glory of one of the most distinctive of all Navajo sacred landscapes.
The view of Monument Valley from the top of Hunts Mesa is stunning—beyond belief!
We hurriedly unpack our camera bags from the trucks. A whir of zippers is opening up camera bags. Cameras are being readied. Sharp clicks abound from tripod legs being extended. There’s a hollow clack of a lens shade being twisted and then snapping into place. And, then, the utter disbelief of what’s before our eyes.
It’s easy to fall into a vacuum of visual overwhelm and start taking photos like there’s no tomorrow. But wait. Slow down. Pause for a moment. The view below reveals sand dunes and rock formations, shapes and shadows that fill the gaps between colors warm and cold, horizontal lines imbedded in the sedimentary rock layers contrast with long vertical black streaks of runoff, when it rains.
Stop, and breathe. Take it in slowly. Smile at your good fortune and let your mind open up to what it’s experiencing. Breathe it in, breathe it out.
The sun is still an hour away from setting—you have time to continue to comprehend where you have landed. There is a lot to take in. Everywhere. Beneath you feet the rounded sandstone tells stories of shallow oceans and drifting sand dunes, stories of wind, water, and time. Growing from the bedrock are hardy, drought-tolerant junipers and small bushes. A wide shelf of angled rock separates you with cliffs dropping away hundreds of feet to the floor of Monument Valley and its collection of towering formations.
Imagine being there. You signed up for the Spectacular Southwest workshop, April 16-20, 2020, and now you’re there. Working in the field with an instructor. You’re there, with your camera and inspiration, to succeed in capturing the essence of the Southwest. You’re the artist, and the instructor is your guide, a hands-on helper, and mentor.
As your eyes slowly wander the horizon you see sandstone protrusions that fascinate your visual curiosity. Your attention goes to the sharpest point in any scene. It’s our caveman sense for danger.
A sharp point is a possible source of pain or death. The effect still works on our modern mind, too. Our eye goes to the sharpest point on the horizon or in a scene. Use that to anchor your composition. Place it carefully in the frame for poetic impact. Keep the point of interest from getting cramped up in a corner or too close to an edge.
We’ll teach you how to frame your compositions to take us on a visual journey into the various layers of a scene. We’ll play with patterns and contrasts including size, direction, and texture. We find the rhythm for the darks and lights, where nothing is too dominant. You’ll simplify the number of elements that you include; using fewer elements makes the ones that you select more important.
Then, we suggest a visual pathway of elements to lead the eye. Migrate your attention, such as from the lower left corner of the foreground in the photo above, and connect the various rock formations with a visual momentum, taking the eye along an arcing path that reaches the point of intrigue breaking the horizon. Carefully choose a place to finally land the eye, resting on a point of punctuation.
I believe learning should be fun and engaging. In our workshops you get an opportunity to immerse in your creativity for several days with a small group of other motivated photographers. Every one will have their own way of seeing the world and ultimately their own creative style. What we all share is the adventure of feeling alive with enthusiastic moments of learning. Grow in your ability to plan, capture, and edit your images. Nina and I are eager to guide you to special places in the majestic beauty of the American Southwest!