The Grand Canyon: A Big Subject

"The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail." - John Wesley Powell*


I couldn't agree with John Wesley Powell more: the Grand Canyon is beyond possible ways to speak about or photograph it. However, that does not stop us from trying to talk about and shoot its vast beauty. My relationship with the Grand Canyon goes back 15 years when Jan and I first visited on a day trip from Flagstaff.  We drove up; parked at the Grand Canyon Village; walked along the rim at the village; had lunch then made our way back to Flagstaff. We didn't see much of the Grand Canyon, but we were impressed by its size and the seed was planted that we needed to see much more of this park.


Fast forward about ten years, and we made our second visit to the canyon: this time on a day tour from Sedona. The tour van picked us up very early, and we made it to the canyon mid-morning ... arriving at the Grand Canyon Village. We walked along the rim and ate lunch. Now, this may sound a little familiar, but the difference is that our tour guide told us what to look for and why it was significant ... which was a big help and gave us a new perspective.  Then in the afternoon our guide took us east on Desert View Drive and stopped at many of the points overlooking the canyon.  By the end of the day, we were tired but had a much better appreciation of the Grand Canyon.

Late Afternoon at Mohave Point

Late Afternoon at Mohave Point

Our first two visits to the Grand Canyon were last-minute decisions, which don't work well if you want to photograph the canyon. On the first trip we didn't know what areas to see. The second time we were with a tour group where you can take snapshots, but you don't have enough time to walk around and look for the best composition.  On our recent visit we wanted to stay somewhere close to the park, and here is where one of my favorite planning tools was helpful: Google Maps. I went to Google Maps and found Tusayan, AZ.  It's close to the Grand Canyon, has many hotels/motels, and the Park service runs a shuttle bus ... so you can leave your car parked at your hotel for most excursions. The Park Service also has many lodging facilities inside the park, but you need to plan about a year ahead if you're going to stay in any National Park lodging.


Upon arriving at our hotel, we first drove into the park, got a map and did some exploring ... before going back to the room to do some planning. The first day we had overcast weather with some rain, but very few breaks in the clouds and insufficient sunlight. We spent most of the day scouting different points along the rim for subjects that would be good when the light was right.  I did take some photos for reference, but the sky was just too gray. On the morning of the second day it was raining; then starting mid-day the clouds began clearing.  We caught the shuttle and made our way to Hermit Road, where I was able to capture some good shots of Hopi Point and Mohave Point ... where I took the featured image: "Late Afternoon at Mohave Point".


The morning of the third day was cold, with fog and some clouds. I went to Navajo Point for sunrise; and after taking some initial shots, I decided that a panorama was the best option for the wide vista. I captured Sunrise at Navajo Point, seen below.

Sunrise at Navajo Point

Sunrise at Navajo Point

In the afternoon of the third day, we took the Desert View Drive and enjoyed the beautiful vistas at the many stops and lookout points along the way. I took some shots but didn't capture any that I could feature here.


For the morning of the fourth and last day, I headed out for Yavapai Point which is close to the Visitor Center. The point extends out into the canyon, providing excellent views of the canyon looking to the east. So it's an excellent location for viewing the sunrise. That fact is well known to many visitors to the canyon since the audience for this sunrise was quite large. The rising sun provided great color in the clouds on the horizon, but those same clouds prevented the sun from showing its face. There were some beautiful moments on this cold March morning at the Grand Canyon. The image "Grand Canyon Sunrise", shown below, was the achievement of our last morning at the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon Sunrise

Grand Canyon Sunrise

Our third visit to the Grand Canyon gave us a much better appreciation of the wonders that John Wesley Powell described ... that speech nor graphic art could portray.

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* Quote by John Wesley Powell from A-Z Quotes