Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Published 11:58 AM by with 1 comment

The Grandest 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.

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. 

The people definitely contributed greatly to giving scale and context to this photograph.

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?

Nowhere else have I been so aware of the effects of light. This is near sunset, one of the two best times to be at the 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.

The break of day over the Grand Canyon. Nothing can come close to the feeling of being there.

The layers of light during the sunrise were extraordinary.
I was surprised at how much risk people were willing to take for a photo.
I loved the contrast between the bold silhouette of the trees against the rich textures of the rocks.

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.

As an added bonus, Linda and I 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.


Fred Wishnie said...

Even though I was leader of the underwhelmed, after reading your post and enjoying your magnificent photos, I have to say I missed the majesty. Probably have to be there at sunrise or sunset- or have your extraordinary eye!