McKenna Edwards » You Can Sleep When You're Dead: Blog by Colleen Miniuk

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Apr 212013

Photograph copyright McKenna Edwards

When I first found out that I would need to choose a photo to feature on this blog, I never imagined myself spending hours shooting landscapes. Normally, I tend to shy away from these types of shots because I don’t consider myself to be particularly good at them, but this photo reminds me that it pays to step out of your comfort zone every now and again.

Over spring break I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in a beautiful ranch house in Sedona with an unobstructed view of Cathedral rock, and a less than five minute walk to a great spot on the creek. As soon as we drove up I was blown away and couldn’t resist wandering off to take advantage of the situation and capture every moment I could.

Over the two and half days that I was in Sedona  I got a lot of great pictures of Cathedral rock, Oak Creek, and everything in between, but I think out of the close to 1000 pictures that I took this photograph really showcases my viewpoint as a photographer. Usually my goal is to portray subjects in a different way than they are usually seen. This photo evolved from the classic shot of Cathedral rock that included a reflection in a small pool near the creek, but I wanted to step away from this and find a more unique image.

This image was taken on the second day of my trip, and this allowed me to get more familiar with my surroundings and really recognize what was working and what needed work. Even though the weather was fantastic, which was an appreciated break from the strong winds and cold temperatures of Flagstaff, the main problem I had when shooting was the sun. It was so bright and was reflecting off the surface of the rocks and the water which kept washing out all my images.I usually keep my ISO at 200, but because it was so bright I was able to lower it to ISO 100. This filtered out some of the light that was giving me difficulty, as well as improved the quality of my image.I had made some adjustments, but luckily this day a scattered layer of puffy white clouds moved in to diffuse the light as well as add interest to the sky. I also sacrificed some relaxation time to make the trek down to the creek just before sunset to capture the golden light shining on Cathedral Rock. Because it was later in the day I ended up using a shutter speed of 1/25to let some more light in, as well as opening my aperture from about f/20 to f/11 to do the same while still maintaining a larger depth of field. In post production I mostly just increased the blacks and saturated the reds, oranges, and blues in addition to some minimal sharpening and exposure adjustments.

As I mentioned before I was originally shooting the rocks and their reflections, but then I started thinking about what would happen if you took away the context of the image and only shot the reflections. This proved to be interesting because in the images that followed that thought I found that the rocks seemed to stand out more because the view wasn’t overwhelming. This perspective made it possible to simplify a seemingly complex composition, the task that usually drives me away from photographing landscapes. In this image one side of the rock isn’t visible, but it gets the point across that this is Sedona and it is beautiful.

On this trip I was also lucky enough to be with a friend who is a photographer as well, and part of the fun was looking through each other’s photos and seeing the differences in what we found interesting, as well as sharing tips and advice on how to better achieve the photos we wanted.

Overall this trip opened my eyes to some unexpected subjects that I normally wouldn’t spend too much time shooting, and it paid off with a lot of photographs and many lessons learned!

About the Photographer:
My name is McKenna Edwards and I am currently a junior studying photography and studio art at Northern Arizona University. I am originally from Seattle, but I love the small town feel and relaxed pace of Flagstaff, and plan to stay after graduation. I specialize in portraits and fine art photography, but I will never turn down an opportunity to shoot other subjects and improve my skills. I also love to dabble in mixed media, combining my photography with more graphic elements in paint or ink and text. To see more of my photos or to contact me please visit my Flickr page at

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction on our April 15 post at