"Take A Sneak Preview Of A Behind-The-Scenes Glimpse Into A Southwest Photo Safari Outing At Canyon de Chelly With Some Folks That Have Gone Home With Great Images!"
You'll learn firsthand how you can photograph the rarely visited areas of the Southwest as well as the famous locations. You can even choose to have the bonus of working closely with the Native Peoples to add life, color, and character to your images. Your first experience is guaranteed to reveal a unique world of fascinating scenes and improved techniques and vision with your photography.
When you attend one or more of these workshops, you'll clearly understand why so many people get excited, tell their friends, and then bring them back to the next safari.
Dear Photographer and Adventurer,
Just imagine for a moment watching the sky for that first persimmon light glowing the wisps of desert clouds. You can see the rim of light on the dunes ahead of you. Carmen suggests that you lower your camera angle a little and use the fresh bloom to your right as a foreground element.
The quiet respect the other photographers give to the image they see through their cameras—you hardly know they are even around.
Picture yourself today in my shoes—become "me" for a just a little while...
As the predawn glow illuminates the sand, I make my first image, my second; I adjust and make my third breathing quietly to savor the moment. Then I see the possibility of the panorama Roger mentioned last night at dinner.
I level my camera and wait for the slowly moving cloud to move a little to the south. I hold my breath knowing that the folks back home will want me to tell them every detail of this experience. "I got my perfect shot," I think to myself. Two red tail hawks screech, circling just out of range. The first ray of the sun slashes in from the east stretching shadows along the peaks of the dunes. The larger hawk glides into my frame. I'm lost in the feeling of being here. And, have that rush of satisfaction knowing these are my pictures!
We'll get back to the rest of my day in a minute. You know that you'll read every word of a day in one safari photographer's experience so you'll know what to expect when you join one of our small groups to experience the hands-on learning adventures.
You need to feel what it's like being in the spiritual heart of Navajoland. Before you explore the website, you must set into the shoes of another photographer who can show you what it's like, and answer your questions even before you find the need to ask.
Like Lauren Janson of Glorieta, New Mexico, says, "Carmen and David had just the right input of heart, soul, and adventure. The canyon and the people who live there changed my life in so many ways—it's indescribable!"
... We've left the dunes and bounced along in the vehicle toward the entrance to the canyon. Everyone in our group is so excited about the sunrise images we almost miss the sight of the horses running twenty yards away, kicking up sand and water in the slashing backlight.
Carmen points out several points of interest as we work our way toward First Ruin. The walls glow from the reflected light making the trees look almost surreal. Now I'm getting into the rhythm of jumping out of the vehicle and catching that grab shot, then taking the time to set up for the deliberate composition. David comes over to see what I'm capturing. "Wow, that's a great angle," he says. "You might want to take a look over here at these fine fins. They might just be another leading line you want." He shows me a few framing choices then gets out of the way.
We take the turn at the Junction and head up Canyon del Muerto. There's water from yesterday's thunderstorm standing in the middle of the wash. Roger suggests I try some black and white with the reflections to contrast the clouds and the water. I take my color images first and then see what he means by the black and white. I'm starting to feel a little like one of those early masters seeing this incredible landscape for the first time.
Our rest stop at Antelope House gives me a chance to have a little break. But, with the vendors, the bathrooms, and the ruins, I see too many possibilities to set my camera down. "We'll come back this way in a few hours," Carmen reassures me. "The light will be softer then, and it will be a little quieter." Everyone is so friendly, and the fry bread smells tempting.
"I was so impressed by the knowledge of Carmen, Roger, and David. They spent time making sure we were all accommodated. And, I've already had two images that merited in local competition." Kip Cothran, Murrieta, California.
Nadia Salameh from San Diego, California, adds, "I didn't feel rushed or wishing I had more time—very well balanced. I really liked the flexibility to adjust the day to day itinerary according to our group's preferences and daily feedback."
The air is charged with the smell of juniper and some other fresh odor I don't recognize. Maybe this is real air. I can see where the narrow trails and toe holds that some people still use to climb out of the canyon. We discuss the possibility to getting one of our helpers to demonstrate a climb for us so we can take photos. "Stop", Roger's voice crackles over the radio. "Let's get some pictures of these horses coming up the road towards us... but, be really quiet, and don't slam the car doors!"
I feel like we're stalking some wild animals. I guess the horses are really more like mustangs. With these huge cottonwoods filtering the late morning light and the sheer red walls' glow, I'm reminded of a movie I saw last month. As I lean against the tree to get a steady support, three of the horses flick their heads and turn into the light right on cue. I fire off some close head shots—then zoom out to get the entire scene. I realize that they are looking at the lone bareback rider winding his way through the trees towards us. He has a little white colt in tow.
Carmen goes over to tell the boy what we are doing and he looks a little embarrassed. Then David reaches behind his seat and pulls out his black book of photo samples and joins Carmen in the conversation.
"Gerald says we can take his picture," Carmen tells us. "I know his grandpa, and what he really wants is for one of us to get a good picture of his colt. That stallion over there is the colt's dad." Carmen points with her nose in the traditional Navajo way.
I ask Gerald if he'll let me do a close up that shows his bandana and hair bun contrasted against the colt's mane. I can't believe that this is just an accidental bonus. After I get my images, I find a big stump, and relax for a minute. It's really entertaining and useful watching the other photographers—each seeing something different in this scene. Our mix of amateurs and pros already seems to be less like a group of strangers and more like we've known each other for years.
"We'll have lunch when we get up to Mummy Cave," says Roger, as we each exchange model releases, and give Gerald some surprise cash for a tip. I know this is a sign that I'm at the right place. I'm confident the images I've already created are worth the price of admission, and this is only the first morning...
As Eric Wulfsberg from Colorado Springs, Colorado says, " You really offer something to photographers that they can't get easily on their own, namely access to the Navajo people and the special locations. And, you offer it at a reasonable price given the work involved. You kept the group size small so I think everyone felt they got excellent individual attention. The pointers on posing and working with natural light portraits were great."
"Good organization provided many different types of shots at nice locations in the canyon. The smaller group provided serious photographers with the ability to get great shots." Henriette Brasseur from Novato, California.
If you're starting to get the idea that I'm having more than a little fun and getting some great photos at the same time, you're right. This day just keeps getting better, and I'd tell you the rest of the story right now, but you're probably getting the idea that I'll just go on and on and keep getting you so excited about coming along on one of these safaris that you'll never be able to see what's on the website so that you can see what it's all about.
I feel relieved that I took David's advice and brought enough memory cards for my digital capture and plenty of film for my medium format camera. I'm taking more pictures than I thought possible and loving every minute. One of the other photographers brought her 4x5 field camera and has been using it right along with her digital SLR. I can't seem to get the hang of seeing the image upside down on her ground glass, but I think I'm beginning to understand the composition lesson that Roger shared with us at last night's dinner. And, I know we're going to have some fun critiques tonight!
I do agree completely with Aaron Cathcart from Estes Park, Colorado when he says, "Every time I stare at the images I captured, it takes me back... it's my serenity now!" Then, as the ever present fun-loving personality in the group, he adds, "I've had a blast going several years now and have learned a lot."
I think that Rich Humphrey from Telluride, Colorado sums up the feelings of most of us photographers when he says, "I learned more in four days than I've learned all year. The canyon was magical. The experience was priceless. I can't imagine a time better spent. I'll never forget it. The knowledge I gained from the experience will be integrated into my photography for a lifetime."
P. S. Once we got to Mummy Cave and ate lunch, visited, took pictures of the ruins, the cactus blooms, the trees, each other... the rest of the afternoon is like a dream burned into my memory. I know I've got the pictures, but this memory is even more important. I stepped back into time for a little bit, saw the mysterious drawings on the wall and ceiling of the alcove, and the stone structures preserved in this high desert air. I felt the presence of today's people still working this land—kind enough to let us visit, to let us borrow some bits of light captured to share and dazzle the folks back home. And, sharing a little more understanding of how similar we all are even though we see with different eyes.