Where to put the horizon line when shooting great landscapes such as Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Between Arizona and Utah there is the most iconic place of the Wild West in which you can find huge rocky buildings shaped by wind and water, a fiery red desert, Indians and cowboys. This land, administered by the Navajo Nation, is located at an altitude of 1,800 meters extending over 12,000 square kilometers and can be reached along Highway 163.

jeep in the monument valley

 There are various ways to visit Monument Valley, but in my opinion the best choice is to travel the Scenic Drive aboard a jeep driven by local guides, the Navajo Indians.

Photography Tips

Next time you will shoot a landscape try to not place the horizon line (which most of the time is a straight, not inclined line) in the dead center of the photo as most people do. Instead, decide which part of the panorama you want to emphasize more, the sky or the ground. If you have a great looking sky with many clouds of various shapes or with an approaching storm, then put your horizon at the bottom third of your photo, so the sky takes up two thirds of the photo. If you have an interesting ground with many natural elements such as rocks, rivers or mountains, then make that the star of your photo and place the horizon at the top third of your photo. This puts the emphasis on the ground, and most importantly, either one of these methods will keep your horizon out of the center, which will give your shots more depth and interest.

Also, if you are shooting a landscape shot with a really boring sky, you can break the 1/3 rule and eliminate as much of the sky from the photo placing the horizon line at the 1/9 from the top, so the attention is totally off the sky and into the more interesting ground.

Visiting the Monument Valley

From the visitor center it is possible to purchase a guided tours from Navajo tour operators, who take you down into the valley through the mythical rock formations known as butte or mesas according to their conformation. I visited the Monument Valley aboard a jeep driven in an adventurous way by a local guide. In fact, only them know how to best move between the numerous climbs and descents that are encountered along the dirt and slightly bumpy road that runs through the valley for about 26 km. In this way it is possible to reach the most interesting and spectacular points of the park from which to take unforgettable pictures. The close view of the Merrick Butte and of the Mittens hills, the world’s most famous monolith trio, leaved me speechless. We passed near the John Ford’s Point a spur from which you can enjoy a spectacular view and to the delight of tourists you can take a photograph riding a horse in perfect Western style.

monument valley

The red sand raised during the wild ride has covered my clothes and my camera but fortunately I enjoyed a moment of rest in a stop point chosen by the Navajo to offer me an excellent Navajo Tacos full of beans, onion, tomatoes and local cheese.

And then we returned to the saddle of our jeep along the road covered with red earth through this beautiful scenario that has inspired so many western masterpieces and great photographers who have introduced these monoliths to the world with their photos.

camera in the monument valley


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