The high deserts of the USA ~ Road trip 2017

Jan 30, 2017 | Flash, Fujifilm X, Location, Travel | 14 comments

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.

USA road trip adventure with Damien Lovegrove and Martin Hill

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.

The Canyons of Arizona

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.

Grand Canyon, Arizona desert, Monument Valley

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.

The textures of America

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.

Route 66 adventure

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.

Barmaid on Route 66

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.

Sundown on route 66

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.

Shacks and abandoned frontiers on route 66

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.

The big picture in Arizona.

09. At an altitude of over 7000ft the painted desert is a remarkable wilderness to shoot in. Cool yet arid.

Grand Canyon

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.

figure in the landscape shots

11. We will be going off road into the most wonderful ‘blue earth’ locations to shoot figure in the landscape shots like these.

black and white photographs taken on the road

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.

A monolith in monochrome

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.

UPDATE: SOLD OUT – This experience has now sold out, if you’d like to be notified of upcoming events like this, subscribe to the Lovegrove Newsletter.

Feel free to ask questions below about this tour or comment on these photographs.

14 Comments

  1. Marry Anderson

    Very nice photos

    Reply
    • Damien

      Thank you Marry

      Reply
  2. Denny

    If this is to be your last visit then you should definitely include Oatman Arizona.
    I have already sent information about Holbrook and William Perry shootout which took place there to one of your group. Don’t miss the Courthouse or Blevens house in Holbrook and

    Reply
    • Damien

      Hi Denny,

      I visited Oatman a while back when I did the 66 in it’s entirety. It was a bit touristy but good fun none the less. We will be staying in Holbrook for two nights and will visit among other places “Bucket of Blood Street” :) I’ll be sure to find the other places you mention in Holbrook :) Thank you.

      Damien.

      Reply
    • Damien

      Hi Rich,

      I’m sorry I can’t remember. It is somewhere between Chicago and LA on the 66. I drove the whole way. There are so many ghost towns on the rt 66.

      Cheers, Damien.

      Reply
      • theorangecountyphotographer

        Hi Damien! Many thanks for your response. Its frustrating that cameras rarely have built in gps to keep track of locations. I am a big fan of the 50’s googie style architecture and the abandonment of such buildings offers a sense of post apoclocalism to me. It is astounding how in these areas, places flourish or die based on transit routes being built or moved.

        Reply
        • Damien

          Hi Rich,

          I understand your passion. I love the liner designs of the art deco era and the gas stations on Rt66 have so much deco influence. The faded elegance of abandoned structures has so much to offer and so much to appreciate. Somehow the shabby chic is far better that the restored. Stay inspired and I wish you great light.

          Kindest regards, Damien.

          Reply
        • Damien

          Wow, thanks Rich for the heads up on formento and formento. Fabulous work :)

          Kindest regards,

          Damien.

          Reply
  3. Terry Rogers

    I was fortunate to be part of the 2016 trip. It was a fabulous experience from start to finish. If there is any way that you can swing it, sign up without delay. You will be truly glad that you did. Completely cool and so very rewarding.

    Reply
    • Damien

      Thank you Terry for your glowing endorsement. There are just two places left and this will be fabulous. :)

      Reply
  4. Ruth Taylor

    Wow, this looks amazing! I love how you have captured such variety in the shots here in terms of colour, tone, subject and mood and yet they all work together so well to tell the story of the place, just brilliant. Have a great trip, I’ll get saving for another year!

    Reply
    • Damien

      Hi Ruth,

      Thank you very much for those compliments. This will be our last trip to the high deserts of the USA so if you get a chance grab one of the last two places left for June. It might be Cuba next or the deserts of Southern Spain however there’s no place like the USA for a road trip. :)

      Kindest regards,

      Damien.

      Reply

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