Photography in slot canyons is cool. There is a lot of brown rock that, when shot correctly, produces images of amazing color. Many years ago we visited a slot canyon called, “Canyon X”. I have no idea why it is named so, as there is no “X” anywhere nor does it mark a spot. Anyway, we visited it and had a fantastic time shooting the rocks, looking at our images on the camera display, and marveling at the results. Woohoo, it was great. Note that there is no written record of this visit as it predates our blog. I checked.
With so many great memories of our initial visit, we were anxious to go back to recreate some of our images. And create many new ones. We are much better photographers now, so it should be easy to improve upon what we had done. But, what sounds easy is not always so.
Problem 1: Less Than Optimal Lighting.
The best time to shoot a slot is during mid-day when the sun is directly above. The light comes down, bumping around the rocks, refracting like crazy. It was that way on our first visit, giving us great images. This time, the sun forgot to show up, hiding behind one cloud after another. What a wimp the sun is, getting blocked by some wispy clouds. Our shots of brown rocks were looking like shots of brown rocks. Finally, after being there over two hours, the sun mustered up the courage to show itself, but only for a few seconds at a time. We had to rush to get our shot as each exposure takes anywhere from 2 seconds to 20 seconds. We got some fair shots, but not nearly as many as we would like.
Problem 2: People.
On our first visit, there was only one other photographer in the tour. Using my math skills I computed that there are only four people in the entire slot, the three of us and Charly, our leader. Four people in a large canyon, and that’s it. We roamed for hours, never bumping into each other. What a great experience. This time, the new owners opened the floodgates. Anyone can go, and they made it cheap. So, everyone went. There were scores of people meandering about, making shooting very difficult. Each time I would set up my tripod and compose a shot, someone would need to get by. They couldn’t walk around as the slot is quite narrow. I would have to pack up and move. Can I get by, please? Sure thing, get on the ground and slither through my tripod, missy!
Problem 3: Smaller Canyon?
The slot canyon was much smaller this time. Last time, I remember it as a long winding slot, walls very high, and everything very dark. This time the canyon was very short – maybe that is why they charged a lot less to go. Stay as long as you want, the lady said. How long do you need when the slot is only a few feet long (OK, maybe 100 yards, but still much shorter than I remembered). What did they do with rest of the slot?
Everything was photographically aligned the first visit to Canyon X. We had great lighting, wonderful canyon, and nobody to bother us. Even though I was a neophyte as a photographer, the resulting photos were everything I could have hoped for:
Flash forward five years to the present. The slot canyon gods were definitely against us. The lighting was poor (too many clouds), somehow the canyon was shortened, and there were people everywhere. We had to exercise patience (not my strong suit) to try and achieve some reasonable photos:
Considering the hardships, do you think we did OK? I’ll help you with this one – I say no.
Remember, it’s all about the light.