In April 2016, Lerro Productions organized a photography workshop at Monument Valley, which is located on the Arizona Utah border and is one of the most unique and photographed locations on earth. The Navajo Parks & Recreation preserves the Native American tribe “Navajo” way of life and helps keep the most striking and recognizable landscapes of sandstone buttes, mesas and spires in the entire Southwest from modernization and destruction. The majestic buttes and red sandstone colors portray an un-earthly appearance and have been featured in dozens of movies.
The initial weather forecast for our first day did not look good but we still met at dawn not knowing what the weather would actually be. To our enjoyment, we were treated to an entire day of great weather and photographic opportunities. In the afternoon, there was more landscape shots as well as conducted a portrait technique demonstration. This demonstration was done to help the photographers with the portrait opportunities that were to come on the 2nd day. After sunset and dinner, the group dispersed to get a few hour sleep.
At 2:00am on the 2nd day, we met up with our Navajo guide and traveled into a different area of the back country for night photography. From our location, we were able to photograph the East Mitten up close with the Milky Way rising above. We were lucky and had perfectly clear skies which helped us capture amazing pictures of the Milky Way.
At 5:00am, using a different Navajo guide, we took a jeep into the back country to photograph the Totem Pole and sand dunes at sunrise. We then traveled further into the back country to photograph a Navajo family dressed in traditional clothing at the hogans they recently use to live in. During our portrait shoot, we set up a couple of scenes outside the hogan under the shade house and featured hair weaving, rug weaving and livestock. We then moved inside the hogan for a flash photography portrait shoot. Later in the day, we met up to photograph a “Navajo Warrior” re-enactor who posed with his horse and dressed up in two different traditional outfits.
During all the tours, there is a great camaraderie and friendship that builds between the photographers and after a long day of shooting, we like to go out and talk stories during dinner and drinks. Several times during the tour, we ventured outside the reservation and traveled into Utah to eat at a Restaurant called the Swinging Grill. They have a unique grill setup in which a metal great swings back and forth over a wood fire. The food was amazing and was even more enjoyable eating out under the stars.
After a few hours sleep, we met back up at 3:00am for more night photography. This time we photographed the valley as well as traveled outside the park and photographed a 1400ft tall volcanic plug called “Agathla Peak”. After sunrise, we met back up with our Navajo guide and traveled into the back country to photograph areas to the east and behind the mittens. We then traveled to our guide’s private residence to photograph his family dressed in traditional clothing. This time we had the privilege of photographing him, his mother and grandmother in various poses and scenes. We finished out the day with great sunset light and after a morning session on the 4th day, our photo tour was over.
Next year we are going to return to Monument Valley for an even more exclusive photography experience. For our 2017 trip, we are going to stay in a private hogan in the back country and will offer us amazing night photography opportunities as well as human interest pictures, the Totem Pole, the top of Hunts Mesa and other areas of the back country. We’ll also do workshops at Arches National Park and Bisti Badlands.
Here is a gallery of photos from a few of the photographers who participated in the workshop.