Day 20 - Grand Canyon NP  
   
    The first light of dawn from Yavapai Point, Grand Canyon South Rim    
Minolta XD7 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X (cropped) Film: Fuji Velvia
 

With the sun rising early I had set my alarm to be able to get up in time to secure a good position for my tripod on one of the observation points on the South Rim. I had done some internet research before leaving home, and accordingly I already had a plan for where I wanted to be - Yavapai Point, famous for its amazing views East up the canyon into the rising sun.

With sunrise scheduled for about 6.35 am I arrived at the viewing point at about 5.45 and set up my tripod and gear in the dark. I was all alone and so was able to select the best possible position, right at the extreme front. As dawn approached and the first glimmers of light appeared above the horizon I took my first shots of the canyon, and with the progressively brighter sky I was able to see at last my first view of the canyon - a sight that took my breath away.

 
 
 
 
The sun peeks over the horizon, and the scenery starts to emerge in the dim morning light.
 
 
Minolta XD7 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Velvia
 
 

With two cameras available, one with negative film and the other with slide, I was able to change between the two to ensure I captured the canyon in its full magnificence. The incredible colours and resolution of slide film provide some of the most stunning images, but the exposure latitude of negatives enables an experienced user to get details that would otherwise be lost in high contrast situations. In the shot above, by scanning the same negative twice at different densities, and then overlaying and blending the two files, I have been able to show the view as it appeared to me. My lab processed prints of the negative have a washed out sky, and bear no resemblence to the way I saw the scene. Of course, you can achieve the same effect by using graduated neutral density filters with slide film, and achieve outstanding results in camera, without later manipulation.

Shooting prints and slides side by side really brings home the wonderful nature of slide film for landscape and nature photography - the shots taken on slide show the hues of the scene accurately, and act as a reference for colour balance when working on your negatives later. As well as that, there is just something about looking at a slide on a light table - when you see them you feel like a legend, they look so good! I strongly recommend that in circumstances like these where you have the time to bracket your exposures that you use slide film instead of, or as well as print film - you won't be disappointed.

 
 
 
 
Don't just restrict yourself to wide angles when shooting landscapes.
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 200mm f/2.8 MD Tele Rokkor Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 

By now the observation point at Yavapai was crowded with people who had got up to see the dawn. I was very glad that I had arrived early and staked out my site. As the sun rose higher it began to highlight all of the various ridges within the Canyon, making for some great photographs to the North and West, down the canyon away from the rising sun. If you go, make sure the viewing position you select has access to these views as well as those directly East.

 
 
 
 
The view West from Yavapai Point, lit by the first rays from the sun
 
 
Minolta XD7 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Velvia
 
 

The Grand Canyon is a place that really has to be experienced personally to be appreciated. You can look at all of the photos that you like, but until you actually stand there and see it for yourself you will never appreciate just how awe-inspiring it actually is. It is truly incredible. Carved out of the sandstone and rock of the Arizona plains over an estimated six million years, this canyon probably looked very close to the way it does today when the first human beings walked the planet.

 
 
 
 
The view directly across the canyon to the North Rim. The warmth of the first light of dawn saturated the rocks with colour.
   
 
Minolta XD7 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Velvia
 
 

As the sun continued to rise in the sky, it illuminated more and more of the canyon. While the light and visibility was still very good, the rich golden rays that were the first herald of dawn faded back to more natual daylight. Still, this meant that for the first time I could really appreciate all of the hues and colours of the landscape before me.

Over the dawn, I admit that I spent so much time in the moment, just appreciating the glory of the sunrise, that I didn't take a huge number of photos. I am just pleased that some of my shots give an inkling of the amazing experience it was to see a sunrise at the Grand Canyon.

 
 
 
 
The full majesty of the Canyon finally displayed. The view from Yavapai Point.
 
 
Minolta XD7 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Velvia
 
 

As the sun continued to rise I excitedly packed up my gear so that I could go and rouse my travelling companion David. He had decided that his sleep was more important than the sunrise, and so had decided to sleep in. I was keen to get him, get some breakfast, and explore more of the South Rim. I left Yavapai Point and headed back towards the lodge, but not before I spent a few more minutes enjoying the sight of one of the locals scampering about on the hunt for food.

 
 
 
 
One of the many native residents of the South Rim
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 

To see the rest of Day 20, including a spectacular sunset from Mohave Point, click on the link below.

 
     
 
Day 20 (continued)
 
 
Join the Mailing List for Updates
 
 
Back to Trip Index
 
 
Front Page