This is my unconventional approach to the most over-photographed spot in the western US. We never even planned on going to this spot… while on the road in the west, heading from Sedona to Escalante, we were blowing down a desert highway when we just happened to pass the sign for Horseshoe bend. A quick U turn, and then an even quicker hike, and I was standing in front of this massive location, pretty shocked at the immensity of it.
This next bit is a little tech info, to give fellow photographers a feel for just how wide this landscape is… so on this trip I’m shooting a full frame Nikon D800, which at the time was coupled with my landscape workhorse, the 18-35g Nikkor. So naturally I rack the lens back to 18mm and look through the viewfinder, squared up at this middle of the scene. Horizontally, the bend was too wide to frame up good for the ultrawide - which really surprised me. That is when I decided to step back and see how a vertical looked, and took 3 bracketed shots which make up this image. Luckily, in my bag I had a 14mm prime as well, so I did swap out to that and get some more conventional shots, and other interesting views of this location which I’ll be processing and posting a set of in the near future.
Another detrimental fact about this shot, is that because it wasn’t planned I ended up there around high noon, which no real photographers end up here then. They always hit sunrise or sunset, for good reason because it brings out the rich tones of the rocks. Unlike most photographers I often shoot my landscapes in jpeg as opposed to raw. I do this because I preset my rig to bring out colors in a vivid manner, for instances just like this one. Nikon’s in-color processing is just phenomenal, and surprisingly true to life, if you take the time to set it up properly. The common argument is that this degrades the quality, but bearing in mind that I’m shooting a very high res full frame camera, I’ve found the differences to be irrelevant in real printing situations. It also saves hours and hours of time in post, and as a photographer who cut my teeth in film - this fact in itself means the world to me as my goal is to get the truest exposure straight from the camera.
The processing was very simple, actually. I tonemapped the images in Photomatix, then cloned in that image to bring out the color in the water and moss - but that is the only area that I used the combined exposure. The rest of the image is simply the darkest of my bracketed set, slight increase in contrast, very minimal light painting to bring out the center stone, and of course sharpening.