Share this photo on Twitter Share this photo on Facebook

Nature's Cathedral, Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 4 June 2009 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

A frequent point I make in my workshops and lectures is the importance of understanding, and using to your advantage, the difference between your vision and your camera's vision. For example, while it can be frustrating to confine a scene to a rectangular box, this limitation of the camera's vision does have its advantages. Not only does it enable us to isolate specific subjects that might otherwise be lost in the greater scene, it also allows us to banish distractions and less appealing objects to the forgotten world beyond the frame.

For this shot I was battling the midday stampede in Arizona's Upper Antelope Canyon. As I mentioned in my last Antelope Canyon post, imagine trying to photograph in a subway car during rush hour. With a tripod. So while simultaneously trying to work around the photographers and tripods in front of me and holding my ground against the impatient surge of tourists at my back, I scanned the room for something to shoot above everyone's heads, finally settling on this light shaft targeting a lone tumbleweed on a shelf near the ceiling.

Concerned about changing lenses in the dusty canyon, I'd decided before entering to carry two bodies. I quickly switched from my full frame body to my 1.6 crop body (for those not familiar with this terminology, it's enough to know that a for any given lens a full frame body gives me a wider perspective, while a 1.6 crop camera body gives a 60% tighter, more zoomed perspective) that gave me just enough reach to frame this shot.

What you don't see here is the sea of heads and cameras just beneath the frame. In other words, my camera's limited field of view (compared to what my eyes could see) was in fact no limitation in this image, it was an advantage that allowed me to exclude distractions. Learning how to take advantage of your camera's different view of the world is essential part of successful photography. I discuss how to deal with your camera's "limitations" (such as the rectangular confines of an image's perimeter, depth of field, dynamic range, the missing dimension, and so on) in previous posts, and will continue to do so in future posts. So stay tuned....

Next post: June 7 (to view previous posts, click the arrow in the upper left of today's image)

* My Facebook page *

Upcoming workshops

Yosemite winter, spring, and fall; New Zealand; Grand Canyon; Death Valley; Eastern Sierra; Maui; Hawaii's Big Island; Columbia River Gorge

Other Links

* Facebook

* WordPress Blog

* Website: Eloquent Images

Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

Didier DE ZAN from somewhere, France

Wonderful photograph , I like the colors the shape and this ray of light

4 Jun 2009 5:33am

Bill Jennings from (Bay Area Northern Calif), United States

Fantastic. Always wanted to go to this canyon, must live with your art in the interim. Wonderful colors and light.

4 Jun 2009 5:40am

@Bill Jennings: Vicarious nature, that's my business. :)

Ariel from Buenos Aires, Argentina

Fantastic image. Granted, it's a well known shooting location and we have seen thousands of images taken here. But it's always interesting to see how each photographer decides to frame its image. I like your decission of shooting horizontal were normally you see vertical shots, and I love the light differences you got on this one. Nice work!

4 Jun 2009 7:14am

@Ariel: Ahhh, Ariel, you've hit on exactly what I was going for. I started with the more conventional vertical compositions but had decided before entering the canyon that I wanted to find some horizontals. This one may not be as spectacular as the vertical I posted a couple of weeks ago, but I think it's a more interesting composition. I'm glad you like it.

Onlymehdi from Wayne, United States


4 Jun 2009 1:24pm

Giovanni from Milan, Italy

Wow, great photo! love the colours and the light!

4 Jun 2009 7:08pm

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Incredible photograph of an incredible place.

4 Jun 2009 7:40pm

Ted Szukalski from Australia

you have to love the textures and colours of these formations presented here in such excellent light and framing

6 Jun 2009 2:53am

dkc from Xanthi, Greece

So lucky to be there and take spectacular photos like this one!

6 Jun 2009 7:46am

Xavier Rey from Bordeaux, France


6 Jun 2009 9:42am

jelb from France

Great composition, saturation, brightness..Wonderful capture..Bravo!

6 Jun 2009 11:29pm

Beau Mitchell from Gold Coast, Australia

Very nice shot, Gary. Gotta love that intense red!

7 Jun 2009 2:37am

Jim G from Grand Forks, United States

Great capture, Nice eye on this. Must have done some hiking to get there...I am jealous!

7 Jun 2009 5:21am

jacques robert from Belgium

very great capture !
Vous avez le sens du cadrage et de la lumière ! J'aime beaucoup ! magnifique !

7 Jun 2009 12:29pm

Magda from Vancouver, Canada

Superb! The tones and light are splendid!

11 Jun 2009 4:43am

pernilla from Andonno, Italy

Fantastic shot! Love the composition and the colours. Your story makes the picture even better. Thank you!

16 Jun 2009 7:53am

LM from Aix en Provence, France

This capture is fantastic, I appreciate also your explanation. I can learn with you how to take some nice shot. Thanks and continue in the same way

25 Jun 2009 8:42am

DLB from Saint Joseph, United States

I have seen so many of these shots which no denying they all look pretty good. What sets yours apart from what I see is that you have excellent detail and no blown out areas or highlights. Well done!

2 Jul 2009 1:12am

@DLB: Thanks, Dick. Yeah, exposing in the slots isn't easy and at times it's impossible to capture the entire shaft and retain detail in the rocks (see my May 5 blog,, especially since I don't use HDR or any other kind of multi-image blending. In difficult exposure conditions I generally spot meter on the brightest element I want to retain, and make it as bright as I think I can get away with (but never more than +2). What saved me in today's image was that the shaft's ultimate focal point wasn't visible, so everything in the frame is receiving indirect light.

KriKridesign from Cully, Switzerland

I've visit the other canyon..I know you don't push pp! Just natural my words will be...: something to see once in the life....(ok so 13 seconds but anyway...) these tones are amaising...!!!!
(I would love to get some sand to work in paint with...!)

9 May 2010 5:19pm