Landscape photography inherently leads to a methodical, deliberate, introspective approach to working. In general, I approach it much as if I were making a sketch or watercolor painting, taking time to experience and absorb the subject as I set up the camera, choose a lens, focus, calculate the exposure, and so on. Sometimes, conditions are changing so fast that I need to speed up. Other times, I need to slow down and wait for things to become "just right." This image is an example of the latter.
Spider Rock rises spectacularly hundreds of feet from the canyon floor. This view is from near a popular overlook, a rocky promontory a short hike from a turn-out along the rim road. When I arrived, an hour before sunset, there were several other photographers in the area, shooting the brilliant highlights and deep shadows on the rocks.
I staked out a position some distance from the guardrails, precariously perched on the edge, carefully composed the image, and waited. As the sun dropped below the horizon, and the other photographers packed up and went to dinner, I went to work. One characteristic of this part of the country (in this case, northeast Arizona) is that the air is usually extremely dry and clear. That means that, just after sunset, there is often a bright but diffuse golden glow in the western sky. I call it "magic light." If you look to the east, you'll find the landscape bathed in warm hues; forms are subtly modeled, rather than defined by harsh shadows. An added benefit is that the range of luminance falls well within the latitude of the film or sensor.
As a result, this image has wonderful richness and depth. The larger I print it, the stronger the sense that one could, in a sense, fall into the picture. Spider Rock appears to leap off the paper. This image illustrates the value of being patient and waiting for conditions to become "just so." Also, while brilliant, directly lit scenes may be the visual equivalent of sound bites, I find that a more subtle approach, with careful composition and soft lighting, tends to have more "staying power" -- the viewer is more likely to invest more time in exploring details, and the image is easier to live with for a long time. The "magic light" may not last very long, but if you slow down, plan ahead, and wait for it to happen, you won't regret it.