Sunday, March 4, 2012

Photographing Grand Canyon South Rim

The Greatest Show On Earth

Grand Canyon, a place like no other, sacred Native American wilderness, beacon to all humanity, an experience that challenges our senses and frustrates our attempts to describe its wonder within the capacity of human language.  Vast.  Spectacular.  Overwhelming.  Unforgettable.  Superlative versions of all of the above.

Words fail Grand Canyon.  So, I'm afraid, do photographs - even the best photographs - but images can convey more of the canyon's beauty and splendor and dimension than can any narrative.

One surprising thing to note about Grand Canyon, if you've never been there, is that it can become very cold at night.  We imagine Arizona as a warm place, but the combination of high altitude and desert climate chills the canyon's rims when the sun is no longer present.  Nighttime temperatures can dip below freezing as late as May, and winters are much colder.  When you set out for a pre-dawn shot like this one, wear lots of layers, or the frigid conditions may be unbearable.

A telephoto lens lets you zoom in on the dramatic colors and features of the pre-dawn horizon.

a photo of the sun rising over the palisades of the desert in grand canyon national park
Sunrise Over The Palisades Of The Desert

Before sunrise the canyon is shrouded in one big dark shadow.  As light creeps over the horizon it hits interior features from the side.  This creates a strong contrast between light and shadow, contrast that can add depth and drama to photographs.  Later in the day the same composition will look 'flat' and less dramatic.

a photograph of grand canyon features with side lighting in the early morning
Grand Canyon Features In Early Morning Side Lighting

It's important to stay alert for changing conditions.  Sometimes Mother Nature throws interesting phenomena our way.  We have to react quickly if we want to catch them.

a photography of a lenticular cloud over the grand canyon at sunrise
Lenticular Cloud Over Grand Canyon Features

Of course, there's always the chance of photographing a frisky couple in the midst of a romantic embrace.

a photo of two mules kissing in the grand canyon village
Kissing Mules - Grand Canyon Village

A wide-angle lens helps capture the depth and scale of the canyon.  The cliff to the right of this photo is a 3,000-foot vertical drop known as The Abyss.  I shot this photograph as clouds reflected warm light from the setting sun into the canyon.

a photograph of the abyss at sunset in grand canyon national park canon 5d mark ii
Sunset Reflecting Downward From Cloud Cover

Grand Canyon is a spectacular and uniquely wonderful destination where pleasant surprises await us at every turn, where a warm, affirming energy wraps its arms around every awestruck tourist, and where each memory seems destined to last a lifetime.  No matter how many times we visit Grand Canyon, there's always something new to see, some fresh experience, something that will stop us in our tracks and take our breath away, something that will remind us why this place, this timeless, magical landscape stands first among all of the attractions of the natural world.

a photograph of a colorful sunrise at grand canyon national park
Sunrise At The Edge Of A Winter Storm, Grand Canyon, NP

    Canon EOS 5D Mark II
    Canon EOD 7D

    70-200 f/4L IS
    24-104 f/4L IS
    TS-E24 f/3.5L II

Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2012 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment