Thursday, February 24, 2011

Finding Your Own Icons

Sandstone Shapes, Coyote Buttes, Arizona

So what is a hardcore wildlife shooter like myself doing shooting 
Red Rock country in the desert southwest?  Simple, I find these 
landscapes as irresistible as every other photographer who makes 
the pilgrimage to this “shrine of color.”  We are blessed in this 
country with some of the most extraordinary landforms on the 
planet, and it is no surprise that photographers are drawn here : 
where else can you find reds like this outside of a glowing sunset?
The challenge, of course, for anyone on one of these pilgrimages 
is to see beyond the icons. We have all seen hundreds of images 
of the classics : the sunburst through Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, 
the beams of light in Antelope Canyon, the Wave at Coyote Buttes.  
Great places all, and well worth a visit. But how can we, as 
photographers, see them in a new way?  Almost invariably, 
you find yourself trying to re-shoot the identical image as a 
thousand other photographers before you. I, for one, get zero 
satisfaction from that.  If you’re going to shoot an icon, make 
it your own – look for a new take, an unexpected angle, a unique 
I have made several trips to Arizona’s spectacular Coyote Buttes 
area over the years, and I will almost certainly go again. But does
 the world need any more pictures of the Wave? Probably not. But 
there are a thousand treasures all around it, all worthy of a look, 
and a picture. I took the picture above not more than 100 feet 
from the Wave, but I like it much more than the visual retreads 
I shot at the more famous site. It was a picture I found myself, 
spent time sorting out, and finally captured in the late afternoon 
light. It may not be the most breathtaking spot in an area filled 
with heart-stopping views, but it is a picture all my own – and it 
gives me more satisfaction than any of those I shot from the 
usual angles.
Next time I go, I’m going to intentionally take a wrong turn somewhere – 
and see what else is out there.

Nikon F100, 17-35mm lens


  1. Beautiful use of leading lines,
    You guys are truly blessed with these beautiful places with breathtaking scenery.
    These type of images, which most people miss always give satisfaction to the photographer. They double the joy of being there and help you to forget the discomforts.

  2. Yes, we have some spectacular scenery in this country. India, however, has spectacular wildlife and culture. The diversity in the world is truly breathtaking. Thanks for staying in touch.