Photographing iconic locations has become a national past time. Almost everyone has a camera, or an IPhone, or a camera on their phone, and therefore, everyone is a photographer ! If you’re planning to shoot an iconic location, i.e. Tunnel View at Yosemite, The Watchman from the bridge in Zion, the Mono Lake Tufas, and you arrive right at sunrise or sunset, you might not be able to find a vantage point you like due to the crowds of people waiting for the sunrise or sunset, and if you do, you’ll end up with the same photograph as thousands of other photographers.
So, how do you find iconic shots that are unique and beautiful, that you won’t see plastered all over the web? You take extreme measures and go off the beaten path! You need to be a fearless explorer with a huge sense of adventure, and the right equipment for where you’re headed to shoot.
Last month I flew to Las Vegas and drove to Zion to attend a photography workshop with the Aperture Academy. I didn’t relish the idea of shooting with a group, but this was an Extreme workshop, hiking in the Virgin River in the Narrows, in a dry suit, with a twenty pound backpack filled with photography gear on my back, and something I wouldn’t consider doing on my own. At least not the first time. We were lucky in that the flow of the river was only about 42 cubic feet per second, and the deepest point was only about 4 feet. We were also lucky that it was a sunny day because without the light shining down into the Narrows, the opportunity for photographing gold and red reflected hues from the walls onto the river would not have existed.
We began our trek in the River at dawn, stopped a few times along the way, setting up tripods and shooting low and fast, capturing flowing water, and finally, as the sun crested high enough over the top of the canyon, golden reflections! We happened along a few professional photographers along the way, but the people shooting with I Phones didn’t start to appear until a little too late for the best light. I’m guessing that most of the latecomers captured beautiful shots of the river, but I’m also guessing that their photos didn’t look like ours.