Slot Canyons: Natures Sculpted Sandstone

Author: Megan Galope

Last September, I was lucky to attend the Arizona Highways Photo Workshops Slot Canyons trip as a trip leader. This workshop is based around Page in the northeast corner of Arizona. As the name of the workshop implies, we visited some incredible slot canyons in the area; however, the workshop also includes other lesser known locations that are just as amazing. Our photographer for the trip was LeRoy DeJolie, a renowned photographer and Native American who is very familiar with the area.

The first slot canyon that we visited was the well-known and popular Lower Antelope Canyon. Although beautiful and well worth the trip, it was a challenge at times to work around the number of tourists in the canyon.

Lower AntelopeLower Antelope Canyon

We also visited a lesser-known slot canyon called Secret Canyon. For this canyon it is necessary to go with an outfitter, and therefore we were the only group in the canyon at that time. What a difference it makes!

Secret CanyonSecret Canyon

In addition to slot canyons, we also visited Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend, Little Cut, Waterholes Canyon, Stud Horse Point, and Toad Stools. Many of these locations are not known to the general public or are difficult to get to, which made it easy for us to make beautiful photographs without having to fight the crowds.

Horseshoe BendHorseshoe Bend

Little CutLittle Cut

Stud Horse PointStud Horse Point

WaterholesWaterholes Canyon

Arizona Highways Photo Workshops is offering a similar workshop to this one in March. It will be led by another accomplished photographer, Suzanne Mathia, and space is still available. You can find the details about it here:  Don’t miss out on an amazing experience!

Megan Galope is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Photography The Bastard Art

Author: Joel Wolfson


Photography is sometimes called the bastard art. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that everyone owns a camera or smartphone and considers themselves capable of taking a picture. We’ve also been a bit brainwashed by decades of advertising from Canon, Nikon, Fuji and many others with the message that all you have to do is use their camera, lens or paper and your images will “look” professional.  This is akin to saying if “you buy a Stradivarius violin you will play like Itzhak Perlman.” Owning a great camera doesn’t make you a photographic artist any more than owning the best brushes, paints and canvas makes you a fine painter.

When I first started shooting pictures in the early 1970’s people would marvel at the fact that my images were razor sharp, well exposed, and possessed a wide range of tones.  They may not have known these terms but would say things like “your pictures are so clear.” These are all merely technical aspects of photography and were more difficult to master with cameras of several decades ago versus now. Today one can buy a consumer camera that will usually provide a properly exposed, in-focus picture with the press of a button.

Of course photography as an art form isn’t much different from others in that it is both left and right brained. To be a superb painter or sculptor you must be a master of technique as well as employ creativity. Assuming one is both creative and a master of technique, the other main ingredient is experience. All of these combined form a synergy that allows a photographic artist to “see” a photograph in their mind’s eye within the everyday world, capture it and present it in a form that elicits an emotional response from the viewer.


One of the best compliments I received was from a mentor of mine when he said “Wolfson, you see different.” This really meant something because it signified the next major step in my development as a photographic artist; a recognizable way of communicating with my images, distinct from other photographers.

An expression I’ve heard several times when discussing images from various travel destinations is “you can’t take a bad picture there.” Typically, what people actually mean is that they were overwhelmed by the beauty of the place and they have never seen anything like it before. Consequently whatever snapshots they took, no matter how good or bad they actually were, remind them of this beautiful place. And that is fine for the traveler seeking to remind themselves of what they enjoyed on their trip.

Living in Arizona, Sedona and the Grand Canyon are in my back yard and I have photographed both areas since the mid 1980s. My standards for great photographs of these areas are far different than a tourist who is seeing it for the first time, awed by their magnificence and how photogenic they are. I find places that millions have already photographed to be a particular challenge and will pass up what other people might consider great photo opportunities in favor of creating an image that will convey the sense of being there the way I felt it.

©Wolfson_BLOG_Bastard_Art_500px_03There are too many elements that go into making fine art photographs to do it justice in one article. In fact I find even at the end of conducting my multi-day workshops there is always more that can be taught and learned. Knowing the technical aspects, direction and quality of light, line, shape, form, texture, color, perspective, rhythm, composition of these, design, and presentation are all just scratching the surface of photographic art.

Although some consider it the bastard art, I just hope the next time you think of photography as simply pushing the button on a camera you might “see” it differently.

Joel Wolfson is an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop instructor/photographer. Here is Joel’s bio.

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Natures Abstracts

Author: Jeff Cox

I like to try different things in photography. I’ve found gems1some interesting macro- photography at the Tucson Gem and mineral show. For the last several years I’ve gone and found unique shapes and patterns in the hundreds of mineral there. The colors can be amazing.

You can also turn some of the into black and white images or have any orientation you prefer.

The above photos were part of mineral slabs. Some could fit in your hand other were much larger. I find the richness of the colors and shapes just incredible. I’ve used a macro lens on some but I usually crop an area I find interesting. You can buy some minerals or just photography some on gems4the tables.

The Tucson Gem and mineral show if full of wonderful images that make great abstracts. In addition, you can find items from all over the world. There are tables of beads of all colors or numerous other items in abundance.

Enjoy the show it’s all over town. I’m fond of the Kino sport park area it has a assortment to peak my interest.

Jeff Cox is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Considering a Mirrorless Camera?

_DSC1317Author & image copyright:  Rick Jacobi

There has been a lot of discussion about Mirrorless cameras among photographers especially in the last year. One of the main reasons people are talking is the size and weight difference between DSLR and Mirrorless. The Mirrorless bodies and lenses are a lot smaller, which means less weight.

I was a Canon photographer for many years. The last Canon camera I had was the 5D Mark lll along with four lens. The lens were 24-105mm, 100 Macro, 100-400mm and 70-200mm. About a year and half ago I bought my first MIrrorless, which was Fuji X-T1 four fifth sensor along with two lens. I liked the camera but I felt I wanted a full frame and Sony had just come out with the new A7ll full frame. I sold my Fuji, lens and all my Canon equipment and bought the new Sony.


When I sold the Canon Body and lens I felt that I had lost my best friend. Could I ever get a sharp photo again? It is like selling your car and thinking you will have to walk from now on. I had A7ll for a few months but did not like EVF, because it was not up to par with the experience of looking through the Canon viewfinder. I liked the feel and the weight of the Sony but the EVF bothered me every time I took a photo. Then Sony came out with A7Rll and with all the reviews I read, I knew that I had to have that camera. I traded in my A7ll and bought the new Sony A7Rll and 24-240mm lens.

The biggest concern in giving up my Canon was wondering if I would ever feel really comfortable again with a camera. Would I regret selling my Canon? Would I ever have a best friend in a camera. The answer is overwhelmingly, YES! I finally feel comfortable with my camera [Sony A7Rll] and I don’t have any regrets selling my ex- best friend [Canon 5D Mark lll].

I am not trying to sell anyone a Sony but rather hoped that by sharing my experience it would help you in your decision making process should you be considering a change from a DSLR to Mirrorless. It is definitely not an easy decision and very hard to let go of your DSLR but I am happy that I made the switch. I have less weight and get tack sharp photos. The EVF in the later model is so much better and with its added features it makes shooting that much more fun.


Now my photo travels are so much more enjoyable without the heavy gear bags. Since I do a lot of street shooting, the the 24-240mm lens handles everything I need and the photos are (did I say) tack sharp! Sony has a lot of lens and adaptors too so you can use your Canon or Nikon lenses.

If you are thinking about changing I would recommend renting a Mirrorless camera for a few days to test drive. You may even want to rent a couple different models before finding that perfect new friend in your camera. Currently there are four great mirrorless cameras on the market: Panasonic Lumix, Olympus OM-D, Fujifilm x-T1 and Sony. Mirrorless cameras are not for everyone but there is a strong market trend going in that direction with many professionals making a switch too. I personally think this is the future in photography so I hope Canon and Nikon get on board or they risk being left behind.

Advantages of Mirrorless:

  • Smaller size and less weight
  • Fast frame speed
  • Live View – what you see is what you get.
  • Ease of manual focusing with focus peeking. {Love this}
  • Face and eye tracking.
  • EVF – what you see is what you get.
  • EVF – image review.
  • Easier to clean
  • Less camera shake


  • Battery life is shorter. Need to carry two or three batteries with you.
  • Harder to focus in low light but easy to do with manual focusing and peeking.

Rick Jacobi is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.  These photos were taken with the Sony A7RIII at the AHPW Creepy Crawly Critter workshop.

Time to get Artistic and Grungy

Author: David Halgrimson

On a not too recent trip to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico on an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop I gathered many images of birds and landscapes over a weeks time and I wanted to create an image depicting the great experience and the wonderful birds. But…now what? Well I had been taking an online class in Grunge Photography, if you have not heard of it, Google it; you will see some cool stuff.

After looking through my many images I put on my creative hat, it’s not very big but growing, and decided to use a number of the images from the Bosque del Apache shoot. I decided on 5 Bosque images and a couple grunge images I had taken of some weird wall and rusted metal. BTW, part of doing grunge is seeing and taking pictures of crazy things like cracked cement, rusted metal, and broken glass, anything to use as a background or overlay all to blend with other images.

I created my image in Photoshop but it can also be done in Elements and maybe other software that I don’t know about. The technique uses extensive use of Layers, Blend modes, Masks and Brushes. The idea is to layer one image onto another, selecting a blend mode that combines the two followed by using masks and brushes to hide or reveal parts of the two images followed by layering in another image and doing the same thing, followed by another layer and another and so on.

My final image is a combination of seven images, twelve layers (some adjustment layers) and seven masks. Preprocessing of each image also needs to be done as each image should be ready to go into and fit the composition. For example I flipped a couple of the bird images so they would be flying into the image not out of the image. I also added three text layers for “The Birds of Bosque del Apache” as I wanted different effects for parts of the text.

Tree Finished

This is not an overnight process; it takes time, thought, trial and error, doing, and undoing. I probably have fifteen hours or more on this image not counting the hours put into taking the class. I found it to be well worth the effort and if interested check out Photoshop Artistry at

All the images used and the final image are here to see.
David Halgrimson is a Trip Leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

A Night Enjoying Garden Lights

Author:  Jeff Insel

Light flower in red

Recently I went to the Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) to check out the Luminaries and the Bruce Munro exhibit. It was definitely well worth it. I really wanted to work on some night photography in the garden and incorporate the new exhibits. The Munro exhibits range from intriguing patterns made from recycled water bottles with LED lights strung through them to strands of lights strewn throughout the garden and across the mountain that overlooks the DBG.

Changing colors bulbs & lines

With my trusty tripod in hand, which is a necessity for long exposures I set out into the garden under the night skies. After some initial test shots with my ISO at 800 I decided to switch to ISO 400 and use longer exposures.The trick is trying to use the right combination of camera settings to get the brilliance of the various colors at night. I shoot with a Sony A65 and used my 18-70mm lens.

Different lights up the mtn

During the evening I also experimented with dialing out the zoom on some shots to get the “exploding” light effect which tends to yield some fun photos. On those shots my shutter settings varied from 4-6 seconds while dialing out the zoom, with my exposure at f4.0 to f5.6. This is a great environment for practicing your techniques and getting creative with your style.

Lights jump off the mtn

If you want to go, the Bruce Munro Sonoran Light exhibit will be at the Desert Botanical Gardens until May 8th. Visit for specific hours and dates. Tickets are free for members and $25 for the general public (night only) or $30 for day/night pass.

So get out and give it a try. You’ll be glad you did.

Jeff Insel is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Your camera is merely a tool

Author: Vicki Uthe

Does anyone else ever get irritated with the following comment? “Wow!  What a beautiful photograph! Did YOU take that? You must have a really nice camera.” That’s like saying, “Thank you for the lovely meal, it was delicious.  You must have a really nice…oven!”


Never forget, your camera is merely a tool.  How the photographer uses the tool is what makes the beautiful photograph.  So please, never do the reverse and tell someone who compliments you, “Thanks, I have a nice camera.”  Take pride and ownership of your craft, talent and abilities.


The following photos were all taken with a Canon point and shoot.  I’ve been through several Canon Elph series cameras and currently have the S-120 but they are all still pocket cameras.  As a travel photographer I love this size for its convenience and safety.  Safety meaning I don’t have a large, obvious camera hanging from my shoulder that is easy to steal.

Get out there with your little camera, experiment with angles, lighting and distance and have fun shooting!

Vicki Uthe is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.