Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Spider Rock: Canyon de Chelly

Back in 2005 I went on a photo workshop which included a brief stay at Canyon de Chelly in Chinle, Arizona. During one of the evenings we photographed Spider Rock, an amazing structure that is over 800 feet high and the formation of which is said to have started over 230 million years ago. To see this site within the Canyon is truly awe inspiring, in a way that words can not truly express (at least not with my ability to use them).  

My understanding is that in Navajo lore Spider Woman was a deity-like figure who assisted the Navajo in many ways and whose home was said to be on the top of this rock formation....hence the name Spider Rock.  At any rate, a good number of the images I took on that trip have been sitting on my hard drive for years and I have been meaning to visit the images of Spider Rock to see what I could make of them for some time now.


Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly

© Howard Grill


As I mentioned a few posts back, I thought that I would write a bit more this year about how I have processed some of my images. With this particular image, I first made the basic exposure corrections to the RAW file in Lightroom and then brought the image over to Photoshop. There was a little sliver of rock visible at the bottom of the image (the rock surface I was standing on) which was distracting and which I cloned out. I then duplicated the background layer and converted it to a smart object so that I could non-destructively utilize Nik's Color Efex Pro. I used the Tonal Contrast filter to add some 'pop' to the image.  

I felt that Spider Rock itself was the central point of the image (as opposed to the whole canyon), so I applied both local sharpening and local contrast to the rock and also brightened it just a bit to draw the eye to it. I then increased the overall saturation so that it matched the true colors that one sees in the sandstone at sunset.  

The changes described above made the white formation at the top of the rock appear too bright and I toned this small area down a bit to allow it to better match the tonality of the rest of Spider Rock.

Then came the biggest decision. Somehow, though I liked the composition, the grandeur of Spider Rock just seemed to be lessened when put into the context of the expanse of the whole canyon.  I decided I needed to play with the cropping in order to accentuate the importance of Spider Rock itself. After a good deal of experimentation I decided that a square crop imparted the effect I was looking for.

For comparison, the original image as it came out of Lightroom after the basic exposure corrections is seen below.

Spider Rock out of Lightroom and before processing in Photoshop

© Howard Grill

by Howard G

© Howard Grill