Many photographers, including myself, are drawn to the Southwest because of the unimaginable beauty of the land. Since I love to shoot rock texture, Arizona and Utah are like a desert oasis for me. I anticipate my visits months in advance, and feel like I am walking on sacred ground while hiking over the terrain. Perhaps the most magical part about the Southwest is the prospect of shooting subjects in reflected light. When paired with a film such as Fuji Velvia 50, the color pallets are surreal.
In June of 2008, I visited a slot canyon to scout for future photo trips. I found an area that seemed very promising. However, that time of year, the light was not ideal. I knew that I needed to plan a return trip. When visiting the same region in February, the light was what I had been anticipating. The first photo represents the location during mid-day in June. Direct sunlight is streaming into the canyon, and striking the cliff face. It makes for an interesting shot, but the lighting is a bit too harsh. I needed to return when the cliff face I wanted to shoot was in shade, but the cliff face to the right of it was in full sun. This would allow for a surreal, beautiful light to be reflected into the scene.
This second photo was shot with reflected light from a sandstone cliff that was about 15 yards to the right of the bush. Also, you will notice that I chose to shoot a different bush. When I returned in the winter, the scene had changed a bit, but the light is what I had been expecting. In reflected light, the lichen on the wall stands out much more. It reminds me of the billions of stars in the milky way. I have had the second shot drum scanned, and I think it would make a very nice large format print.
The first photo was taken digitally with a Canon 1DsIII. That is why there is an aspect ratio difference between the two. In the time between the trips, I switched back to film. I think that really helped me in this situation because of the way that the velvia film rendered the color in the scene. Digital will also do a fantastic job in this soft, beautiful light. However, there is pure magic when you combine Fuji Velvia with the reflected light of the Southwest.
I usually return to a location several times before I will walk away with the shot that I like. It is only when I am in the field that I can better have a feel for the lay of the land, and when the conditions will be ideal. I usually spend the first half of the trip scouting and shooting, then the second half is for planning the conditions for my return.