Photography Tips from the Pro’s – Paul Reiffer

Shot during July 2012, using a Canon 5D Mark III, 16-35mm f/2.8 L II lens at 16mm, f/18 for 0.3 seconds with an ND Grad.

Shot during July 2012, using a Canon 5D Mark III, 16-35mm f/2.8 L II lens at 16mm, f/18 for 0.3 seconds with an ND Grad.

From the Photographer


So, you want to photograph Horseshoe Bend? Well, you’ve made the first step that I failed on two previous occasions of visiting Page, AZ – you at least know it’s there!


July 2012 was my first awareness of Horseshoe Bend’s existence. Although I’m from England, I’ve shot a lot of the US National Parks in my career (indeed, some of my shots are used by the NPS for their brochure material) – so I figured I had at least a general understanding of where the “big sights” are around North America. How little I knew – and even more frustrating is that this (not-so) hidden gem is just a few miles from where I’ve been to photograph twice before, the slot canyons around Page – I decided : I had to go and shoot it.


So, I planned in that during my next trip to California I’d head across to Page and get to the Canyon. I took a bit of a risk by only allowing 2 full evenings there to shoot. Flying between LA and Page provides fantastic views on the way, and I got my first glimpse of the canyon that afternoon after a little “scouting mission” to see how far the drive was, and how the weather was looking. In the desert, weather can change quickly and unpredictably, so while it’s worth getting a feel for the general conditions – don’t bank on them staying like that (as I learned!)


When I returned, cloud. People were returning to their cars with camera kit and it wasn’t even anywhere near sunset time. It’s a breathtaking view, regardless of the weather, but I was there for one shot.  Now, the good news that comes with not-so-perfect weather is that lots of other people leave : I got the perfect spot for that (yes, overshot) iconic view. Setting up, I saw a few people with cropped sensor bodies out there, getting frustrated that they couldn’t frame the whole vista – as a warning, you need to go WIDE. Think of as wide as you would want to go, then go one wider! I used my 16-35mm f/2.8L II for this shot, but I’ve seen many images with 10-22s listed as their lens. Those with only an effective 35mm (so, 22mm on a crop-sensor body) will likely be frustrated, or have to resort to stitching – something which I’m not a fan of. A few more people left, but having travelled 5,500 miles to shoot the canyon there was no way I was going anywhere.


And then I got lucky (as so many shots are ultimately about!).  The sun broke through the clouds. Metering for this intense burst of light had to be done quickly as it only appeared a minute or two before it was gone. At f/18, this lens gives AMAZING sun stars, but I noticed a by-product of that on the first few shots: there was a spot to the bottom left of the image. A quick look at the lens revealed the culprit – dust.  Unfortunately, the desert winds also bring with them desert dust which can cause some real nasty effects on the final image, especially when shooting at f/18.  A quick clean later and I was back in business.  With an ND grad to keep the sky under control, I shot a series of 10 images as the sun poked in and out, finally resting here with my last shot of it on the tip of the horizon. Warming up the white balance in-camera enhanced the deep red colours from the rock, and increasing clarity in Lightroom brought out a lot of the detail as you look down the canyon floor.


The result?  I’m happy with it. Yes, it’s the “standard viewpoint”, but the fact I captured this on a day when it seemed I’d be going home with an empty flash card makes it just that little bit more rewarding. The view? Amazing – with or without a camera. I actually stayed a while after the sun disappeared to see the sky change colour above, and I’d encourage other photographers to do the same. Sometimes, we forget to ENJOY the view as well as simply capture it!


So, my top tips for the canyon:
1) Don’t think that the weather now will be the weather in 30 minutes’ time.
2) Take a WIDE lens – as wide as you can get.
3) CLEAN your lens every now and then – the longer it’s exposed out there, the more dust will be accumulating.
4) Get your spot early-on.  I’ve heard stories of not even being able to get to the ridge during peak season.
5) Stay a little longer. Just because others are leaving doesn’t mean the opportunity has passed.
6) ENJOY the view. Get out from behind your camera and look at how amazing it is with your eyes, as well as just a CMOS sensor!


About the Photographer

As a previously established UK commercial model, Paul Reiffer had the opportunity to work with some of the best photographers around the world. As a result, he decided to switch to “the other side of the lens” to make use of some of the skills and experience he’d picked up along the way.  Now an Internationally published photographer, his base is in London, but he also shoots in his Southampton studio from time to time along with facilities and locations all along the South Coast of England. Beyond studio shooting, he also works on location both in the UK and abroad.

Now an award-winning photographer, in 2010 Paul gained Associateship distinctions from both the British Institute of Professional Photography (ABIPP) and the Royal Photographic Society (ARPS). In 2011, this was followed by Associateships from the Society of Wedding & Portrait Photographers (ASWPP), the Society of International Fashion & Glamour Photographers (ASIFGP) and the Society of International Travel & Tourism Photographers (ASITTP).

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