Fall in Aravaipa Canyon

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Laura, Nov 22, 2017.

  1. Laura

    Laura freespirittraveler

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    946
    Location:
    San Diego
    Hello, it's me, it's been a long, long time ......... I actually have a backcountry trip to write about. It was a photography workshop through Arizona Highways PhotoScapes in Aravaipa Canyon with Shane McDermott. I didn't know anything about Shane except that he's a contributor for Arizona Highways and took some amazing pictures of Aravaipa Canyon, which was enough to get me to sign up (a photographer friend of mine e-mailed me the trip) without knowing how I was going to get off work or pay for the workshop. Whatever, all that could be worked out later. ;) It was going to be three days of camping and shooting-woohoo!

    The first glitch we had was the BLM wouldn't give permits for Aravaipa Wilderness, so the trip was diverted to the East End and camping in Turkey Creek. As we caravanned there, down 70 miles of the dustiest road I've ever been on, I wondered what the hell I had gotten myself in to. Nothing seemed to be around, but as we got to the trailhead the landscape suddenly turned into this oasis in the middle of nowhere, with high cliff walls and tall cottonwoods, sycamores, and a creek that wound its way through the whole thing. I was starting to get excited. Turns out that was very serendipitous-Aravaipa cottonwoods had been hit hard with tent caterpillars this year, and all the color was in Turkey Creek.

    Shane has a great approach to photography-he is all about being in touch with how being in nature affects you physically and mentally, and before each shoot he took us through some meditative exercises to open ourselves up to receive whatever the canyon had to give us. Good shots, I hoped. I walked down the creek and just took it all in, marveling that this place exists in the middle of nowhere.

    Turkey Creek Trees and Trail.jpg

    We camped by a fire that night, and had great discussions about getting out of the "monkey mind", the linear, goal-oriented, driven state of mind that most of us live in during our day to day lives. The workshop was totally free-form, and we could wander around to our heart's content.

    The next day I could feel myself departing from the monkey mind. I was so much more relaxed! We got up and left in the dark, awaiting what would be revealed. I walked back down Aravaipa Creek, noticing where the light was, the shapes of the trees, saw deer and many different kinds of birds. The usual light screaming shots I usually take weren't here, but I noticed so many details that I normally would have missed:

    Aravaipa Graphic Trees.jpg

    When the light became too harsh, we returned to camp and had a photo critique on Shane's laptop. He gave great feedback, and told me I was way too far from my subjects, trying to cram too many elements into the pictures. For the next shoot, he told me to only bring my 70-200 mm lens. I also decided to go the next morning on my own and reshoot some of my earlier shots, looking for better light and paying more attention to the small picture:

    Tree and Reflection, Landscape.jpg

    Aravaipa Leaning Tree.jpg

    Another night of campfire discussions ensued, and it was amazing the change I felt from the first day when I got here. I was no longer impatient for anything, I was content to just be. The energy in this beautiful canyon was palpable. I had never shot in the very early morning and late evening soft light because I've always been attracted to the high energy light just before and after the sun rises and sets. But that's what's great about Shane, he pushes you to do something different and stretch your creative boundaries. And yes, the fall colors were incredible. There was one shot that never worked out, even though I tried it twice at different times. The light was just screaming. But it was such a beautiful scene that I'm posting it anyway. This is the entrance to Turkey Creek, and this is with the contrast and yellow luminance reduced:

    Creek of Gold.jpg

    I was really sorry to leave this magical place, and leave behind the peaceful experience I was having. It made me realize how toxic city/worklife, with its frenetic pace and pressure, really is. I think all of us had the same experience. I drove back to Tucson where I had a hot bath and hot food, and just took in everything I've learned. And wondered if I'd ever be back to Aravaipa. Time will tell, but I have some incredible memories, and I pushed through my creative boundaries.

    I couldn't leave Tucson without going to see what sunrise would bring at Saguaro National Park. I wasn't in the right state of mind to really take it in (going back to work had put me back in the monkey mind, unfortunately), but I did manage to capture some nice light, in spite of it:

    Saguaro and Clouds, Sunrise.jpg

    I highly recommend taking one of Shane's workshops! He is an amazing instructor, and really is good at sensing where you need to go to develop as a photographer. I've already signed up for one in Colorado next year. :cool:
     
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  2. Dave

    Dave Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"

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    1,571
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    SL,UT
    Beautiful stuff, even the one you say didn’t work out in spite of multiple tries.
     
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  3. gnwatts

    gnwatts Member

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    1,280
    Beautiful shots Laura. It's fun to "let go", just take it in and enjoy the experience.
     
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  4. Artemus

    Artemus I walk

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    3,323
    Location:
    better off outside
    Very, very nice, Laura!
     
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  5. Scott Chandler

    Scott Chandler Wildness is a necessity- John Muir

    Messages:
    780
    Mmmm beautiful.

    Arizona Highways is one of my favorite magazines. They always have some of the nicest photography. And the fewest obnoxious ads.
     
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  6. Laura

    Laura freespirittraveler

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    946
    Location:
    San Diego
    They also give very, very good workshops. In addition to the photographer, there was an "observer" who was there to make sure everyone had a good experience and that everything was running the way it should. They really cared about the experience we were having. Not to mention the workshops are affordable! :)
     
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  7. Laura

    Laura freespirittraveler

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    946
    Location:
    San Diego
    Thanks Greg! Love that shot you're using in your profile.
     
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  8. Laura

    Laura freespirittraveler

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    946
    Location:
    San Diego
    Thanks Dave! I guess I'll just have to go back and keep trying. :D
     
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  9. Antlerking

    Antlerking Member

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    95
    Location:
    UT
    Wow, amazing pics.
     
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  10. Laura

    Laura freespirittraveler

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    Location:
    San Diego
    Thank you!
     
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