If you are an avid landscape photographer and have not yet had the privilege of visiting a slot canyon then it is most likely on your bucket list. Some of the most recognizable and expensive pictures ever sold have been of slot canyons. These canyons are usually very narrow and allow the photographer a high degree of photographic creativity. If the light is right, you’ll have the opportunity to capture multiple stunning images in a relatively short period of time. Below are a list of tips to help you get the most out of your slot canyon experiences. Happy Shooting!
1) Use a small, lightweight tripod instead of your big, bulky one. Slot canyons are tight and the Lower Antelope Canyon, outside of Page, AZ can have as many as 150 people passing through every hour. Therefore, space is seriously at a premium. Many shots are taken near the ground from a lower perspective. A small tripod makes perfect sense. The larger the tripod, the harder it is to travel through the slot canyon. Set up time is longer, and there is a good chance of damaging a larger tripod by accidentally banging on the narrow canyon walls when you move. Versatility is a key component in your shooting success in slot canyons. Using a small, lightweight tripod allows me to scramble to achieve shots like this.
2) For compositions, look for scenes with a variety of depth and color. I look for compositions that give me angles to capture elements of the canyon that present it at its greatest depth. One element that helps provide depth is color. The color you see in slot canyons is simply a product of the intensity and temperature of the reflected light.
It is also important to pay attention to what is going on outside the canyon walls. If the sun is cutting in and out because of fast-moving clouds, the light is going to change often and this is critical information to understand to achieve your desired results in the slot canyon.
Once I get honed onto a scene, I will work that scene using several varieties of the same general composition while continuing to pay close attention to the light. I’ll use the vertical lines and shapes of the sandstone to block any direct light and accentuate glare and form while creating abstract images.
3) Think Black and White. Even though the color can be amazing, photographers can still create high quality images using a black and white conversion. This image uses the vertical and horizontal bands and erosion patterns of the sandstone to form a complex picture of shapes all accentuated by the reflected light.