Evolution of a Grand Canyon Photograph

Grand Canyon from the Desert View WatchtowerIt’s sometimes hard to critique our own work. We get to close to it. I often leave a photograph alone for a few days then revisit it and see if I feel the same about my edits and final image, or if I feel more tweaking needs to be done. Other times I send my image out to some Professional Photographer friends to see how they react to the image. Many times I get nice kudos and a pat on the back for a good job. My Art is growing and improving. Other times I get back ideas for taking the image up a notch or simply different opinions on what would make it a bit better.

At some point in the process of becoming a good, if not a great, Photographer you reach a level where it becomes a matter of taste and personal preference as to the final look of an image. Technically perfect photos don’t always work well. They can lack an emotional connection to the viewer. Be cold and lifeless. Is there such thing as a technically perfect image? Photography is a balancing act of compromises. The camera is not the same as your eyes. Choices must be made as to what to show or feature. Other images, while not technically perfect, have captured the moment and covey something to the viewer. Evoke a reaction, an association or relating to the image.

I found myself in this position after a trip to the east gate of the Grand Canyon. I am the leader of the Photographers Adventure Club of Northern Arizona (PAC and PACNAZ). One of the things I do is lead photo walks each month with other PAC Leaders. It had been clear and warm up to April 26, 2014. Then, a late spring storm rolled in with high winds, snow, hail, rain and near blizzard conditions at a times. Still, Brian Oakley and I decided the forecast for the backside of the storm to arrive after lunch and possible better conditions was worth getting in the car and heading to the Desert View Watchtower at the Grand Canyon. We had a photo walk scheduled for the club, but I had no idea if anyone would show up…

We drove in blizzard conditions at times on our way to Flagstaff. While in Flag (local lingo) the weather broke open and the road cleared in minutes. By the time we arrived at the east gate of the Grand Canyon National Park it was back to horizontal snow and bitter cold wind. We drove on. Getting out of the car to walk to the rim we found the left side of our clothes being covered in snow and building up. Time to put on the wind and rain suits!

Our perseverance was rewarded with great photo opportunities. Ten PAC Members showed (brave sods). Though windy and bitter cold, we were treated to a great sunset and took home some good images.

Now the editing starts. I sent my edited image out to Lou DeSerio of Lou DeSerio Galleries to show off my “new baby”. Lou liked it a lot but felt it needed more saturation in the middle. Re-edit #1… I posted the image into a G+ event called “Improve My Photo”, for some more critique. The first image they took on was mine during the G+ Hangout. While calling it near perfection they also said they had to “cut hairs” and it came down to personal taste. But the ideas I got for a few adjustment where what I needed to finalize the image. Re-edit #2. I took the foreground down a bit so it was not so bright. It was drawing the eye away from the center a bit. The clouds, where the sun broke through, could be a bit less “hot”, so I adjusted the highlights.

I shared the image back with Lou and the Landscape group on G+. Done deal. They all loved it. These ‘other eyes” helped me finish my photo. Thank you all!

It is not easy to put your Art and photography out for critique. I know I don’t have to listen to any of it. Or only part of it. It’s all opinions and preferences. But in these nit picky details often come ideas for making a better image. I learn to look closer with different eyes. The ego must be set aside. The ears and the listening must be open. You don’t have to take any of the advice. An Artist much choose. Create their vision. It is not always understood or liked by all. Such is Art.

The Grand Canyon is not easy to capture well. You would think such grandeur would simply jump into the camera and work. I does not. I have spent the last 6 years working at getting the images I envision. I will continue to do so. The Canyon is ever-changing light. To be there at “that moment” is hard and often you get nothing for your efforts except and awesome trip to the rim to gaze upon one of the world’s marvels.

I’ll be back again and again, looking for that one moment to capture. One I can be proud of sharing with the world. One that makes the viewer want to go there.

First image in this Gallery is the one the article is about:

Prints Available Here

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Larry Pollock

I am an Artist who's medium is Digital Photography. I paint with Light. Product, event, portrait, landscape and fine art photography

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