Mojave Point Sunset
Nikon D610, Nikkor 16-35mm @ 29mm, f/11, ISO 50, 30 Seconds
I flew into Phoenix, Arizona and rented a Toyota Corolla off Hotwire.com for the best possible deal. We ended up getting a Corolla from Hertz. The guy at Hertz told me I should upgrade my car since he had some good deals going on, but I told him that I was balling on a budget. After driving around Arizona in a Corolla for a few days I quickly regretted my decision to cheap out on the car rental. Arizona is more mountainous than I had imagined, it had more snow than I had realized, and it was more fun than I had anticipated. The Corolla; although great on gas and reliable to boot was a bit slow for my taste. The entire time I was driving around Arizona I kept envisioning my Subaru WRX ripping up the roads in style and speed. The drive from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim was short and scenic. When we hit Flagstaff I was surprised to see that much snow, but as it turns out after a quick google search Flagstaff receives more snow than Chicago annually.
We entered the Village through the south entrance and paid the $30/week fee for admittance and parking. We lodged at the Thunderbird Lodge next to Bright Angel and just down the way from El Tovar. It was over-priced as National Parks go, but we had a view of the Grand Canyon from our window and we were close to dining, shopping, and the canyon. My only gripe was that we couldn’t get the fan coil unit in our room to kick into heating mode, but we had enough blankets thankfully.
The Grand Canyon is breathtaking. Seriously. It was cold and the wind was ridiculous at times so it would literally take my asthma for a ride.
As you can see from the photo below scale is everything. The Grand Canyon lives up to it's name like no other thing ever has before. Each layer of rock signifies age and persistence through the elements of time. As a photographer I knew it would be difficult to capture the Grand Canyon and prove scale. People are often a good measurement for scale, but when the Grand Canyon is a mile deep and 18 miles wide and 277 miles long...well...shit. Scale becomes quite difficult to capture even with wide angled lenses and people for scale.
Here's what I noticed. First off, people will do anything for a great selfie. That includes putting themselves in harm's way and endangering others around them. I'm adventurous, but these people were downright stupid. I found this excerpt;
"Park statistics show that about 4.5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year and an average of 12 people die there annually. An average two to three deaths per year are from falls over the rim" ~ Review Journal 2014
Practice safety. No one will see that awesome shot if your camera phone plunges with you to your very excruciating death.
I knew that I wanted to use my wide-angle Nikkor 16-35mm lens for most of this trip. I figured using one lens would reduce the amount of dust build-up in my sensor from constantly changing lenses. I also knew that I wanted my Lee Filter Holder and my gradual neutral density filters for shooting the Grand Canyon specifically.
The idea behind using a graduated ND filter at the Grand Canyon is because of the horizon being almost completely straight. You will be able to expose the canyon and darken the sky using a single shot. I found myself moving around quite a bit trying to find a better spot, but to be honest there are no bad spots. There are only other spots. I had minimal cloud cover at night and during the morning so the gradual neutral density filters helped darken up the sky a little more than being fully blown out (white skies.)
I also used a tripod on every shot taken here because I wanted to shoot with a low ISO and a high aperture like f/9 to f/16 for maximum sharpness across the edges. You're not the Terminator so mount your shit and be careful that it doesn't blow off the canyon wall.
I shot at Hopi Point and Mojave Point for sunset on Hermit Road just outside of the Grand Canyon Village. Due to the fact that I went to the Grand Canyon during December the crowds were not a problem and parking was a non-issue. I had most of these spots to myself with exceptions at Hopi Point for sunset and Mather Point during the day. Mather Point is the first point after entering the park entrance, and it also has the largest parking lot and houses the visitor's center.
Hopi Point Sunset
Pentax K-5, Tamron 17-50mm @ 50mm, f/9, ISO 100, 1/8 second
Gramps and The Canyon
My grams and the Watchtower
I recommend visiting Mojave and Hopi Points for sunset, and I enjoyed Yavapai Point for sunrise. I have heard that Hopi Point and Mather Point get fairly crowded during warmer seasons. If I had to pick between the two I would choose Mojave Point over Hopi Point for sunset. After you're done shooting visit the General Store and grab yourself some Lumberyard Brewing Co. Humphrey's Hefe or some Grand Canyon Brewing Co. Black Iron IPA. They weren't the greatest, but for any beer aficionado looking for the local taste that's your jam.
Some fun facts about the Canyon:
President Benjamin Harrison established the Grand Canyon as a forest preserve in 1893. Later in 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt upgraded the preserve to a national monument. In 1919, The Grand Canyon officially became a national park.
Geologists say the layer of rock at the bottom of the canyon where the Colorado River flows is 2 billion years old. What!