Bucket List: Photographing the Slot Canyon

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Something I didn’t realize at 16 (when I made my first bucket list) was that life dreams change (sometimes drastically) over time. At 16, one of the first items on my bucket list was to travel to every country in the world. Now, at 28, I realize that that dream is, besides being a bit impractical, not even very desirable to me anymore. I’ve realized that, while I do love to travel, I don’t exactly want to travel in places that are dangerous or where I would have a hard time getting around, either due to a major language barrier or to a lack of stability in the country. Sure, I still would love to travel to many places in the world — Greece, Ireland, Spain, Eastern Canada, New Zealand — but I’m totally okay with the idea of not traveling to others.

My dreams have changed even since making a more recent bucket list about 18 months ago. Not only did I take “blogging for profit” off of my list (see the post here), but I’ve also added several things since getting to experience more of life and realizing what things would truly make me happy to work toward.

One thing that’s opened up a lot of new dreams is photography–while I don’t know if I’ll ever take my photography business to a full-time job, I do know that I love it enough to keep trying to constantly improve my abilities. And one thing I’ve wanted to do ever since I first laid eyes on photos of such was to photograph a slot canyon.

 

Lucky for me, our December trip to Kanab opened up a perfect opportunity–after two days of volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, we took off on the third day toward Arizona’s famous Antelope Canyon, a mere 70-minute (or so) drive from where we were, to see the sights and take advantage of the incredible opportunity to improve our photography skills.

After doing some research on the slot canyon tours (for those who don’t know, you have to go through the canyon with a guide), I decided that the professional photography tour would be the one to go on, even though it meant shelling out quite a bit more (and even though we had to get special permission because we only had one camera between the two of us, when each person on the tour is supposed to have his/her own).

 

After a bit of a mix-up in which we somehow got placed on the wrong bus heading out to the canyon (which resulted in one of the bumpiest and scariest drives in the back of a truck of my life), we were united with the right group and met our Native American tour guide and the four other people who would be on the tour with us.

At first, I was a bit afraid we wouldn’t be treated as well as the others because we only had the one camera between us and we also hadn’t brought our tripod (both a major no-no with the tour group). But even though our guide was initially very skeptical of how successful we would be without a tripod, he showered us with plenty of attention and tips, and we were able to get some pretty dang good shots just by stabilizing the camera against a wall and taking pictures that way.

 

A couple things to know if you’re touring the slot canyons–

* If you just pay for the regular one-hour tour, you will have hardly any time to take pictures. Basically, you will be shuffled through like cattle, and many of your pictures might have other people in them because of the confined space.

* The slot canyons are quite a bit colder inside than the temperature outside (imagine that you’re entering a cave–that’s the temperature difference). Although I was fine with a light jacket and no gloves outside the caves, I sure wish I would have brought them for when we were inside.

* Even though our tour was listed as being for “professional” photographers, as long as you have a DSLR and a tripod, they’ll let you in (and even on the tripod, they’re obviously willing to be a little lenient if it’s during a slow season). So don’t be intimidated–just sign up and try it out!

* The slot canyons are quite dark inside, so if you’re trying to get the best-quality pictures you can, you’d probably want to bring a speed light and bounce its flash off the ceiling/walls.

* Even though we went in what was considered a “slower” season (in December), there were still a LOT of people inside the slot canyon. If crowds stress you out, or if you’re determined to get the best photos you can, try and book at a non-busy time in the season (aka, not during the summer or over a major holiday break). Not only will you be able to feel a little less rushed, but you’re much less likely to get other pedestrians in your photo, like so:

 

* Even though they let both Matt and I come on the tour (with just the one camera between us), I wish we each could have had our own camera. While it worked fine for us to switch off every few minutes, we would have been a lot less rushed in trying to get the shots we wanted if we’d each had our own. If I were to do this again (and still owned just one DSLR camera), I would totally rent a second camera so we each had one.

* If you do decide to go on the professional photography tour, make sure you at least know the basics of operating your camera in Manual mode and that you know how to quickly adjust your tripod. Basically, you have very little time to get the shots you want (even with the longer tour), so the better you know your equipment, the better your shots will be.

And that’s all for the tips! Basically, this experience just confirmed to me that I need to try out landscape photography a lot more than I have.

 

 

Now the real question is–which one of these am I going to enlarge and hang up on our empty bedroom walls?

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