Monument Valley Photo Workshop: Participant Photos

As a student of Kit Frost’s 2014 Monument Valley Workshop, I was very impressed with the entire experience. Having been an amateur photographer for over 40 years, I had never attended a photography workshop and had yet to explore the Utah Southwest. Kit was an extremely capable teacher / mentor and has a unique way of connecting with individual students to help instill their own unique way of seeing the world and capturing their vision within their own photographs.

Aside from her technical knowledge and her ability to capture amazing images, Kit was able to help me “feel” the geography and connect with the natural world in which we were situated. Her personable style and excellent communication skills then helped me to capture imagery that was forming in my mind. 

Click on the thumbnails to see larger images, and to comment.

While I have always felt I was a reasonably accomplished photographer, Kit taught me to see with light and “paint” my compositions with light and shadow in a way that elevated the final images to a level I had only hoped to achieve.

Friends and family have been astounded with the quality and composition of the images I made at the workshop and I am so very pleased with what I gained over the four days. I am looking at local scenes and geography much differently now. “Chasing the Light” has become much more than a catch-phrase, it has become a way of interpreting what I am seeing in everyday life and imagining how those scenes can be captured within the camera. Thank you Kit for opening my eyes to the light. My photography will never be the same.    Tom Fulton, 2014

 

Lessons Learned

We returned recently from our 2014 Monument Valley Photo Workshop.  And wow, the photo opportunities were awesome.  Although the spring winds in Utah and Arizona were sometimes epic, we explored locations to teach the participants composition, right place-right time, cloud shadows as subject, avoiding the “cliche” in a well-photographed environment too.

Our locations included multiple views of the San Juan River as it flowed through the canyons of Utah.  We made photographs using wide-angle lenses to capture the expansiveness of the Goosenecks of the San Juan, ate lunch at river level at the Sand Island Recreation Area, and photographed the big views from up on Muley Point to see the next level of the canyons and the tiny river cutting through.

iPhoneography, we hiked down from the Goosenecks overlook to get a better vantage point. ©Kit Frost

iPhoneography, we hiked down from the Goosenecks overlook to get a better vantage point. ©Kit Frost

We photographed with our iPhones, Smartphones, DSLR’s, and Point and Shoot Cameras.  And uploaded images to Instagram.

A mix of moments from our workshop.  Monument Valley

A mix of moments from our workshop. Monument Valley

Lesson: Find an interesting foreground. Lead the viewer through the frame.

Lesson: Find an interesting foreground. Lead the viewer through the frame. ©Kit Frost

Create a framing of positive and negative space to make a new image of a classic subject. ©Kit Frost

Lesson: Create a framing of positive and negative space to make a new image of a classic subject. ©Kit Frost

 

Monument Valley has been the backdrop of many movies, from Stagecoach to Thelma and Louise.  It takes some imagination to create images that are “different”.  We were blessed with clouds (and blown by winds) so we could use the sky in our images too.

Working with what is presented to us is very important in Workshop Photography.  We cannot control the subject or the sky or the wind or the crowds.  We CAN work with these elements to create images that are unique.

Keep coming back, as we will add more images as the participants submit them for this blog.

 

Use shadows to create positive and negative space in the big scene.  See if you can find a shape that matches the distant scene. ©Kit Frost

Lesson: Use shadows to create positive and negative space in the big scene. See if you can find a shape that matches the distant scene. ©Kit Frost

And just in case you think I’m kidding about the Epic winds.  John Ford’s Point was so windy, that we dared not take our DSLR’s out of the car.  Here’s a link to our You Tube video. And another short clip Here.

 

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.

Tips on honoring the Creative Process

Thanks to the folks at the Nutter Crew, we can see a realistic approach to the Creative Process.

The Creative Process, shared by the Nutter Crew

The Creative Process, shared by the Nutter Crew

Pardon the language but I agree with this timeline.  Right now I’m in the Panic and All the Work while Crying stage, two days from the Deadline.  I have a few suggestions for the times when you know that work has to get done, but it seems like you have PLENTY of time when you’re in the Fuck off stage.

  1. Clean the Studio.
  2. Write your blog.
  3. Visit your homies on facebook.
  4. Watch your favorite Netflix series (Downton anybody?).
  5. Talk on the phone. A good time to catch up with the news.
  6. Go to the movies.
  7. Eat out every night.
  8. Send out invoices so you earn the money to move ahead with the project.
  9. Wait till the last minute to make the money to do the following:
  10. Order the frames.
  11. Order the mattes (32×40 sheets are the biggest bargain).
  12. Order the glass (who is cutting it to size?).
  13. Order the printing paper and cartridges.
  14. Make the prints.
  15. or Better yet, send them to a service bureau and wait for them to arrive.
  16. Do all your ordering with 2-3 day shipping and get reamed.
  17. Start the project.
  18. Edit the portfolio
  19. Choose final images
  20. Mess up the studio with the packaging from all those deliveries.
  21. Have the fun of making your art important.
  22. Remember that you love to work on your art.
  23. Lock the studio door.
  24. Turn up the volume.
  25. Burn the midnight oil.
  26. Get er done.
  27. Repeat.

I have an exhibition set for delivery this coming Saturday, but I can stretch the deadline until Monday.  Another delay tactic? I’m excited to be showing black and white prints of explorations in the Canyon Country and the Colorado Plateau.  I live in Durango, and as you may know, I travel to Arizona, and Utah often.  My collection of images from the Four Corners is large and editing the portfolio has been the most difficult.  This exhibition is by invitation and I feel honored to be chosen.  One of my favorite writers, Craig Childs, will be at the opening reception, and these images are to complement his slideshow and lecture about the Colorado Plateau, Land of Ghosts, Travel in Ancient Places

With two days left to complete the portfolio, I’m on target.  All the images are scanned from 4×5 negatives and chromes, the color images have been edited for grayscale in Photoshop.  I round-tripped from Lightroom to Photoshop in order to mix the red and green channels to my liking.  The black and white negatives were scanned and edited directly in Lightroom.  Each scan was about 190MB, 400dpi (so I could crop if needed) and output to 16×20 prints, matted to 20×24 frames.

Bears Ears, or Honey I'm Home!

Bears Ears, or Honey I’m Home! ©Kit Frost

Photographing in and around the Southwest’s Four Corners

Although the sky can be frequently obscured and hazy from the Navajo Generating Station, the road to Wahweap has some "big" views this one shows Navajo Mountain in the background. © Kit Frost

Although the sky can be frequently obscured and hazy from the Navajo Generating Station, the road to Wahweap has some “big” views this one shows Navajo Mountain in the background. The “yellow, green, tone is the outcome of the coal fired generating station. Nuf said. © Kit Frost

The drive from Durango to Page is beautiful, through some great locations for Southwest Photography.  the Four Corners Monument, Petroglyph Panel at Sand Island Campground, Comb Ridge, Monument Valley and Tsegi Canyon are all along the way.

Comb Ridge at Sunset, with frozen pond. ©Kit Frost

Comb Ridge at Sunset, with frozen pond. ©Kit Frost

I’ve driven the Comb Ridge Road from Bluff to Blanding, Utah many times, but this was the first time I encountered a frozen pond.  I love to play with reflections and this location proved to be lots of fun.  The challenge is to hold detail in the exposure of the well lit walls of Comb Ridge, while at the same time properly exposing for the reflection.

I underexposed this reflection by a value of -.7 or 2/3 darker.  In post-production I used my favorite tool, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and opened up the shadows using fill light (LR3) or shadows (LR4).  It helps to pre-visualize what you want the final image to look like at the location, so that you capture all the detail possible.

Although the sky can be frequently obscured and hazy from the Navajo Generating Station, the road to Wahweap has some "big" views this one shows Navajo Mountain in the background. © Kit Frost

Although the sky can be frequently obscured and hazy from the Navajo Generating Station, the road to Wahweap has some “big” views this one shows Navajo Mountain in the background. © Kit Frost

My plan was to spend a night in Page (about 3.5 hours west of Bluff Utah) continue west to the Arizona strip near Lee’s Ferry and Marble Canyon, hike in and around the area, explore the Vermillion Cliffs and see the Grand Canyon from Marble canyon.

At Marble Canyon, the Colorado River flows past a red rock mesa.  The "put-in" for 25 day Grand Canyon River Trips.  ©Kit Frost

At Marble Canyon, the Colorado River flows past a red rock mesa. The “put-in” for 25 day Grand Canyon River Trips. ©Kit Frost

Seeing the Colorado River from Lee’s Ferry is awesome.  Its powerful and runs clean.  This images was taken about 20 miles southwest of the Glen Canyon dam, so at this point you can see the water running clear, instead of it’s usual red color from the silt and sediment in the river.

The view from Navajo Bridge, Marble Canyon. ©Kit Frost

The view from Navajo Bridge, Marble Canyon. There is a group of boaters at the curve.  The bridge I’m standing on is their last touch of civilization until they reach Phantom Ranch in 9 days. Awesome, jealous. ©Kit Frost

I was hesitant to hike into Cathedral Wash solo, wanting to see the drop off into the Grand Canyon, but I got over my fear and started hiking at around 1pm. The wash is beautiful, and the warm light of each curve in the canyon was seductive. I enjoyed lots of photography, and was grateful for the LCD to check my exposures.  I took my time, creating many new images.

The range of tones was broad, and I underexposed frequently. I was using matrix metering and did not carry my graduated neutral density filter (Tiffen, glass 0.6, 2 stop). I planned to bring up the shadow values that were underexposed using Lightroom. I reached the thirty foot drop in about two hours, traveling less than one mile, stopping frequently for photography, lunch and to enjoy the solitude. At the pour-over I hesitated to go it alone. Remembering Aaron Ralston’s solo hike and fall I always let my “go to” friends know where I plan to be and if injured by a fall or delayed for any reason.  We plan a call at the end of each of my solo adventures.

In canyons with frequent pour-overs and benches to navigate and when hiking solo the possibility of a fall is real,  so I spent some time above the 30 foot pour-over, making videos and photos, rather than risking a cold night in a canyon.

I was disappointed, felt old, but later was glad I made the right decision not to hike any further than was safe. I left the canyon making many more images in the sweeter light of late winter afternoon, returning to the trailhead and car at around 4pm. The drive home was sweet while the sun set, but dark from west of Kayenta all the way home. I got home at around 10pm and checked in with a text. I later realized that if i had gone further into the wash and reached the last pour-over in Cathedral Wash and the view of the Grand Canyon I would have driven home much later. And almost 6 hours of driving in the dark is very tiring.  There’s always another day, and another time.  I think I will get one of the SPOT location devices so my “go to” person knows exactly where I am in each canyon I explore.

Self Portrait in the Wash. ©Kit Frost

Self Portrait in the Wash. ©Kit Frost

Hiking in Shadow and Light, Cathedral Wash, Arizona Strip ©Kit Frost

Hiking in Shadow and Light, Cathedral Wash, Arizona Strip ©Kit Frost

Shadow and lIght, from Cathedral Wash ©Kit Frost

Shadow and lIght, from Cathedral Wash ©Kit Frost

What I learned:

  1. When I asked the Ranger about the canyon, and she mentioned just the one difficult spot, the next question should have been to ask her to explain the difficulties.
  2. In the winter the days are short so get going earlier. Even though the sweet light will elude me.
  3. Carry essentials for emergency. Warm clothes, whistle, mirror, phone, Buy SPOT
  4. Carry extra water and gloves, a power bar or two, and warm hat. Just thinking here if there was a solo emergency.
  5. Thinking of Aaron Ralston here too.

For Photography:

I carried my Nikon D5100, my favorite hiking camera, lightweight, with the 16-85mm lens.  I love that lens, versatile, good wide angle and short zoom.

Carry the Graduated ND .06, especially on bright sunny days as the range of tones in the canyon is great.  Underexposing helps generally in landscape, and specifically at times when the sky is in the composition.

Because of the range of tones between shadow and light, for many photographs I completely eliminate the sky, while in others I like to minimize it.  Later, in Lightroom I subtract Luminance from the sky.

In many of my “shadow and light” images, I make a decision as to how much detail I want to see in the shadow (dark) areas and expose for those areas.  In these examples you can see that I choose a bit of detail in the Hiking in Shadow and Light, Cathedral Wash, Arizona Strip, while letting the shadows create a silhouette in Shadow and light, from Cathedral Wash.