Amongst others, Brooks Jensen (editor of LensWork publishing) talks about the choice of photographic subjects. He gives the example of the sand dunes in the American Southwest – which basically “call out to the camera” as photographic subject material. The pioneers of photography, such as Edward Weston, saw this and photographed them. And many photographers have followed their example since and taken photos of these landscapes.
And then Jensen asks the question behind this, which really caught my attention:
“But are we [photographers] really interested in dunes or is it simply that they have a shape and a series of tonalities that we can successfully turn into a photograph?”
Here, I might want to add, that I had taken the photos that I was looking at at the time, in the Lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona. The Corkscrew, as this slot canyon also is called, lies within a Navajo Tribal Park and can only be visited with a guided tour. And many, oh so many, people do this – in order to take photos.
To date, the Antelope Canyon (which consists out of the Lower and the Upper Antelope Canyon) is one of the most-photographed and most-visited slot canyons in the American Southwest. The reasons herefore are the carved and twisted forms as well as the different colours – tonalities – of the canyon walls. Depending on the weather and the stand of the sun, sunbeams evoke different colours within the canyon, making each visit unique. However, when googling the canyon, one can find seemingly endless photos of the canyons, most of them beautiful, most of them taken by different people and many of them looking alike.
Later in the podcast, Jensen even stated the photos of slot canyons – which includes the Antelope Canyon – by Bruce Barnbaum as another example of a known very photographic subject.
After considering the quote by Jensen, I don’t think that the people visiting the canyon aren’t interested in it. I am sure that the majority of them are. The slot canyons are a fascinating and breathtaking place to be. But I do believe that many visitors go there, due to them being such an ideal photographic subject – and I am not excluding myself. Jensen’s quote did make me rethink my visit of the Antelope Canyon and my approach towards taking the photos there. I would have found focussing less on the obviously photogenic and more on the personally more interesting very hard, as suggested by Jensen, as these were one in this case. However, I now wish I had tried to see the canyon and then take a photo of what I found fascinating, instead of entering with the “photographers eye” and aim to straightaway take photos. A mistake I still make too often. I dare say that overcoming this misconception, would help improve my images.
In any case, Jensen is right when saying that photographic places such as the canyons are “a wonder of life” but that maybe, we don’t need to run off to these places, in order to find these wonderful things to photograph. We should photograph what we find breathtaking about life itself, even if these appear to be un-photographic subjects. We possibly just haven’t figured out yet, how to take their photo.
If you’d like to read more about the Antelope Canyon, have a look here:
- Antelope Canyon – National Geographic
- Antelope Canyon – Navajo Tours
- Antelope Canyon – Americansouthwest
And have a listen to Jensen’s podcast here: “The Wonder of Life”