Shooting Slot Canyons

Howells Outdoors

Adventure is my middle name...actually it's Keith.
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Sep 26, 2012
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I'm in slot canyons all the time and yet they never turn out great. Anyone got some tips on shooting in slot canyons, especially the deep and dark ones...
 

gnwatts

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Our camera sensors are not as good as old fashioned film in capturing extreme lights and darks (dynamic range). Extreme lights and darks will not register with detail. One way is to choose the time when NO direct light is entering your field of view in the viewfinder, then your cameras sensor can effectively stay in it's "comfort zone", where it is not working hard to interpolate light that is too light or too dark. Using a tripod you can capture a well balanced dramatic slot canyon shot, if you are not overextending the limits of the sensor, by making longer exposures, in light that that the sensor can handle. The shot above is a fine photograph, but the highs are a little overexposed IMO. You can use HDR to extend the dynamic range, and effectively get the highs and lows back into control, but I find it best to not totally rely on such programs, and try to capture the image without sophisticated software. Relying on time of day and technique to get the killer shot is more satisfying to me than relying on some computer program.
 

Laura

freespirittraveler
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The shot above is a fine photograph, but the highs are a little overexposed IMO. You can use HDR to extend the dynamic range, and effectively get the highs and lows back into control, but I find it best to not totally rely on such programs, and try to capture the image without sophisticated software. Relying on time of day and technique to get the killer shot is more satisfying to me than relying on some computer program.

I agree, the highlights are definitely overexposed and this is an HDR photo in my attempt to reduce the highs and lows. I could probably lower the highlights in LR because the detail is still there, but it's not a shot I care enough about to work on, honestly. It was taken around noon in June so the sun was just about directly overhead. It probably would have turned out better if I'd taken it earlier or later in the day. I plan to try again in the Narrows about 3 weeks from today!
 

Dave

Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"
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Anyone got some tips on shooting in slot canyons, especially the deep and dark ones...

Shoot manual. Learn where and what your camera is metering. Use higher ISO values to keep shutter speeds up (and therefore avoid shake if shooting handheld). Avoid catching the sky in the shot. Find places where light is reflected/indirect instead of direct.
 

Bill

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Jan 17, 2012
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I do most of my shooting in AV mode followed by manual and try to meter off the brightest area to avoid blow outs. As everyone else mentioned, avoid direct sunlight and try to find the best light bounce around the next bend. A tripod is always nice but when its not an option I'm not afraid to shoot at a high ISO and wide aperture. This recent shot of lostlandscapes in pine creek was taken in nipple deep water. I had to turn my pack around, remove my camera from double dry bags, and shot vertical images at 11mm, 1/20, f2.8, ISO800 and merged them into a pano.


The Great Cathedral of Pine Creek by Summit42, on Flickr
 

Laura

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Oct 1, 2012
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Damn I've got to get there soon-cold nipples won't stop me! :D
 

Laura

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This would look great in B&W, applying the right filter (blue?) in processing would darken all of the red/yellows, and would bring the highs down.
Cool, thanks, will have to try it! Though I have LR4, not sure if it has filters or not (still learning).
 

gnwatts

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Molto bene!

I think you could bring the highs down a little more, but I like it. I am partial to B&W, so I am biased.
 

Laura

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Molto bene!

I think you could bring the highs down a little more, but I like it. I am partial to B&W, so I am biased.

Grazie! I agree, but have been struggling with how to do that because of the overexposed area in the middle. I brought up the whites and highlights but brought down the yellows and reds. Maybe I should turn down the highlights a bit.
 

gnwatts

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Grazie! I agree, but have been struggling with how to do that because of the overexposed area in the middle. I brought up the whites and highlights but brought down the yellows and reds. Maybe I should turn down the highlights a bit.

I don't know what software you are using, but in Aperture, I would apply a blue filter, which will darken the reds and yellows, but lighten any blue areas. Then you can play with the white balance (or any of the red, yellow or blue color, essentially adjusting it to be darker or lighter (more red or blue). I hope this makes sense, as I have not had any coffee yet.
 

Laura

freespirittraveler
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Oct 1, 2012
Messages
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I don't know what software you are using, but in Aperture, I would apply a blue filter, which will darken the reds and yellows, but lighten any blue areas. Then you can play with the white balance (or any of the red, yellow or blue color, essentially adjusting it to be darker or lighter (more red or blue). I hope this makes sense, as I have not had any coffee yet.

I'm using LR4 but I do have Aperture as well. Let me go find the filters and see what I can get.....
 

Howells Outdoors

Adventure is my middle name...actually it's Keith.
Joined
Sep 26, 2012
Messages
444
Thanks everyone...I do alot of that but my photo in the double arch cathedral in Pine Creek looks nothing like that...oh well, just keep messin' around with it.
 

Nick

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A couple things I've picked up, particularly for shooting handheld while actively descending a canyon.

Like Bill said, wide open and high ISO. Be careful with the ultrawides though. It'll get really soft and blury out at the edges but that can be somewhat averted by choosing your comp accordingly. Localized sharpening on those edges is also a decent way to get around it.

Set your camera to the center focus point so it isn't grabbing the wall next to you when you're trying to shoot the center of the comp.

Play with your white balance. Shade (6k) is a good baseline for slots that are totally out of direct light.
 

TJDowling

New Member
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Apr 12, 2013
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Resurrecting an old thread here... Anyone have a recommendation for a good full size tripod for taking down a canyon like Pine Creek? Or do you prefer a little gorilla grip one like Joby makes? How to you secure a full size to you pack so it doesn't end up adding extra friction to you rap setup?

I have had the best luck shooting HDR on a tripod in dark canyons with bright skies above. I know HDR is a curse word to some people, but I enjoy the post processing almost as much as taking the photo.


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