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Crybaby Canyon | by Zeb Andrews
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Crybaby Canyon

Alright, the final Antelope Canyon photo I will post... for now. I came back with quite a few that I really liked, which is quite rewarding, but the ability to edit one's photos, to pare them down to just the favorites or the best, is almost as valuable of a skill as the ability to take the photos in the first place. Actually that is something I want to talk about on a later post, teaching yourself the value in being able to edit your own images. Some do it well, others do not, but it is an important thing for every photographer to learn and practice, and practice it takes too.


So Antelope Canyon itself is an amazing place. I think I mentioned that already. ;-) Unfortunately as amazing as it is, and I think this hold true for many amazing places, us humans have an equally amazing ability to muck it all up. Not all the time mind you, but often enough to be tiresome. Before I get much further, I want to say that I met a couple really cool photographers while in this canyon. One fellow's name was Thomas and he was visiting all the way from the Czech Republic. We had a lovely conversation about pinhole photography. I hope you found your way to my stream Thomas to see the pinhole image of this canyon I posted.


Unfortunately beautiful places like this also tend to attract the "ugly" photographer. They are like "ugly Americans" just with cameras. I really don't want to waste too much of my time complaining about such people, they are a simple fact of life it seems, but maybe by spending a bit of time doing so I can help those who read this (myself included on very rare occasions) nip this kind of behavior in the bud.


See the Ugly photographer is the type of person who for some reason feels that they are in some way superior to all other photographers. Not necessarily in a braggartly sort of fashion, though that often happens too. They exhibit a more condescending or patronizing air, the attitude that they will tolerate you and your cameras in their presence as long as you don't get in their way. And even this could be bearable. I really don't care what goes on in the head of the photographer standing next to me when I am somewhere like this. If he wants to inwardly sneer at my old Nikon FM2 or beat up wooden pinhole compared to his shiny Canon 40D, let him. I am there to take photos and marvel, not to get into some sort of ego deathmatch.


Sadly though Ugly photographers, or at least the really bad ones, are not content to just think condescending thoughts about those fellows around them trying to enjoy life through photography, they have to treat them that way too.


To get specific, there was a small group of three photographers in the tour through the canyon that Wendi and I took. Three total in a group of twelve is not too bad, but it is still amazing how much one bad apple, let alone three, can dampen a mood. They were older gentlemen, late 40's I would guess, far enough along to have forgotten their own amatuerish roots I wonder. One of them sported a Tamrac photovest, funny how this poor accessory has become so maligned because of the photographers they tend to end up on.


So, the canyon is super crowded. People left, right, in front of you, behind you, everywhere. Shooting in here requires a lot of patience because people wander through. And they have all paid their money to get in. This is not a free place, you pay $30-50 just to get into the canyon, and you are only alloted so much time, an hour or two, to explore and photograph. I know these two things place stress on photographers to get their photos as quickly as they can, I certainly felt it a bit at first. You just have to be patient and realize that you are going to have to share the canyon. Your fifty dollars is no more important than the fifty dollars spent by the fellow next to you, it doesn't matter if they are carrying a cheap point and shoot and you have a professional SLR. They are there for the same reasons, and the photos they take, amatuerish or not, to them will be as priceless as the ones you will take.


Well these three didn't agree. They got into the canyon and proceeded to act like they were there on divine mandate and those who got in their way were pesky irritations.


They complained constantly of photographers getting in their way. At one point Wendi had her pinhole set up and was a few minutes into an exposure and only had a minute or two to go and one of these fellows came up and decided he wanted to set up behind her. No need to mention that she was in that spot first by a few minutes, but that did not really matter much to him I suppose because as soon as his tripod was set up he asked her to move aside for him. So she stepped aside politely to accommodate him as much as possible.


"No, I didn't mean you, I meant your camera. Your camera is in my way" Was his reply. Not a thank you for moving. Not an apology. Just a "move your camera out of the way of my camera". Excuse me? So she explained she was in the middle of a shot. He stood there for a moment, then asked her again, "Can you move your camera now, it is in my way". She finally got it through to him that she had about a minute left and then she would move on. I think that type of behavior is pretty rude. Photography etiquette 101 says that the early bird catches the worm. If you are in a spot first, then all other photographers will have to make do. I have been on both sides of this, arriving to spots early and late. When I am early, I try to be generous and allow others to work around me as much as we all can to get beautiful photos. When I am late, I find the best vantage I can, and things usually work out alright. But I never ask someone who was there first to move out of my way.


They weren't done yet though. Then they moved down to the end of the canyon and happened to find our guide there waiting for everyone to get their fill. So one of them goes up the our Navajo guide and in his best indignant put-out voice asks him if he can stop people from walking through the canyon, they keep getting in the way of their photos.


The guide said he would do what he could and sent them back into the canyon.


"Man, why do I always get all the crybabies" was his response as soon as they were out of earshot. Hehe, then he starts yelling down the canyon after this small group of troublemakers "Coming through, hold your photos!" Making them groan curse audibly every time he did so.


Anyway, I could go on a bit more. Our adventures with them were not quite finished. But why bother, this has been long enough already. The real point was not to complain necessarily. Complaining about them is not going to accomplish much, rather I just wanted to share the story to remind everyone when you are out photographing somewhere, be courteous and respectful. It doesn't matter if the fellow next to you even has a camera, let alone a professional one. Let them enjoy the space as well. You take better photos when you are enjoying yourself.


By the way, of the three photos I have posted, actually of all the photos I took in this place, this one is easily my favorite. I think because it is a bit of a more unique take on the canyon. It has a hint of the amazing color, but it is not awash in it. And the light. As Galen Rowell once said, "My first thought is always of light."


If you are interested in pricing for my images, or just plain curious, more info can be found at my website:

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Taken on April 25, 2008