Photographing the Grand Canyon

Discussion in 'Nature' started by vish_krishnan, Jul 28, 2003.

  1. Hi,

    I am planning a trip to Grand Canyon. I would like to get any
    photographing tips (good spots, film speed, exposure times e.t.c).I
    have a Nikon N80, UV filter and a polarizer on my 28-105 D type lens.

    Your tips are greatly appreciated.

  2. Unless you like crowds, stay away from the S.Rim during summer. The N. Rim is supurb w/ 1/10 the # of tourists.Cape Royal is the finest overlook for photography in the park(IMHO).AM & PM are equally great. Pt Imperial is better in the AM but is also excellent in the PM. Bright Angel Pt. is best at sunset. You will definately want a Grad N.D. filter to keep the sky from being over exposed.
  3. I second the previous post recommending the north rim, but I would not skip the south rim altogether. If you can go in the fall instead of the summer it will not be as crowded (though still more people that you'd like, esp. at the SR) and it will be a little cooler (though still hot if you hike down). Plus the fall colors are beautiful. I suggest hiking down a few trails as it will give you a different perspective, even if you do not go all the way to the bottom. I used only ISO 100 (Sensia) and 50 (Velvia) and didn't miss anything faster. But I had a tripod. I greatly benefited from having a wide angle (20mm) and I recommend it.
  4. Vish, the problem with the rims are that your locations are rather limited and the
    subject is so vast and far away that it is almost impossible to take a photo that you
    couldn't just buy at the visitor center on a postcard. To get something interesting
    your only choice is to wait for unusual weather. If you are in moderately good shape
    and have the time, the hike to the bottom is unbelievable--especially when you reach
    the lower canyon. Although it requires some advanced planning and reservations well
    ahead of time, the phantom ranch at the bottom is a nice treat. You'll have a bed to
    sleep in and they'll cook you up a good dinner, breakfast and even a sack lunch for
    the trip up if you want. This allows you to carry more photo gear and move quicker
    without the burden of backpacking equipment. Getting into the guts of the canyon
    will give you an intimacy and deeper appreciation than you can possibly get on the
  5. The last time that I visited the canyon, I came across a booklet by an accomplished photographer who recommended sites for photography. (He has books for other western places, too.) I bought it and found it to be enlightening as to best time of day and all those other things of interest. I tried to find it in my library, but as I am preparing to make a move, all is in disarray. I cannot remember the author, so perhaps someone will help here.
  6. Alex - would that be Photographer's Guide to the Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona by Joseph K. Lange? I have that book, but only found it moderately useful. I also found the photos within to be a bit over the top - his insistence on a polariser and enhancing filter on every shot, coupled with Velvia, means the colours are a bit too much.
    Not a bad starting point for someone who has never been to the Canyon before, though, if you use it in conjunction with a normal travel guide (I particularly liked the Moon Handbooks Grand Canyon guide by Bill Weir).
  7. I just visited the Grand Canyon in April. I read the book "Death in the Canyon" on the plane ride over and decided not to hike to the bottom. I started out early in the morning, took some photographs of the sunrise, and started on my trek down the South Kaibab trail. I had a Lowepro mini-trekker loaded with my equipment, food, water, and a tripod. I spent a lot of time early in the morning setting up my tripod and taking fantastic pictures with Velvia. As the sun got higher, I switched to Provia and took fewer pictures.

    As I hiked down it became clear to me that I was within striking distance of the river and decided "heck with it" let's go all the way. I reached the bottom around 11am, ate my lunch, and began the arduous trip back up the canyon taking the Bright Angel Trail. The trek back up was much more tiring and photography became less of a priority and survival moved up in priority. I was ready to ditch my tripod and simply buy a new one when I got to the top. I drank lots of water and finally made it to the top by 4:30pm. It was fun, but if I were to do it again, I would reserve a place at the lodge down by the river (Phantom Ranch) or plan to stay in a tent.

    As for photographs I shot about five rolls of film. The best pictures were those shot within two hours of beginning my descent as the light was the best and I was focussed on photography and not on hiking.

    I hope my experience helps.
  8. I would recommend you bring a tripod and use it. Also note, that there is a lot of contrast between rock surfaces in the sun and shadow, and make sure you expose properly for that.

    Before I went, I read that adding a little foreground, such as an interesting rock or tree, with the canyon behind it makes for a much more interesting shot. Try some like that, and then of the "typical tourist snapshot" of just the canyon, and you'll see what I mean.
  9. My advice is to head for the north rim and wait until September.
    Less crowds a bit cooler and the thunderheads build up in the
    afternoon and can lead to great storm light images. I found I
    used my normal lens a few times and my telephoto's most of the
    time, I thought it would be a great wide angle place but it's so
    wide I found everything looked really small with my 50mm (6x7).
    Definitely bring a few grads and a polarizer too. Go to my site at the opening image was made in Sept
    at around 6:30pm over Mount Hayden on the north rim.
  10. Let's face it, you're going to go see what plenty of other photographers and other tourists want to see. Sunrise and sunset are popular times for viewing and picture taking. You can usually, with some planning and an early arrival, stake out a good vantage point but you aren't likely to be alone. Use the shuttles and watch schedules so you can use them to best advantage. You can scout locations during the mid-day.

    A Ranger had a good tip, bears repeating, that with changing weather and clouds, the sky can be spectacular. But the point there is the canyon, watch the play and change of the light below, not above the rim. The best promontories often are railed and made accessible with walkways and parking.

    Getting away from the rim offers local wildlife, varied foliage, the railroad, etc.
  11. No, that wasn't the author to which I was referring. Still can't think of his name, though. (Something like Hudson?)
  12. From where I live the Grand Canyon is an easy day trip, so I have been there a lot of times.

    Although the North Rim is very nice, there is really no reason to avoid the South Rim. Even during the most crowded seasons it doesn't take much of an effort to get away from the crowds and get nice pictures.

    If you want to avoid the crowds, get away from the Grand Canyon Village area and stay off the South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails. I much prefer the Desert View area and the eastern part of the park. I get better pictures in this area.

    If you want some solitude, even in the busy season, stop at a parking area, such as Grandview Point, Moran Point or Lipan Point, and just hike along the rim for a short distances. Even if you only hike a quarter mile from the parking area you are not likely to see many people. I have spent entire days photographing along the rim in these areas and not seen another person.

    If you are lucky you will get some interesting weather which will make your pictures much better. The suggestion to include an interesting foreground element or use tree limbs to frame the canyon is good. Graduated filters are also handy. You don't get very good photos right at sunrise or sunset because the canyon is too dark, but it doesn't hurt to be out early to catch the good light as soon as the sun rises a bit.

    If you want to hike a long distance into the canyon plan accordingly and bring lots of water in hot weather. If you are not a strong and experienced hiker you might want to stick with the Bright Angel or Souht Kaibab trails. However, some of the more remote trails offer some spectacular pictures if you have the experience and inclination to get there.

    Bring lots of film because you have limited choices at the Canyon and what is available is expensive. Have a great time!

    For photography I
  13. I have been on three private permit river trips through the Grand Canyon and so had time to take side hikes and photograph. The side canyons, such as Havasu, Nankowepe, Matkatameba, etc., are all outrageously beautiful. They are much more interesting and varied than the canyon rim, so I suggest hikeing into the canyon rather than sticking to the rim. You will be rewarded photographically. There is always a great deal of shade anywhere in the canyon which creates a wide range of illumination and high contrast. Because of this, I have produced better results with print film than with slide film (on previous trips I used Kodachrome 64, which was OK. Fuji Velvia was a complete failure, unless you like black shadows with no detail.). On the last trip I brought two cameras, my old Canon F1 with a 24mm to 80mm zoom and a 100mm macro lens in a Pelican waterproof case plus a padded case for hiking and my old Nikonos II with a 35mm lens. I kept the Nikonos (which may be operated with one hand) tucked in my life jacket (I was kayaking) for grab shots. I primarily used ASA 100 print film with the F1 and ASA 400 print film with the Nikonos. The F1 worked perfectly, even after it took a very brief dunking in a side stream. It dried out within a day and continued to function. If I get the oportunity to go down the river again (any offers?) I will bring a 120 rangefinder camera with a wide angle lens, such as a Fuji 690W. I think that this would be ideal for landscapes. I will also bring zip-lock bags for stream crossings, rather than trust my balance.
  14. I'd agree with the observation that unless there is spectacular weather, all the overlooks tend to look the same after a while. For something different, consider Havasu Canyon (hot in summer, though) and Toroweap (a great place to avoid crowds and over-development).
  15. Vish - I'd go with the local advice. Please, if you go anytime, especially in summer, take _lots_ of water. Study canyon safety; let someone locally know where you're going and when you're expected back. The rangers are there to help, but there aren't many of them. And, the daytime light in Arizona mostly is very contrasty and blue, so plan for that. Have a great visit! - "Grampa John"

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