|Upper Antelope Canyon, USA|
Two years ago, while traveling through Arizona and Utah, I had the opportunity to go to one of the most amazing places I've ever been to: the slot canyons near the town of Page, on the state of Arizona, near the Utah border. These canyons are best known to all the world as the Antelope Canyons (Upper and Lower), and are worth seeing even if you're not a photographer.
Both of these canyons are extraordinarily beautiful, specially around the middle of the day when the sunlight enters from the top and lights up the narrow canyon walls, at some times of the year creating light beams, due to the lit particles of sand in the air. Both are also extremely dangerous to visit on rainy days, as flash floods can occur and there is virtually no place to escape once we're inside the canyon. Both are also on the Navajo reservation, one on each side of the road. And you have to pay to visit them both. There was a time not so long ago when photographers could take photos of these marvels relatively alone and undisturbed, but now they have become a mandatory place for tourists. There is a difference, though, when approaching these canyons photographically. And I find it interesting that this difference also illustrates the differences in approach of several landscape photographers.
Upper Antelope Canyon can be visited only in a guided tour that leaves from Page. There is a normal 2 hour tour, or the 4 hour photo tour. These are often packed with people. I couldn't book a photo tour so I had to settle for the normal one. Take into account the time it takes to reach the canyon and you realize that you have only about 1 hour inside the canyon. Take into account that you don't have much light and you realize that your exposures are normally around 15 to 30 seconds. So during the hour I spent there I had to manage setting up the tripod, composing, taking some 15 to 30 second shots while avoiding the other tourists from passing in front of my camera for that time. And I had to move on from spot to spot to keep up with our tour guide... I was in trigger happy mode, and could barely pause to think about what I was doing.
|Lower Antelope Canyon, USA|
Lower Antelope Canyon can only be visited with a Navajo tour guide, but you are more or less free to be there for as much as you like (not exceeding 4 hours) and it's much less crowded. You don't have to follow the guide, he's just there to make sure everything is ok, and you can go back and forth on the canyon as you please, so you can take your time to compose and shoot the way you want. There are still people coming and going but if you ask them too, they won't stand in your shot or will wait patiently for you to finish exposing before passing by.
These two places are in a way symbolic of two ways of shooting a landscape. I've met photographers that exhibit a zen-link patience. They are extremely methodical, will choose a spot, and then wait patiently for that bit of light that they envisioned. I've also met people that shoot anything that moves (well not literally because most landscapes don't actually move that much, but you get the point). They will go to a spot take a few shots from various angles, then move on to the next spot and so on.
I'm still trying to figure out on which of these categories I belong. I don't believe one is necessarily better than the other. Each person is different, so maybe one photographer's personality makes him choose one approach over the other. What I try to do is choose what works best for getting my shots. In fact my time in the Antelope Canyons taught me to be flexible and learn to do both, depending on the circumstances I was facing. As with lots of things in life, flexibility is the key...
So which one are you ? Trigger Happy ? Or Zen Monk ?...