Monument Valley Photography Workshop • March 2017

Students take a break to pose for the camera at Monument Valley Photography Workshop, 2013

Students take a break to pose for the camera at Monument Valley Photography Workshop, 2013

2017 promises to be a great year for Canyon Country Photography Lessons.  We’ll be heading out to Utah for our 12th Annual Chase the Light, Monument Valley, Photography Adventure.   Learn to Photograph Grand and Intimate landscapes, Monument Valley, desert wildflowers, Anasazi ruins, at locations such as Valley of the Gods, Comb Ridge, Butler Wash and Mule Canyons.  We scout the weeks before the workshop to insure that we pick great locations for your lessons.

Meet us in Bluff, Utah or fly into Phoenix or  Durango La Plata County Airport.  All participants will receive a travel package upon registration and receipt of your deposit, complete with suggestions for gear, and additional information.  Early reservations help us to hold rooms for you at Gouldings Trading Post in Monument Valley and to confirm our stay in Bluff, Utah.  We can arrange for a full hook-up campsite in Bluff if you prefer.

Meet and Greet:  Let us know when you’re flying into Durango, we’ll pick you up at the airport so you can join us for a meet and greet at Chase the Light Studios, Durango.

Goosenecks of the San Juan River. At Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts through 28 February. ©James Parsons

Goosenecks of the San Juan River. At Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts through 28 February.
©James Parson

Valley of the Gods. At Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts through 28 February. ©James Parsons

Valley of the Gods. At Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts through 28 February. ©James Parson

Castle Rock, Valley of the Gods. At Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts through 28 February. ©James Parsons

Castle Rock, Valley of the Gods. At Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts through 28 February. ©James Parson

Participants will spend three nights in Bluff, Utah and Monument Valley, Arizona! Register NOW to guarantee a space in this workshop.  Space is limited!

Looking north from Valley of the Gods, the storm is beginning to form, at sunset ©Kit Frost

Learn how to improve your photographic skills, or to begin your journey in digital photography, all skill levels are welcome.   We will be based in Monument Valley, and Bluff, Utah on the Arizona/Utah borders.   We’ll enjoy the night sky with lessons in capturing subjects in the dark in the Valley of the Gods.  The new moon on April 28th gives us the luxury of the dark sky for some experimentation and dark sky lessons; star trails and static star images are so challenging and fun!  Learn time lapse sequencing too.

There are many accessible ruins in the Cedar Mesa area of Utah. But don’t ask, don’t tell please ©Kit Frost

In addition to learning how to use your digital camera, proper compositional skills, and to expose properly in-camera, we teach ISO, white balance and manual and auto focus and add a touch of “leave no trace” skills and respect for the Ancient Ones and Heritage sites.  Join us in 2014 for four days of devotion to your passion for Photography.

Kit Frost has been teaching this Utah canyon country adventure for more than 18 years and will take you to the right locations for each photography lesson.  Bring your enthusiasm, your favorite camera gear, and your partner if you’d like.

Tuition: $1599. Early Bird (before March 1) $1899. includes instructional fees, accommodations, lunch and beverages
Register early to hold your space in this sure to sell out workshop!  ONLY 3 spaces left!
$500. deposit per person.
Balance due 30 days prior to first day of workshop.

Suggested gear:

  • Your favorite Digital camera gear.  Or new gear and Kit will teach you how to use it.
  • Your lens kit: wide angle such as a 12-24 lens or 18-55 lens, telephoto such as 55-200, or 75-300, A fast lens like the 24mm or 35mm 1.8 is sweet for the night sky.
  • Tripod,  Kit will look at your compositions while your camera is mounted on your tripod.  This helps to improve your composition.
  • Plenty of CF or SD cards
  • Fully charged batteries each day.  And a spare.
  • Battery chargers
  • Laptop or iPad for review.
  • Click here to see a suggested gear list 

Suggested Reading List:
Land of Room Enough and Time Enough, Richard Klinck
Scenes of the Plateau Lands and How they came to be, Wm. Lee Stokes

Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods Photos

Our Chase the Light Photography Workshop in Southeast Utah and Arizona: 5 days/4 nights photographing the monuments of Monument Valley and the spires and buttes of Valley of the Gods.   Eight participants attended the photo workshop.  Our first location was at the Goosenecks of the San Juan River, where I taught about using the widest focal length lens to capture the big scene.  The day was blustery to say the least, so handheld photography from the overlook rim was in order.  Students determined how wide they could photograph, set up their wide-angle lenses and chose an ISO for obtaining deep depth of field as well as a shutter speed that would avoid camera shake.

Learning about using our wide angle lenses ©Nora Whalen

Learning about using our wide angle lenses ©Nora Whalen

As the week progressed, lessons included metering properly for balancing indoor and outdoor lighting (we used a hogan in Monument Valley for that lesson).  By using the digital camera’s “live view” or LCD, to assist in metering challenging scenes, students learned to balance and choose the correct exposure.

Image 23

Discussing how to capture the varied exposures in the Hogan at Monument Valley. By turning on “live view” you can see exactly what the camera is metering.

An example of using "Live view" to meter the inside and outside of the Hogan.

An example of using “Live view” to meter the inside and outside of the Hogan.

Some students were working with advanced Point and Shoot cameras, some DSLR, some played with their iPhones and when we had service, uploaded their images to instagram and social networking sites.

The Road to Monument Valley ©Nora Whalen

The Road to Monument Valley, many people call this the “Forest Gump” road. ©Nora Whalen

Shot with an "in camera" effect: vignette. ©Sherry Ketner

Shot with an “in camera” effect: vignette. ©Sherry Ketner

Shot with an "in camera" effect: vignette. ©Sherry Ketner

Shot with an “in camera” effect: vignette. ©Sherry Ketner

iPhone Photography, Monument Valley, Instagram images ©Nora WhaleniPhone Photography, Monument Valley, Instagram images ©Nora Whalen

Image 22

One of the workshop participants, Anita, photographing along the 17 mile drive in Monument Valley

Image 20

Walter never took that camera down from his face. He had a great time on this, his first, photo workshop

More participant examples to follow.  I’m prepping up for a two week adventure, a photo and road trip to California.  More to follow.

Monument Valley Photo Workshop, Suggested Reading List

The location for our upcoming Photography Workshop, Monument Valley is world renowned as a location for filmmakers, photographers and many others.

Whether you intend to register for our Photography Workshop in Monument Valley or not, I hope you enjoy reading about the land, the people and the stories of the American West.  My first visit to the park was in 1985, I went horseback riding with friends.  I thought I was in a John Wayne movie.  It still remains like a trip back in time.  If you go, be sure to visit Gouldings Lodge and Trading Post, and John Ford’s point were a few Navajo folks like to pose for photographs, on horseback (yes, go ahead and pay them for their modeling).

The tribal park is on Navajo land, it is home to Navajos who love their privacy as well as those who will gladly take you on tour into the canyons and talk about the monuments, their history, and names. A brand new Hotel, called The View is now open at the entrance to the 17 mile drive through the park.  The images below were taken while traveling along the scenic drive.  You can pay your entrance fee and have a self-guided drive, or you can hire a Navajo guide and have access to more of the monuments, ruins, and petroglyphs.

Here are a few background books about the Valley and the Navajo people (Dineh)

Scenes of the Plateau Lands…Wm. Lee Stokes
Land of room enough and time enough…Richard E Klinck
The Book of the Navajo…Raymond Friday Locke
Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson…Hampton Sides
The American West…Dee Brown

Our April 2014 photo workshop to Monument Valley also includes a day at the Valley of the Gods (below).

Looking north from Valley of the Gods, the storm is beginning to form, at sunset ©Kit Frost

Looking north from Valley of the Gods, the storm is beginning to form, at sunset ©Kit Frost

Monument Valley008

These student photographs were taken while along the scenic drive in Monument Valley. I get a kick out of Navajo “kitsch”.

Monument Valley015

Geronimo was an Apache indian. But I find the “statement” here made by a Navajo tribal member living in Monument Valley interesting and photo worthy.  Documentary photography at Monument Valley.

Fall Color Report, Utah Canyonlands

I was surprised to see that the fall color display in Southeast Utah was nearing completion. For the past 5 years or so I have visited the Canyonlands Island in the Sky, photographing in and around Moab, Cedar Mesa, Comb Ridge and the Needles District of Canyonlands.  Each year I head out there during the last week in October, usually spending Halloween camping in the canyons.  This weekend proved to be very different than in the past, as the cottonwoods along the creeks, Indian Creek, Beef Basin, Lavender and Davis Canyons and along the Lockhart Basin road were past prime color.

But, I searched out a few gems and captured the last color of fall 2012.  In addition, I got up on Saturday at 3:00 am so I could photograph the night sky after the moonset.  On the way to our campsite along the Colorado River, I saw some sweet reflections too.

©Kit Frost

Along Hwy 211, near Newspaper Rock, Utah © Kit Frost

If you want to call the sandy wash a road…©Kit Frost

Along Potash Road, outside of Moab, Utah ©Kit Frost

Looking like some sort of snake skin. ©Kit Frost

Arches National Park, Night Sky

Looking east from Arches National Park.

Tips for Photographing Sunset

When photographing the setting sun, take a few minutes to set up the composition. If there are clouds, include plenty of sky. Realize that the foreground will come out in silhouette, so plan for dramatic, dark shapes. When the sun is below the clouds, think about blocking it with a tree. At small apertures like f25 in this shot, there’s a chance to get a sun”star”. Don’t forget about the “rule of thirds” in your composition.

“Sun star” created by using a small aperture. f25@1/10 second. Tripod is essential for this slow shutter speed. Try to calculate if the clouds will move during the exposure and balance that out in your final exposure. ©Kit Frost

Perseid Meteor Shower coming up this weekend.

Its that time of year again! I plan to be outside this weekend photographing the star show and meteor shower.  Hoping for clear, dark skies on Saturday night.  Camping out to capture and enjoy the show!

Photographing the Perseid Meteor Shower

For viewing and photographing the The Perseid Meteor Shower, look for the constellation Perseus in the Northeastern sky.  Even though the show has already begun, the event will peak this coming Saturday night, Sunday morning, August 11-12.

The Perseids should be a spectacular event because the Moon is in its waning crescent phase, so the light reflecting off its lunar surface should not interfere with the meteors traveling across our night sky at about 60 kilometers per hour (37 miles per hour). The actual peak for the Perseids is estimated to be 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, August 12, 2012.

You can see the meteors any time before this date, as they have been flying across the sky since about July 23rd. And they will remain visible until August 22. The meteors within the Perseid meteor shower are material from the Swift-Tuttle comet, which has a 130-year orbit around the Sun.


Moonrise: August 11, 1:00am

Moonrise: August 12, 1:47am

Moonrise: August 13, 2:48am

Photographing the Milky Way

For the Milky Way, find a south facing low mountain or ridgeline, wait until the sky is truly dark, and let your eyes get accustomed to it by hanging out in your lounge chair for about an hour to really see the stars.  The Milky Way will be visible in the Southern Sky and the best time for the star show is during the new moon or approaching the new moon.  This month the new moon is August 17.  Maybe time lapse photo experiments are a great way to make use of your old 35mm or 50mm prime lenses.

  1. Frame your photograph really wide angle to include lots of the sky.
  2. Turn off EVERYTHING that is set for AUTO, including focus and Image stabilization.
  3. Shut off all noise reduction, and white balance.
  4. Shoot RAW if possible, or high res jpeg
  5. Focus at or near infinity.
  6. Set your aperture for the widest lens opening or next widest.
  7. Set your shutter speed for about 20-25 seconds.
  8. Choose the interval you prefer and set your interval timer, try 6-10 seconds, but if there are clouds, try 1-5 second intervals.
  9. Set your ISO for 3200-6400.
  10. Most time lapse Milky way images are about 5-8 hours.  Keep in mind the moonrise if  necessary.

The video below was photographed over a few days in 2010. Photographer, Henry Jun Wah Lee, posted this exposure information.

Timelapse video of the Perseid Meteor Shower and the galactic core of the Milky Way as seen from Joshua Tree National Park.
These were taken between August 12 and August 15, 2010.
For more photos and words:
Gear: 5D Mk II, EF 16-35mm L. Settings: f/2.8, 6400 ISO, 20 second exposures.
Music is Samskeyti by Sigur Ros

Joshua Tree Under the Milky Way from Henry Jun Wah Lee on Vimeo.