In the last episode of "Story Behind The Image" we stopped over in Toronto on the way to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. In this episode I like to tell you the story behind my favorite image of the Grand Canyon I took on that trip. Read further to learn about the story and that it's quite difficult to get a good image there and how weather plays a huge role in it.
With a length of more than 450 kilometers, a width between six and 30 kilometers and highs up to 1800 meters, the Grand Canyon carries its name rightly and is the largest canyon of the world. Seeing it for the first time is breathtaking, it really is. Those red rocks showing you millions of millions of years in history and it stretches out until the horizon. Built by the shire force of the Colorado River, you barley see the river itself because its so deep down the canyon. Or so far away.
As tourist you have several points where your able to come close to the edge of the canyon. There are also a few companies that provide track in the remote part of the canyon, you can book helicopter flights above the canyon and there are a few hiking-trails inside it. But as part of a roadtrip your first contact will be in the West, like two hours drive from Las Vegas where the Sky-Walk is located. Personally I think its way overpriced there. The most accessible way to visit the Grand Canyon is for sure the South Rim. There your on a tarmac street driving along the southern rim of the Canyon and are able to stop on all this amazing viewpoints. This offers beautiful views and an easy access. If you own a all-wheel-car, then the North Rim is an option for you too. More remote, more nature but also more difficult do access. But overall your Grand Canyon experience is pretty convenient.
On my trip I focused on the South Rim. This is par of the Grand Canyon National Park and you have to pay an entrance-fee of a few dollars. This permit is then valid for a week and you can drive in and out as much you like - as long you have the recipe on you front-window.
The South Rim offers a lot of viewpoints and two information centers that provides you with all the informations you'll need. During high-season your only allowed to drive between Grand Canyon Village and Desert View Watchtower, the two information centers. During winter you also have access to Hermit's Rest with your car. In summer you can do that only by public-bus.
HOW THE IMAGE WAS SHOT
The day I arrived on the South Rim, I drove strait to Hermit's Rest. As it was December I was allowed to do so. And I specifically wanted to go in winter because of the snow. I wasn't disappointed, there was some snow which made for a great contrast with the red rocks and the blue sky. I hiked halfway back to Grand Canyon Village and returned, capturing a few nice images. On that evening was a spectacular sunset, but that unfortunately didn't came out in the images. So I packed up, went to my Hotel in Tusayan.
On the next morning I woke up to a surprise. It had massivley snowed overnight. And it was still snowing with low hanging clouds. I packed my stuff, had breakfast and checked out. All in no hurry, because there was absolutely no light and therefore nothing to capture. As I arrived at the viewpoint near Grand Canyon Village I was the almost alone. A few minutes later I realized why: You could not see your own hand in front of you it was that foggy. The Grand Canyon was one white wall. Pretty bad, as this was my last day there and I had planed to make the whole drive along the South Rim.
Back on the parking lot I had a decision to make. Wait or drive further. I decided on continuing the drive because I had a reserved hotel in Page, AZ. Back on the Road, it startet to clear up. Unfortunately on the wrong side, the canyon was still covered in fog. A few kilometers later I saw a viewpoint, as I found out later it was "Duck on a Road"-Viewpoint. Nevertheless I decided to stop, grab my Camera and push my luck.
And I was lucky. Very lucky. Right in the moment I parked, the sun came trough and the fog startet to disappear. What I had in front of me was a freshly snowed Grand Canyon, whilst the horizon still was in the mist. An absolutely amazing view that was completely different to all views I saw the day before. It was just the perfect conditions for an unusual image of the Grand Canyon.
I set up my tripod, placed my Canon EOS 5D Mark 3 on it and mounted the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM-lens. In the right corner I placed the closest, brown rock to lead the eye into the image. The fresh snow, the green trees harmonize so well with the color of the rock. In the lower-left third I placed the deepest visible point of the canyon and the upper third is completely covered in clouds. Then I dialed in an aperture of f/9, with ISO 100 and 1/50th of a second exposure time. No Filter was needed in this situation. The magical light did everything else for me and out came this image:
That day turned from cloudy and misty into the perfect light for the scene. I never saw an image of the Grand Canyon in that conditions and it was exactly what I came for. Of course I was enormously happy about that and it is still one of my favorite images I ever took.
Funny side-story: When I arrived at the viewpoint, everything was still completely covered and you couldn't see anything that was more than 50 meters away. But a group of asian-tourists persisted that I take a group photo for them. I even told them that they only see white behind them they wanted it. Okay, of course I did it but I hope they got a better one that day ;)
My journey of course continued. I also did a hike trough the fresh snow to a viewpoint - well I guessed I did that, but infect it was just a forest-path that ended in the woods. Nevertheless was ist beautiful. Here are a few more impressions from that day:
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