Craft & Techniques - 20
Other essays in this series

Photographic Notes on the Creation of Specific Images
#4 - Comb Ridge Clouds

by Alain Briot

Comb Ridge Clouds

This photograph is part of the Print of the Month Collection

I have been asked several times what this photograph of Navajoland is about.  Every time my answer is the same: it is about Navajoland, but about an aspect of Navajoland that few people get to see.  It is not about Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly or Antelope Canyon, to name but a few of the most popular and better-known aspects of Navajoland.  Instead, it is about a more discrete aspect of Navajoland, one that many drive-by unaware, one that most may not even see, yet one that most visitors do know and appreciate, but do not think of as the subject for a photograph. Rather, for many visitors the contents of this image are part of the ambiance of Navajoland, part of the feeling and the visual landscape that surrounds them.  It is not why they went there necessarily, and hence they do not seek it.  Rather, it seeks them. 

To me this image captures a lot of what I love about Navajoland: the sense of space, the immensity of the landscape, the wide open range of Navajoland, the sandstone formations that dot the land and the cloud formations that are typical of Navajoland skies.

Yet, to some viewers less experienced in seeing this landscape, this image may lack interest because it does not show the sights that have made Navajoland famous such as Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly or other. 

The fact is that it does, but in an unconventional way: Comb Ridge is the Eastern boundary of Monument Valley and is visible from the main overlook of Monument Valley.  However, this image does not show the part of Monument Valley that has become the most famous, the Mitten Buttes, and in this respect it may fall short of being interesting to those who seek a more conventional representation of this location.

This image is a vivid representation of my Vision for Navajoland because it shows an aspect of Navajoland that I had not seen before I created this image. It shows a landscape that is not what I would call the touristic landscape.  It shows a view of Navajoland that many drive by without stopping and that, no doubt, most do not see in the sense of seeing an image or a photograph.  It is therefore uniquely my vision.

Only a full awareness of what you are looking for in your subject will lead you to photograph scenes like this one.  To me, these are the most satisfying images because they go beyond the surface of things, beyond the expected reality of a given place.  It took me years to see them.  I know that because these images are by nature subtle, precise care has to be taken first when composing them and second when adjusting their tonal scale.

Alain Briot

Essay and photographs Copyright © Alain Briot 2007
All rights reserved worldwide