Shoot for YOU by Cliff Lawson
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013
By Sandy Puc'
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I have been remiss in not getting a blog posting up lately, but between being unusually busy and my feeling that it is poor form to post unless you have something worthwhile to say…well…that’s my reason.  

I am a portrait photographer. I am pretty good at it and I love it.  

Sandy usually asks me to post on things concerning equipment. This may seem off-topic, but the equipment is some of our most important: our brain and our soul.  

I just wrapped up the busiest high school senior portrait season I have ever had. For me—like plenty of you—it is a one-person operation: I schedule, shoot, process, sell, print, and deliver.  I did not take a single image for myself since early summer. I am a low-volume operation by design and this summer/fall proved that referrals really do work! I needed a break.  

So when my friend Jeff Johnson of Soul Road Trips ( ) asked me if I wanted to go along with him and a few friends for a week-long trip through three national parks – Arches, Canyonlands, and Monument Valley, it did not take long for me to say yes.  

I am not much of a landscape person. I enjoy looking at the work of photographers who do it well, but it’s just so hard to get a good expression out of trees and mountains. AND you have to get up soooo early. Well, the good news is that in mid-November sunrise is later and sunset is earlier—a much more civilized operation! Another bonus is that the tourists are few and far between.  

I needed images for ME. Stuff nobody would see unless I wanted them to see it. No pressure to get it right. If the images were less-than-stellar, no big deal. It was a chance to do some photography just for the sake of taking images. Also a chance to get away from the phone, emails, image processing, and all that business stuff. A chance to re-energize!  

Living in Denver, the drive to Moab, Utah is around 6 hours. Only a bit longer than driving through Denver at rush hour. So we left late morning, arrived late afternoon, had dinner and went to bed early to get up for sunrise in Arches.  

I should add that I took two camera bodies—Nikon D800 and D7000 and three lenses—70-200, 24-70, and the 17-55 for the D7000. A tripod, cable release, and a Polarizer.  

This first image is actually about a half hour BEFORE sunrise: 25 seconds at f/9, ISO200. The blur in the clouds is due to their movement during the exposure. Wow, haw many time do I get to do a 25 second exposure for a high school senior’s session?   

 Fifty-five minutes later, the sun started to work its way across the rocks. Aside from being cold, this landscape stuff was starting to look fun!  

After sunrise at Arches, we went back into Moab, had a mid-morning breakfast and then took the westbound road just north of town out into Canyonlands. It is called Potash Road for the potash processing plant at the end of the improved part of the road – just before that road gets interesting. I mean INTERESTING!  

Remember the movie “Thelma and Louise?” At the end they drive their car off a cliff and by coincidence I took an image of our car from EXACTLY the camera location as the camera in the movie. Here is the spot.  

You can go here on You Tube and see the car fly off the road at the same spot.  

The rest of Potash Road is one breathtaking view after another. The climb out of the valley is not for the faint of heart! One lane – one car width – no guard rails – and multiple switchbacks up the vertical wall. 

Skip to the next morning—back to Dead Horse Point, but now we are on TOP and looking down on the road we traveled yesterday.  

Here is one view just as the sun broke the horizon.  

 And here is the view looking down onto Potash Road. The Thelma and Louise area is just where the road disappears off to the right.  

 I’ll not make you view all me vacation photos! But here is an image you just cannot make around big cities—too much light pollution. This was taken in Monument Valley about 90 minutes after sunset. Millions of stars. That straight line in the upper portion is a satellite. Thirty seconds, f/2.8, ISO 1600.  

There were other sights (and sites) but that is a taste of what got me doing some exciting things with a camera that was just for me. No pressure—just fun!  

Of course I AM a portrait photographer and on our last day the weather was gray overcast and just not the stuff of decent landscape images. So we went to a Moab junkyard to see if we could turn images of junk into art. Well, the other guys went junk shooting and I came upon this gentleman in the garage. He was welding what appeared to be shelving and I asked him If I could take some images while he worked. What a guy! He said, “Sure, what would you like me to do?” I just told him to do what he does and ignore me. I got this one. Honestly…one of my favorite photos of the whole trip. I love people images!   

So here is my point: Get out once in a while and make images of things outside your comfort zone. Do personal projects – something that nobody is paying you for. It will invigorate you. It will sharpen your skills. You will broaden your education in the craft of photography.   Now back to the world: headshots and a group this morning, a family session tomorrow and then the Thanksgiving Holiday. May you all have a wonderful holiday season. 

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