October 9, 2012

Well Worn Tripod Holes

Horseshoe Overlook, Colorado River

Down river from Glen Canyon Dam, the Colorado River has carved out a big 180° loop aptly named Horseshoe Bend. South of Page, Arizona, off HWY 89, a short 3/4 mile trail leads out to Horseshoe Overlook. It is a popular tourist destination and photographs on Google Images are aplenty.

To serious photographers, it's easy to fall into the trap of avoiding "echoes" of others' work, of slipping into well worn tripod holes. I admit, I often avoid crowds and popular places precisely for that reason. But, I'd argue, if unique personal inspiration is found even in the most oft photographed places, then you must follow that inspiration and work for an image. Your experience and interpretation is no less valid than anyone who has come before you. Places I visually take for granted are often awe-inspiring to others.

On a long weekend roadtrip, my primary interest in Horseshoe Bend was revealing it to my daughter who'd never experienced an equivalent. Rain was threatening as we hiked out and the ground was damp from earlier showers. As we reached the canyon edge and the river's bend opened up before us, I became keenly aware of the soft colored tonalities contrasting with the deep blues and greens in the calm cool water of the river. Light was very even but emphasizing the main butte directly in front of us. The potential of an image, particularly a detailed large print, served as more than enough inspiration.

While a 21mm or wider lens will capture the entire area (foreground rock, river, and horizon), I find a slightly cropped angle of view equivalent to about 24mm feels more formal and adds a subtle atmosphere of mystery to the composition. Post processing required setting black and white points, slight vibrance and saturation, and dodging and burning to balance the overall image.


The fine print is much more than a mere reproduction of an image. It is the culmination of the inspiration and vision of the photographer.

Christopher Burkett