Greg Fugate Photography | Going to the Desert

Going to the Desert

December 10, 2012  •  1 Comment

Every year during our summer vacation, my uncle would take my brothers and I on a camping trip somewhere in the Desert Southwest. We started looking forward to these trips months in advance. As an adult, I still look forward to time spent going to the desert.

I spent several days hiking through the Utah desert during Memorial Day weekend in 2011. I told everyone the purpose of the trip was to practice using my then relatively new DSLR camera. This statement was not entirely untrue. However, in reality, I was still reeling from some events at work that forced me to rethink many things about what I wanted out of my career. I needed time to get away and clear my head, and that's exactly what my time behind the camera lens gave me.

I hadn't been to Arches National Park in 10 years, and it was perhaps 20 years since I'd been to Canyonlands National Park. At first, I found myself looking through the camera lens frantically trying to capture the beauty and vastness of these remarkable places. But soon my pace slowed, and I found each park's (and my) natural rhythm. I recall one hike in Canyonlands along the canyon rim from Grand View Point Overlook. The trail ended at a sheer cliff edge. There I stood with this open rugged terrain stretching out below me as far as I could see. Not another person was around. The birds flying on the wind were my only company. I understood perfectly why this area of the park is called Island in the Sky.

Recently, I attended a week-long photography workshop in Sedona, Arizona, with Tim Cooper and the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. I'll write more blog posts as I continue to reflect on the experience. However, a fundamental lesson that my time in Sedona taught me is that photography isn't about rushing to get as many shots as possible. A memory card full of snapshots is no substitute for one or two well-made photographs. The key is to slow down and think about what I want out of each photograph. Why do I want to take this photograph? What do I want to communicate? What is the subject? Once these fundamental questions are answered, then I move on to the technical questions. What lens and focal length do I want to use? What depth of field do I want? Where will I set my focus point? What combination of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO will give me a good exposure?

My time spent last year at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and more recently in Sedona reinforced what I have come to value about going to the desert. Going to the desert allows me to slow down, listen to the universe, reconnect with myself, and rejuvenate my soul. A welcomed byproduct of this process is that I find countless opportunities for making great photographs!


Comments

Steve Fugate(non-registered)
I love what you've written about photograhpy here. So many aspects involved, technical, conceptual, even spiritual in some cases. It does seem like the ultimate goal of a photograhper is to convey a feeling or message to the viewer. This can't happen until the photographer decides what is remarkable or striking about the field of view and why is it appealing. Then to take those features and accent them in a certain way to make a more meaningful statement. I'm glad you are getting such joy out of the whole process. You have allways been one to embrace any endeavor fully and it looks like photography is no different.
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