Photographing Monument Valley

Arizona 2013-325

I made a long-planned photography trip to  Northern Arizona and planned for two days at Monument Valley. Some research convinced me that Tom Phillips’ tour business, Keyah Hozhoni, was ideal for me. (Note: they are also known as Tom Phillips Photography, after the late Tom Phillips, who established the business.) About a month in advance I confirmed with Carlos, one of the owners, that I could do a sunset tour on one day and a sunrise tour the next morning. A couple of days prior to my arrival I emailed and confirmed. (I would have been happy to have paid a deposit, but they did not request one.)

Arizona 2013-274I arrived at the View Hotel at 1:00 PM and met Ray Begay, Tom Phillips’ nephew and my guide. It was just the two of us and we set out for the sunset tour. (It being December, sunset comes early). Ray drove me around the 17-mile loop, but took me into restricted areas that only Navajo guides and local residents are allowed to enter. Ray knows photography and has guided some well-known photographers, so he not only gets you to places, he makes suggestions about composition and exposure. He’s also very friendly and open and will educate you about the Navajo tribe, Monument Valley, and anything else you ask him. He was a great guide: patient, helpful and good at keeping us on schedule so we could make the most of the tour. The next morning, three others joined us at 5:45 AM for the sunrise tour and he drove us around the park for ideal shots of the sunrise and the morning sun lighting up the buttes and rocks.
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Patience is a Photographic Virtue

Making Great Art

Here are the keys to photographic success:

  1. Buy an expensive DSLR.
  2. Roar up to a turnout near a scenic outlook.
  3. Thrust camera out of the window and take several frames.
  4. Drive off.
  5. Admire your work at home.

This really happened and I caught it entirely by accident. I was positioned at the Hurricane Point turnout just south of the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, waiting for the light from the setting sun to get just right. My camera was mounted on my tripod and every few minutes I took a frame or two. Suddenly, a car drove up and the scene I just described unfolded. I swung around and captured it.
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