Friday 9 January 2015

Photo Tips: Grand Canyon

I'd heard various things about the Grand Canyon being a bit overrate and not worth spending a lot of time at however we loved it and one night was definitely not enough.  This was partly due to our adventures in getting there but I would recommend two nights and aiming not to arrive late and leave early on your travel days either side.  Obviously we were there in winter so some of these tips may not apply to other seasons and one visit for one night hardly makes me an expert but I hope these are of use to someone...

View points

Sunrise at Maricopa Point looking west.
Typically the best view points for the Grand Canyon are the ones the let you look along the valley the most.  We shot sunrise at Maricopa Point because I forgot the map and were running a bit late, but we later visited Hopi Point which allows better shots along and into the valley (in line with the sunlight) however it would have been busier too.  Note that the view points to the west of the village are only open to public vehicles in winter, at other times you have to take the shuttle to get to these locations.  While we were there they were well covered in packed snow but were very drivable.

Morning at Hopi Point looking north east.
Don't forget to shoot both ways, towards the sun and away from it.  Some people will only shoot into the rising/setting sun and others will only shoot the light cast by the sun in the other direction.  Make sure you keep checking over your shoulder because there are photos to be found in both directions.

The biggest photography challenge I had is that the canyon is very deep and has many tiers which makes it hard to show the scale of it and have enough light to show the bottom of the canyon.  To help counter these I shot a lot of HDRs most of which I haven't yet processed properly (but check out enfuse for Lightroom for quick processing) and getting into the canyon...

Panorama from Hopi Point.

Get into the Canyon

Upper part of the South Kaibab Trail.
This was a recommendation I read somewhere and it was a good one.  There are two trails that you can walk down into the canyon and we picked the easier one due to all the recent snow.  The trail from South Kaibab Trailhead was now cover and a little slippery but it wasn't too hard to walk in for about 40 min (including stopping for many photos) to Ooh Ahh Point for a fantastic view of the canyon a bit below the rim.  Without the snow and/or a bit more time we might have gone further to Ceder Ridge but even the short walk helps to give some perspective to the size.
Flatter part of the South Kaibab Trail.

The park rangers recommended wearing traction devices, we survived ok without however be careful and do so at your own risk.

The East Entrance

We arrived from the South but drove out via the east entrance to the park which had many viewpoints along Desert View Drive that we hadn't previously known about, some of which were spectacular.  It is well worth driving this section if you get the chance.  Again we were a little time pressured on the way out but still managed to stop at a few for spectacular views.

View from a lookout point on Desert View Dr.

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