As the details and bookings are being finalised for the 2017 epic road trip adventure it gives me a great excuse to share with you my passion for what has to be one of the finest locations for photography on the planet; The Wild West of the USA. The high desert of Arizona, the Canyons of Utah and the rock formations of Nevada deliver a spectacular backdrop while Route 66 and small town America provide us with a texture and cultural heritage to be cherished.
01. I first visited Kingman in Arizona in 2012 and I took the top shot here with my Fuji X-Pro1 and the 60mm f/2.8 prime lens. The school bus is such an American icon that I couldn’t resist this shot in 2016 taken on a prototype Fujifilm X-T2. Strong use of vivid colour is the American way.
I’ll be making my third visit to this spectacular part of the world in June this year as co tour leader for an 8 day trip with a group of 12 photographers. I’ll be joined by my fellow Tutor Martin Hill. Martin is an expert with flash and we will be upping the ante this year with the wonderful Godox Witsro AD600BM, AD360ii and AD200 flash heads. Julie my wife and expert photographer will be touring with us to provide vital admin support and to capture the remarkable scenery no doubt. That will leave Martin and I to concentrate on the photography guidance. We are both very giving people and freely share our skills with our adventurers. We will have six photographers each at each location and swap over often so that everyone gets to shoot everything.
02. In 2016 we ventured deep into Navajo Nation land to the spectacular Coal Mine canyon. It was hard to find as it’s off road down an unmarked track and effectively in the middle of nowhere. It borders a time zone and that confused our satellite navigation equipment. It will be easier second time around as we have all the correct coordinates :) We purchased full production filming permits which granted us vehicle access for our convoy of 5 SUVs and full copyright release for the pictures we shot. We will be doing the same this year and scheduling far more time to explore this spectacular location. The shot at the bottom in the panel above is the easily recognisable Antelope canyon. Last year we went to the lower section of the canyon but this year we have pre booked a photographic tour of the favoured upper Antelope Canyon. We needed to book this at least six months ahead of the trip to ensure availability and full access.
03. The drying river bed in the top left shot was a reminder that it had rained in week three of May. That’s why we are journeying in June this year. It wasn’t too hot at the locations, if anything it was a bit cold at times. In June however it will be a perfect climate to shoot in. Top right is part of the spectacular Monument Valley. Martin and I will be your guides as we journey through this dramatic wilderness. The bottom shot here is the unmissable Grand Canyon.
04. In the heartland of America sit abandoned cars, frontier posts and highways. I love the tones and textures these places provide. There are pictures to be had just about everywhere.
We carry all our provisions for the day’s shooting in the SUVs; bottled water, walkie talkies, first aid kits and a tow rope ;) All the photographers work together to rig and derig the flash kits giving us the freedom to be creative.
05. The old Route 66 was partly built by prisoner chain gangs and was continually updated and rerouted before being replaced by the interstate I40. It all started back in 1926 and so much of the history is still visible in a slowly decaying state. It’s the crumbling texture that delivers the charm.
06. Elli, our waitress in the karaoke bar is a great singer and was good fun. The people we meet on a trip like this complete the experience. We usually dine out every night with the locals. I took this shot of Elli on my classic Fuji X100. I always use it on Auto ISO and at f/2.8 unless there is a lot of light. Even then I’ll pop the ND in rather than go above f/8.
07. The Route 66 lives up to it’s reputation of a ramshackle movie set. We will be visiting some of the best 66 highlights on our June 17 road trip.
08. An old cafe makes a simple subject to capture. Learning how to isolate the subject and create a striking composition is one of the topics Martin and I will be discussing as we go.
09. At an altitude of over 7000ft the painted desert is a remarkable wilderness to shoot in. Cool yet arid.
10. This is a shot from the South rim of the Grand Canyon looking towards the Painted Desert. The scale of this place is vast.
11. We will be going off road into the most wonderful ‘blue earth’ locations to shoot figure in the landscape shots like these.
12. Life can be great in monochrome too. I love to simplify the scenes by selecting Acros mono on my X-T2 and no doubt I’ll be doing the same on my GFX too from time to time.
13. Dramatic monuments in a vast landscape make wonderful photographs. On our 2017 trip Martin and I will be on hand to explain the lighting direction options and the essence of great composition.
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Feel free to ask questions below about this tour or comment on these photographs.