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Photography in Northern Arizona (Posted On: Wednesday, July 22, 2009)

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I had the opportunity to travel and photograph in northern Arizona last year. In addition to capturing some unique urban, desert and canyon images, I was able to photograph some of the most amazing Native American ruins. The best light for creating good landscape pictures is warm, morning light as well as the magical light that happens just before sunset.

The 900 year old Citadel Ruins, just north of Flagstaff, AZ contains the remnants of stone pueblo dwellings built by early Navajo peoples. At sunrise I was able to capture some interesting backlit shots with the Sun’s rays shining over the edge of the silhouetted stone walls in the shape of a starburst.  

The Grand Canyon is truly an awesome sight to behold. Since the Sun sets in the west, I chose to photograph the South Rim of the Canyon with its numerous buttes against the setting Sun. One of the neat effects that happens when you use a telephoto lens after sunset is that it accentuates the blue, hazy afterglow, separating the shapes and hues from each other. This effect can help you create a strong, emotionally appealing picture that looks much like a watercolour painting.

Further north of the Arizona border into Utah, lies Bryce Canyon National Park. The red rock colours of Bryce Canyon at sunrise are even more intense than during the day. The canyon’s tall standing buttes with their crimson rocks made the area look like it was a scene from another planet.

About an hour east of Flagstaff on Highway I-40, lies a little community much the size of Creemore, called Winslow, Arizona. Sound familiar? If you’ve listened to the Eagles tune “Take it Easy” you will love the street corner display that this community has created. A line in the song says: “Standin’ on the corner of Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see, It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me.”    (Written by Jackson Browne and Glen Frey, copyright).

 The famous corner, on which Jackson Browne stood, as he was inspired to write the song has now been made into a shrine by the Winslow community. Outside a storefront facade with real windows, you’ll see a bronze statue of a young man holding a guitar; next to him a sign says: “Standin’ On The Corner” The wall is painted to look like a very realistic window reflection of a girl driving a flatbed Ford. To make the day complete, a senior couple in a 1939 Ford convertible pulled up and asked me to take their picture in front of the corner display.

Southwest of Flagstaff, the small, but vital, community of Sedona has developed into a Mecca for new age health and wellness. The colourful architecture is a mixture of Frank Lloyd Wright and Native American designs. Architectural photography can be interesting if you focus closely on lines, shapes and patterns of the buildings.           

Boynton Canyon is one of several areas around Sedona called Vortexes. These are sacred places to Native Americans, where some people believe the Earth’s energy is at its highest. An afternoon hike into the Boynton Canyon, just outside of Sedona will not only make you feel energized, but you will be able to photograph some interesting red rock formations against a beautiful blue sky. This type of composition will give you good colour contrast in your pictures.

Whenever you travel to far-off places here are a few tips for getting good pictures. 1. If you’re traveling by plane, take your camera as carry-on luggage - it’s safer. 2. Take your tripod and flash with you. 3. Bring extra batteries and memory cards in case you can’t buy them at your destination 3. Photograph local people (with their permission) in local surroundings and send them a picture, finally 4. Shoot town signs in order to establish your location. 5 Always be on the lookout for interesting human interactions.

If you like desert cactus, native American folklore and red rock canyons, I would highly recommend a visit to northern Arizona. Don’t forget to take your camera!

Bryan Davies is a fine art and travel photographer with a studio and gallery in Creemore.


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