Finding Original Photography Subjects: Quest for the Holy Grail

utah tractor abandoned in an empty field
Faded Metallic Blue Tractor in an Empty Field
New, original, creative, novel, unique:  those are words I like.  An artist can learn from others (see my previous Zion Narrows Post) but creating something altogether new is a higher goal.  With landscapes, you obviously can't make a new landscape but you can try to go to places that haven't been photographed before.  Every National Park has truly famous icons that receive overflowing attention.  I believe these same places have lesser beauties that few see or record.  That's the opportunity for original work.  

My photo for this post is very near Zion National Park but it's a few miles off on a dirt road.  I was driving past on my way to another hiking location.  With my eyes open for new subjects, I saw this tractor and knew it could be great.  I stopped and photographed later that afternoon when the sun was getting lower.  I shot many compositions low to the ground to catch the rows of light and shadow.  The clouds even cooperated with lovely patterns among the blue background.  Lucky me!

Zion Narrows Hiking and Photography

Virgin river in Zion narrows
Zion Narrows with High Cliffs and Autumn Trees
Tackling a worldwide icon such as Zions National Park Virgin River narrows is a wonderful opportunity.  People wisely come from around the world to visit this magical location.  I live within a 1-hour drive and made my most recent trip here in October.  The leaves had changed to a greenish-yellow which made them stand out from the orange and black canyon walls.  

I'll bet there are literally millions of photographs taken here each year.  This is not a place where I'll discover something never seen before.  Rather it's a place where I can shoot my best and then measure my work against the very best photographers in the world.  They all come here.  They all shoot in the same narrow canyon.  

That being said, here are a few other photos from this beautiful icon of the Southwest.

landscape photography art zion narrows utah
Virgin River Bend in Zion Narrows
zion narrows with autumn colors photography
Zion Narrows in a wide canyon section
zion narrows southwest utah scenic
Zion Narrow, a shot upstream

Snow Canyon Overlook with Rugged Tree Hanging on Cliff

Tree hanging onto Cliff in Snow Canyon
Snow Canyon Overlook with Tree in Foreground
This entry will be about two things:  blown highlights and finding the right foreground subject.

Blown highlights are a photographers' worst nightmare.  A blown highlight is just white, no color, no detail, no definition, nothing but white.  You cannot create anything with it.  Many cameras including mine have flashing red pixels on the LCD screen to alert you to blown highlights.  When shooting, they are to be avoided.

In processing the above photo, the subject is a darker object against a brighter background.  This calls for processing to lighten the details in the tree while still keeping the detail in the brighter distant cliffs.  There are ways to do this which look fake and I don't want that.  Sometimes a photo will look more real, believable if you just let the highlights blow out, which is what I did here in the upper left corner of the photo.  There is just white, not blue, sky.  This was a decision made in processing to create a photo which looks natural, real.

The other half of this entry is about finding a foreground subject.  We landscape photographers love to see vast amazing spaces.   Those spaces tend to look uninteresting without a foreground object, something to make you (the viewer) feel like you're there.  A person, a tree, a flower, a rock or just about anything else can serve as a foreground subject.  In this case, a rugged tree hanging at the edge of the cliff was available and I discovered it.

A foreground object also makes your photograph unique.  Many people have shot the Snow Canyon Overlook, but no one has ever photographed this tree as part of their composition.