Extreme Photodelight

by  Roman Golubenko

Virtually unknown to humanity until the 1930s, this canyon is a photographer’s paradise. The light range goes from total darkness to dusk, and the shadows are pierced by randomly scattered light rays. The colors of the canyon vary from deep black to an excessive range of oranges and browns and, under certain lighting conditions, even traces of deep violet and blue.
A few years ago I was traveling around Utah and Arizona looking for beautiful scenery and photo ideas. I couldn't help but notice that one of the most popular themes of local interior decoration was photography of the mysterious Antelope Canyon. 
 
 
Canon 5D  .  Canon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5  .  24mmmm  .  20s to 1/30ss  .  f/7.1

During one of my excursions in 2006, I went to the town Page, Arizona, to see the canyon. I was armed with the great but old-fashioned Mamiya RB67. However, I realized that there wasn’t much to shoot without a digital camera. So the following year, I finally purchased my first digital camera, a Canon 5D, and went back to the canyon.

"In 1931, a 12-year-old Navajo girl was looking for her sheep and accidentally discovered the canyon's entrance."

The canyon was virtually unknown to humanity until the early 1930s. In 1931, a 12-year-old Navajo girl was looking for her sheep and accidentally discovered the canyon's entrance. To this day the canyon remains on the grounds of the Navajo reservation; to be precise, it is actually private property of two Navajo families.

Antelope Canyon in Arizona depicts very beautiful scenery for photography. It’s every photographer's dream to experience and successfully capture such beauty. There are actually two separate canyons — the Upper Antelope and the Lower Antelope. Over the centuries the "slots" have been carved out of the sandstone by water. From the upper basin, water drains through the canyon into Lake Powell, which straddles the border between Arizona and Utah. The canyons are generally not very wide — in some areas a person can touch both walls at the same time, but other areas open up to huge chambers that can be 50 feet (15 meters) tall.

"By choosing an angle and composition that conveyed the feeling of being in the canyon, my idea was to translate the magic of this place through a photograph."

Numerous talented photographers have taken pictures of the canyon before I had the chance to visit. I wanted to create a work of art that would be different and stand out. By choosing an angle and composition that conveyed the feeling of being in the canyon, my idea was to translate the magic of this place through a photograph. The vibrant colors were spectacular, and I’m glad I could capture them on camera. 

Remember that you need a local Native American guide to enter the canyon. Bringing a tripod will be necessary due to the lack of light. Try to make as many images as possible, because of the low light conditions and because you never know what the final result will look like when using HDR. I shot hundreds of frames, trying to capture light beams hitting the canyon floor as the sun peeked through the clouds.

It’s very important to be careful and think about safety. A few years ago there was a tragic accident in the canyon. Some tourists were killed when a distant storm caused a flash flood, which filled up the canyon unexpectedly.
 
POST PROCESSING
1) I used bracketing with +/– 2 stops and shutter speeds ranging from 1/30 to 20 seconds. With such a range of images, I was able to merge several frames into an HDR image. 

2) I was playing with the colors of the merged HDR when I suddenly noticed a special blue hue coming out of the shadows. I decided to combine the amazing orange-brown with deep blue tones. 

3) I edited the photo over the next three months to get the desired hues and to make the colors pop by using Tone Mapping. The process was very intuitive and thorough, almost like creating an oil painting.
 
BIOGRAPHY
I’m a freelance nature and wildlife photographer born in 1965, living in New Jersey, USA. Between travels, I shoot fashion and portfolio photos from time to time. I am pleased that my photography appeared in number of publications and received much recognition, especially in Great Britain. My first camera was given to me when I was ten years old, and since then travel and photography have been the meaning of my life.
Check out my  homepage  
 

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