Lauren & Rebecca At The Grand Canyon & Silence

Photographs — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward — iPhone

There are many reasons why I am not a landscape photographer. The main reason is that I like to play God and I don’t want to be bothered to wait until God’s light is just right the way Ansel Adams did. I shoot portraits because I can provide my light or use light that is readily available under a tree or on a cloudy day. This is light that is low in contrast and flatters the human face. But for good landscape you need contrasty light (at least most of the time) and with canyons and mountains you simply avoid noon sun. Canyons and mountains look better with early morning or late afternoon light.

Pentax MX, 20mm Ektachrome 100G

It was thus very frustrating in our road trip to Texas when I saw so many worthy landscapes, monument, sunsets, cloud formations, etc. I did manage to plan the day that we went to Monument Valley to show up mid afternoon and not at noon. But as we left I could see that late afternoon sun was going to do wonders to transform the formations into blood red apparitions. But we had to leave.

Nikon FM, 24mm ISO 800 colour negative

The Grand Canyon happened almost in a semi overcast day in the afternoon and the colours were muted. When I had to make the decision of taking pictures with my large panoramic Noblex (a seven inch long negative) I chose b+w film as I have seen too many panoramics in colour. Perhaps my b+ws (I have yet to process them) will be different.

Nikon FM-2 fisheye lens, Kodak Plus-X
Nikon FM, 24mm 800 ISO colour negative

In all the canyons we visited I sometimes felt jealous of the photographer who had the one large digital SLR. All they needed was at his fingertips. He could opt for colour or b+w or simply shoot it all in RAW and then make different versions later.

Nikon FM-2 24mm Kodak Plus-X

Watching me must have been funny. In one hand I had the little makeup case with the panoramic and in the other my largish black shoulder bag with the three 35mm cameras. I would shoot something with the 20mm then use another camera with b+w and shoot it with a fisheye. I might then change my mind and snap the colour negative 35mm camera with a 24mm And then I would invariably use my iPhone.

Nikon FM, 24mm 800 ISO colour negative Version 2 of picture above

All that meant that sometimes my granddaughters would have to give me the same pose for every different camera. Lauren was a bit more patient as these pictures of her taken from the Grand Canyon’s north rim attest to. Much has been said and written about the Grand Canyon. I felt frustrated that the light wasn’t quite right for landscapes (but quite nice for portraits). But what impressed me the most was the enormity of the place and the enormity of the silence that the place generated. I could hear it in my head.

Link to: Lauren & Rebecca At The Grand Canyon & Silence

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