Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Grand Canyon

When we first outlined our route from Seattle to Texas, we had not anticipated making a stop at the Grand Canyon. It was a little out of our way and there wasn't much wiggle room in our schedule. But the beauty of living on the road is that we can be flexible. With four days to play with while we were in Arizona, we decided to camp out at the quaint little historical town of Williams. It was beyond thrilling for me to anticipate going to see, not to mention shoot, the Canyon.

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The entrance to the town of Williams and our campsite at Grand Canyon Railway RV Park

Usually upon our arrival at a new place, we will spend the day setting up our rig and just chill out but I was determined to make the 50 mile drive to see the sun setting over the Grand Canyon.

When I arrived (Linda stayed back in Williams), I quickly found a parking space and followed the signage to the South Rim Viewing Platform. I passed the visitor's center and I could feel my heart pounding with anticipation. Some people I had spoken with said they were underwhelmed when they first got a glimpse but I didn't think that was going to be the case with me. As I walked toward the metal safety fence, the sheer grandeur of this, one of the planet's natural wonders, revealed itself.

It was literally breathtaking. There were hundreds, no thousands, of tourists gathered at the best viewing points but they faded away in my mind as I focused on the shadows, textures and colors all plummeting almost a mile deep.

My first thoughts were to just take it all in. I resisted the urge to start taking photographs. Once I get into that frame of mind, I tend to only see what's in front of me through the viewfinder. It was absolutely necessary and crucial that I refrain from that behavior and just let time stand still.

When I came out of my hypnotic state, my mind began to fill itself with all the challenges this huge space presented in terms of capturing and truly representing it's massive presence. My first thought was to include something of known scale. Huge clusters of tourists would be good for that. I really wanted to record a few shots with people for my own reference. The rest of the time I would concentrate on finding interesting shapes and textures.

A large group of tourists helps show the scale of the canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the most photographed places on Earth so it's almost impossible to avoid cliche so I didn't even bother trying. I just wanted to capture this place as I saw it and if it wasn't original, who cares?

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Sunset and sunrise are the two best times to photograph the Grand Canyon Canyon

The next morning, I was on the road again at the crack of dawn to capture the sunrise. This proved to be the most rewarding trip of my visit there. I moved to another location and shared the view with only a handful of brave souls who had ventured out in the sub-freezing weather at that time. As the sun rose over the canyon, fingers of light reached out across the peaks and troughs and colors and shapes and textures changed by the second. It was almost impossible to stop pressing the shutter although I did, again, remind myself that I must also be present to these wonderful moments. Everything else in my life seemed trivial once I filled my eyes with the majesty before me.

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It was a rare privilege to experience the first light of day at the Grand Canyon

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People took some serious risks to get photos…          Meanwhile, we stayed safe shooting selfies :)

On the third day, Linda came along with me and we spent time at the visitor's center learning about the chronology of the many rock structures. Each of my three visits was a completely different experience and I know when I return again, it will be like seeing it anew.

We had a close encounter with this beautiful elk on the way out of Grand Canyon Park

I'm so glad we were able to make it work to see in real life something I thought would be forever confined to magazines and books. Did the Grand Canyon live up to its hype? Hell yes, and then some.


  1. Hey, what the hell do I know?? :-) After looking at your photos I will have to return.

  2. Imagine yourself as a scout or traveler heading north in AZ on foot or horseback. Suddenly, this GIANT crack opens up in front of you!! I don't know if you could even take in the beauty, since you might be more concerned about this incredible obstacle in your path. Each time I visit the GC (and same with Yosemite Valley), I am startled by the fact that you could be walking along with a quarter mile of the extravagant scene and not even know it is there!

    I have never regretted visiting a National Park in the U.S. They are truly special places. Loved your photos, especially the sunrise shots.

  3. I love that you captured something different to share. Especially enjoy the smoky canyon shot and what an unusual looking elk! We probably need to visit again. We cabined there for our 25th anniversary and in 2011 lived in our motorhome all year to celebrate our 40th, so it's been awhile!

  4. Hell Yes..a place one must see with their own eyes..
    your pictures are fabulous as always!

  5. Your photos remind me to 'get off Auto'... Cracking pics as always, thanks for sharing! 😊

  6. Beautifully written, magically photographed, so glad you shared this with us! When we exchanged vows in front of our family and friends I asked that no one take pictures during that part. I didn't want anyone sharing the moment with us through a lens, I wanted them all "with" us. And everyone except Bill's mom who we would want to "see" it was there with us already. So I totally "get" and share your desire to experience it before capturing it. Love the selfie - you two are too cute!

  7. I felt the same. Totally overwhelmed. Could hardly grasp that the canyon was real and sooo big!