Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park — A second look

When we first pulled into Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park for our overnight stay at the Valley View Hotel it was early afternoon and we had some time to explore the road and work on my landscape photography. I created a post about that afternoons adventures here at Landscape photography and learning how to see the light . . . 

After a good nights sleep I set my alarm to get up early and had all my gear set for some sunrise photography. Well as often is the case, mother nature did not want to cooperate and I awoke to cloudy, overcast conditions. There looked to be a bit of a rain/snow shower passing through the valley and I thought that might bring some photographic opportunities of a different kind.

You can see the sun reasonably high in the morning sky trying hard to burn through all the clouds and some of the snow lingering on the ground at the bottom of the image. The road down into the valley was closed for the time being because they feared people would get stuck in the mud so I spent a few minutes capturing images from the balcony of our room and headed off for breakfast.

To see the rest of the story, click the continue reading link below:

I was a bit disappointed because in my mind I envisioned all these great sunrise images with nice fluffy clouds and bright yellow-orange sky but clearly that just wasn’t happening for me so I made the best of it.

I had never been a HDR (High Dynamic Range) shooter. I know my camera has a feature that allows you to take three images at different exposures and those three images can easily be combined in Photoshop to produce an image with the exposure of the sky and the shadow detail perfectly preserved, but that is just not a feature or technique I have taken the time to learn about.

I spent some time reading the section in the manual of my Canon 7D that talks about AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) the night before and so I was all excited to begin my path to HDR-enlightenment, not the funky-looking glowing, strangely overdone HDR, but the perfectly balanced exposure HDR that is almost unrecognizable as a HDR image. Sadly I didn’t have much luck with my HDR experiment, but managed to produce a few reasonable images in the challenging lighting conditions in the end.

If the lighting was reasonable and the exposure between the sky and the land close enough I managed to produce good images with just a small amount of dodging and burning in post processing.

When the exposure between the highlights and the shadows exceeded the 5-stop range of a typical dSLR is when my HDR experiment fell apart, and also the subject moved between exposures so there is a bit of a lack of sharpness in the horses faces. So much for my little HDR Experiment.

I set my AEB to two stops under and two stops over and one right in the middle and didn’t have much luck with that so I tried some with one stop over and both one and two stops under and about every combination in between. In the end I wasn’t really happy with anything I tried that day, other than just making regular photographs.

I shoot RAW so I can adjust my white-balance in post and ended up all over the map with the white-balance on some of these, cooler looked right on some while warmer looked right on some. I was judging the color temperature on what I saw, for some parts of the storm the clouds look very gray and cool while other times the sunlight would make everything look a bit yellow and on the warm side so it seems the light was all over the spectrum on this day.

So, for a landscape photography excursion this one sure had a lot of interesting variables to deal with, weather, changing lighting conditions, crazy wild horses and my own difficulties with my HDR experiment.

It was cold at the time, early February so it didn’t take long for my fingers and hands to hurt from the cold, perhaps 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit and yes those little white patches you see in many of the images are snow.

Some of the images I produced that morning are better than others and in many cases I was working against the conditions mother nature dealt, which is what makes landscape photography interesting and exciting.

There is a rock at the top of the road that everyone stands on to get the typical touristy photo of themselves, but it was cold and windy on this morning so no one was standing on that rock. I learned something on this trip, fleece does not keep you warm in the wind.

Grab one last frame before continuing on to the next part of the journey.


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