August 30 & September 3 & 4, 2017
After ten seasons working on the North Rim of Grand Canyon I’ve discovered some of the best places to photograph late and early light along the Cape Royal Road so always welcome an opportunity to shoot during the blue and golden hours surrounding sunset and sunrise.
Lynda, Doug, Bob, Rebecca & Scott at Vermilion Cliffs curtesy of Scott
A couple nights after Rebecca and I went to Point Imperial for sunset I joined her again and met some new friends. (Hope I labeled this right.) I had met Lynda before who was traveling with brother Bob and friend/photographers Doug and Scott.
We had snacks and adult cocktails at the Wedding site and were joined by one of the local Ravens, probably looking for handouts. Slim pickings from folks that know better than to feed the wildlife. And yes, you can actually get a permit to be married at this location on the rim of Grand Canyon. How cool is that?
We wandered to slightly different rim locations according to our individual creative and artistic eye. Almost within sight of each other yet mindful to stay out of the camera’s view. Although fun to photograph each other as I caught Lynda shooting the view below.
I find myself intrigued and searching for shafts of light/crepuscular rays, some highlight areas within the canyon while creating contrasting patches of shadow that often reflect the intricate rocky shapes.
Cape Royal on the Walhalla Plateau is located at the end of the scenic drive 23 miles and 45 minutes (in daylight) from the Visitor Center and Lodge parking. Yet I find it getting crowded so maybe we Rangers have told too many people about this fabulous sunset location.
I was fortunate enough to be scheduled to work on the Walhalla Plateau two days in a row shortly after that night. Unfortunately the first day I wasn’t there quite long enough for sunset. But the second day I took my own rig so I could change out of uniform and stay late. Of course if anyone has seen me during the day I’d still be a Ranger after hours. But once a Ranger always a Ranger. In fact I talked with a guy, Bob, at Walhalla overlook while roving and recommended Cape Royal for sunset photography. He gauranteed not to recognize me as a Ranger later.
I first tried to get an almost full moon rise but the haze blocked its break over the horizon. I find the free Google Sky app on my phone helps me line up for where the moon is supposed to rise but do have to take into consideration that my horizon line is at a higher elevation than the app shows.
I’d set up for a shot and then at least five selfie-stick people would get in front of me. Probably eight serious photogs with DSLRs on tripods versus 25-30 phone-photogs spread over the rocks like amphitheater seating, including one person with a dog. Being out of uniform made me one of the crowd so I didn’t say anything about the no dog law.
I knew the sun would be setting not long after moonrise and just above the Brahma Temple according to the Photographer’s Ephemeris app that I have on my computer but haven’t put on my phone yet.
My goal to see first light on the towering fin that hosts Angels Window and bonus was the rosy glow on Vishnu Temple and a pastel horizon for Humphrey Peak to show through about 65 miles away. Thank you Paul Gill for sharing your awesome results on a different morning. Now one of my favorite photos of the season and available for prints.
Also stopped at all the overlooks on the return drive home just like I always recommend to the visitors. And even though these views are mostly east into the bright morning sun I like the way certain rock faces captured the light.
First stop, Walhalla overlook where I met visitor Bob the previous day. As we shared some of our sunset shots it was interesting to see how he had gone way wide and I had more focused in shots. That made me think how fun it would be to see the variety from all the people shooting and seeing the same sunset with different eyes/lens.
Then Adam Schallau drove up, tour guide and well known photographer from Flagstaff (wonder where he’d been shooting). Although I haven’t yet taken one of Adam’s workshops I’m learning from obsorbing his awesome photography. Sure wish I was going on his upcoming Colorado River trip, but alas I’m working.
I wandered below the rim a little looking for aspen that should soon turn gold with a canyon background. Yet on this day trees still showed green and a few purple and yellow wildflowers hung on for the last of summer life.
There are even places to sit to enjoy the view. Which is really what visiting Grand Canyon should be about. And no matter when and where you take photos, although time of day and light can be taken into consideration, there are no bad views of the canyon. The photos should evoke your memories.
A question came up on a FB photography page I follow about sharing the locations of photo shoots. Some places are SO popular and (over) frequently visited that location is usually shared, like I do here. Yet I don’t do GPS so coordinates aren’t published. General concensus seems to agree that private property should not be shared for obvious reasons. And then there’s those secret places that should just be discovered on our own. How do you weigh in?