Try A Photo Study To Focus On Finer Details

Exploring the details of slot canyons with a telephoto lens helped me find new ways to photograph these iconic rock formations
images taken in slot canyons

I moved to southern Utah a few months ago and one of the things that I’m most excited about is being able to explore the myriad slot canyons in this area—once the daily temps aren’t high enough to where you can literally fry an egg on the pavement. Of all the slot canyons here, perhaps the most famous are the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. These slot canyons are completely mesmerizing and offer limitless opportunities for landscape photographers to refine their eyes. In most cases, you may be inclined to stick with a wide-angle lens in order to capture the “floor-to-ceiling” beauty of these locations. And who could blame you?

But the truth is that there is as much amazement to be found using longer focal lengths. In fact, I was compelled to leave all of my wide lenses in my bag after experiencing the pure delight of finding compositions using my longer lenses. At the time, I used my 70-200mm lens and was swiveling all around, finding new photos in nearly every direction. The truth is that it’d be easy to create a focused study solely using a telephoto lens in these areas.

If I had to pinpoint why I find such a concept so appealing, it’s because of what it forces you to see, especially outside of the obvious wide shots. While I was composing my photos for this series, I paid extra attention to the concept of “elegance” and “flow” with respect to the surrounding walls. The more time I spent appreciating these oft-overlooked qualities, the more in love I became with the idea of this study. Suddenly, an entirely new world opened up and I was seeing these slot canyons in a whole new way.

Truly, I was like a kid in a candy store. There were so many layers to juxtapose and elements to consider. In this direction, you had sharp angles versus wavy undulations. In that direction, you had striations of one color pitted against an entirely different kind.

The idea of a focused study built atop the foundation of longer focal lengths allowed me to explore and appreciate Antelope Canyon in a way that I never had before.


See more of Brian Matiash’s work at matiash.com.

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