From the Photographer:
It was January, 11th, 2014, and both my wife and I had a few more hours to kill. We had just wrapped up a personal tour through the beautiful slots of Antelope Canyon, and finished off a healthy dose of Jack In The Box (a treat for us living in Charleston, SC). Both my wife and I were in very unfamiliar territory, but knew Horseshoe Bend wasn’t too far away. We knew from everything we had ever seen or heard, this was not something we wanted to miss. With neither of our phones having a signal, we were clueless as to just how close we may be. We stopped at a local gas station to ask the attendant just how much further we needed to go and after a few miles and a couple of turns we arrived.
Glancing at the clock in the car, we knew we would have to move quick. Not only was daylight falling, but the attendant had also mentioned there was a small hike from the parking lot to witness this marvel. As we arrived, we noticed the vacant spots amongst the parking area were quickly being filled. Although it was January, there were cars packed with locals, buses filled with tours and an array of photographers with gear on their backs and tripod in hand. After a quick 3/4 mile hike through sand, we were ready to locate our preferred point of view.
Once we reached the top, we noticed a line of people from left to right. Assuming we had reached our destination, we creeped forward with anticipation. As our eyes met the opening of this grand display, we paused, looked at each other and without words, smiled and hurried to the edge: an 800 ft drop with no guardrail in site. The surrounding ground consisted of the desert elements, with very little plant life, and loose gravel mixed with sand. One slip of the step and you’ll be earning your wings!
After soaking it all in, we removed our gear from our backs and started setting up. A D700 with a 14 – 24mm lens and a cable release on a Manfotto tri pod, was my lens and body choice. As the sun fell, I played with focal distance and aperture, all while keeping a close eye on my histogram. Although the lens was wide, it still wasn’t enough to capture all of the Bend’s glory into one single frame. With the exposure far from being prime, I had ample opportunity to plan my stitch. After moving from spot to spot, to capture just the right composition, I found my little plot of the sand. With one foot of the tri pod centimeters from the canyons edge, I planned my attack.
With tri pod in place and composition found, I patiently awaited the light show. The distant sky was littered with low lying clouds, so I knew that if I couldn’t capture the sun and its glorious beams, there would have to be a plan B. One way or another, I was getting this shot!! As I sat and listened to the various languages increasing with intensity, I noticed more and more of the light seekers beginning to shoot. The sun had dropped behind the clouds, never revealing itself again. Once they noticed the ball of light had retired for the day, they began to pack their gear and head back down the hill.
By this time, I had approached the camera, grabbed the cable release and started shooting with what I assumed would be a very balanced recipe. F11 @ 200 ISO. I played with the exposure as the light faded. My instincts began to kick in and I knew the best was yet to come as the clouds had to capture some color at some point. By now, a good portion of the crowd had either packed their gear or was already making their way back to civilization. Those that were still on the trail as the pinks and purples began to appear, knew that had left too soon.
There it was! Exactly what we had been waiting for. Plan B was in full effect! Those of us that knew there was something spectacular brewing, all ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ at the magic in front of us. It was as if it was meant for just a special few. With my shutter staying open for 8 seconds a frame, I began my 9 piece stitch working from left to right, top to bottom. Although I knew there would be quite a bit of overlay, I was determined to capture everything from corner to corner.
Once the clouds revealed the glow of the now absent sun, I shot as many frames as possible until darkness settled in. In that very short period of time, I was able to shoot 27 frames for a total of 3 images. I know that doesn’t sound like much. But, even if I had walked away without a single shot, I was inspired like never before and fully aware of what this incredible place we call earth has to offer.
Internationally published and award winning photographer, Keith Briley, satisfies his need for creativity by chasing light.
Born in Dallas, TX and growing up with a camera in his hand, Keith combined his love for the outdoors, adventure and wildlife with his passion for photography.
In 2013, Briley entered the Professional Photographer’s Association’s, International Print Competition for his first time. In doing so, he received the honor of having his image, Waiting For The Sun, published in the prestigious 2013 Loan Collection.
His vision is to hopefully share some of the emotions and have you wonder what he experienced while capturing the moment. He believes that photographs work when people feel, even for a moment, that they are somewhere else, taking them far from the pressures of everyday life.
Visit Keith’s personal website and gallery of images at www.keithbriley.com