Thursday, July 11, 2013

Grand Canyon Impressions

by Linda
The Grand Canyon is truly a natural wonder that should not be missed. Last month, trophy husband and I spent several days there at the south rim. I want to share a few tips and tricks I learned about the National Park and about photographing it.

The center of Grand Canyon National Park is called "The Village". It really is! There are many lodges, restaurants, shops, a grocery store, a train station, a bank and a post office. If you would like to stay in the village, reservations are recommended at least 3 months in advance. Camping and RV hook-ups are also available in the National Park.

About 10 miles from the entrance of the park is a little town called Tusayan. It is set up to accommodate Grand Canyon visitors. It has many hotels, restaurants, gas stations and a National Geographic I-Max theater. Everything is in walking distance.  Grand Canyon National Park has a shuttle that makes 4 stops in Tusayan to take you to and from the park. You must show your park pass to ride but if you purchase it in Tusayan with the intention of riding the shuttle in and out of the park, your park pass is a couple of dollars cheaper and you don't have to wait in the car line at the entrance to the park! Consider Tusayan if you can't or don't want to stay in the park.

The biggest and most important thing is bring a water bottle. This is the desert and even when the temperatures are not high, you can become dehydrated very quickly. They do not sell bottled water in the park. There are spring water taps located throughout the entire park for you to refill your bottle. Use them. Drink lots of water. If you forget your bottle, you can purchase a refillable bottle at the visitor center.

The National Park service has created a fantastic experience at the Grand Canyon. The south rim area has a paved walking path from the farthest eastern point (Yaki Point) to the farthest western point (Hermits Rest), a distance of about 12 miles. The observation points are about a mile apart. Each one is named and provide information for any interesting views or history at that point. Some have restrooms and spring water spouts to refill your bottle.

The trail goes right along the rim almost the entire way, veering away only briefly before coming back to the breath taking views of the canyon. If you don't want to walk the rim trail (and most people don't) you can ride air conditioned shuttle buses that will take you from one observation point to the next and back again. The shuttle buses run like clockwork. We never had to wait very long for one.

There are 4 trails you can take to hike down from the rim to the river. They are rugged and require from moderate to advanced hiking skills and lots of water. There is lots of information about the trails and hiking them alone or with a guide or navigating them by burro.

This is Bright Angel Trail shot from the rim trail. This is only about half of it.

Lots of people come from all over the world to visit the Grand Canyon. Everybody wants pictures of it. Many people used their phones. I saw a few tablets being used for pictures too. I used my DSLR and my phone. I had my widest angle, telephoto and macro lenses for my DSLR and my Olloclip for my phone. As I approached the rim for my first view of the canyon, my first thought was "I'm gonna need a wider lens!"

The canyon can be tricky to photograph. A high, full sun flattens out the canyon, taking away the perspective of the depth of it. Shadows are needed to define and accentuate the edges of the canyon.  Early morning, late evening, when the sun is lower in the sky will make a difference.

The Grand Canyon is a good choice for HDR photography. The multiple exposures required for HDR photography will capture all the light and shadows in the canyon and make some beautiful pictures. When I used my phone it was usually with an HDR app called ProHDR. I was pleased with the results of those shots.

Because the canyon is so vast, happily snapping away can sometimes be disappointing when the shots just don't do the view justice because so much is missing. I mostly used my widest lens but I also used the panorama feature of my phone. I did use the wide angle lens of my olloclip but it distorted the horizon (bowed it upward) and it wasn't much wider than the lens of the phone without it.

Of course, everyone wants a sunrise/sunset picture. Plan to arrive at least an hour before sunrise/sunset to claim your spot and get ready, the most popular spots get crowded. The National Park service knows this and begins running shuttles at 4:30 am for those wanting to capture a sunrise, and they run extra shuttles just after sunset from the most popular sunset spot-Hopi Point.

Walking along the south rim trail not only gives you the beautiful views of the canyon, it gives you a look at native trees, bushes, flowers and wildlife. Our daily 2-3 mile walks always seemed to take a bit longer than we expected because of all the stops I had to make to take pictures along the way!

This is just the tip of the iceberg! There is so much more! Helicopter or airplane rides over the canyon, pink jeep tours of the canyon, bicycle rentals, guided hikes, rafting the river, hiking from one rim to the other with a night in a lodge at the bottom by the river! 

So much to do! So much to see! So little time!

Apache Plume

 I hope to go back soon!


Have you taken a vacation? We'd love to see your pictures! Share your tips and tricks with us!

Stop by the flickr gallery to see all the summer fun!


heyjudephotography said...

I've visited the Grand Canyon twice and it is such an awesome experience, but one that is extremely difficult to capture in a photo. The vastness, the quietness just doesn't seem to come through in a photo. Yours are beautiful! I had the most success with my photos in late afternoon to sunset. Like you said, they're not so flat and washed out. We walked that entire 12 mile paved trail at the edge of the canyon. Such a wonderful post to share with everyone Linda, and your tips are great.

Dotti said...

Oh, my! Such lovely photos, Linda. We've been to the Canyon several times, both rims, did two river raft rides, camped out ... but it's been years. Now I want to go back!!! So true that photos just don't capture the essence of the Canyon; you have to see it up close and in person. My husband still has his {film} photos of the Grand Canyon adorning his office walls.

Deanna said...

What a great trip, especially for us photographers. I was there years ago, when photography wasn't in my vocabulary, boy would I love to go back and capture this beauty again. Thanks for all the great tips and I am lovin' all of your beautiful shots of this beautiful site!!

Viv Halliwell said...

Brings back some happy memories for me I visited 2009 and so loved it, in fact my photos of it still pop up in my divi scrapping...

terriporter said...

You know I absolutely LOVE this post! And it makes me happy that all of those who have commented thus far (even Viv in England!) have had the pleasure of seeing the Grand Canyon in person. Of course, I've been many times, but not recently and your shots make me want to go back. The color in your top photo is just beautiful! One of my favorite times to capture the beauty and grandeur of the canyon is in the winter when there is snow on the ground. You are definitely right that early and late in the day adds so much more dimension to the ruggedness of the canyon but I don't think there is a wide-angle lens made that is wide enough!

Carol said...

Add me to the list. I went many years ago and loved it. I was lucky enough to be there in the snow - which so enhances the colors and the beauty. I have so many places Ive never been that I'd love to see, and I have so many I want to return to! Especially those pre-photography obsession!. Really - could someone just please send me a whole lot of money, and a lot o extra time, all tied up with a bow? It realy would be the best gift ever.....

Linda/patchwork said...


We were there, just last September. It's amazing!

Photos are great...but, they just can't capture the awesomeness of it.

Everybody really should try to go in person.

leigh said...

I have never been, but it's definitely on my list especially after seeing your beautiful photos! My parents are going in September and staying at some place that overlooks the canyon. It sounds fabulous. I need to give my mom some photography tips (or see if I can stowaway in her suitcase!)

Ahayes1225 said...

That was wonderful detail. Thanks so much!

Katie said...

oh my, what a wonderful bunch of information you shared, as well as such beautiful shots. that sunset is beautiful!

Cathy H. said...

Beautiful images of such a beautiful park of our country! I love the panorama and the sunset shots!! Both are breath taking!

Sarah Huizenga said...

Wonderful photos. It has been a number of years since I was at the Grand Canyon. We did hike down into the canyon a little ways, it was a wonderful adventure.

kelly said...

i've been to the grand canyon once when i was in high school. and like most teenagers, didn't appreciate the majestic beauty nearly enough. it's so true though how it's hard to capture the full magnitude of these gorgeous landscapes. but your photos are beautiful. makes me want to revisit them!

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