A mere 3.5 hour drive north of Phoenix, or a solid 7 hr drive from Los Angeles, the Grand Canyon is way easier to access than you’d think. But that doesn’t mean photographing it is!
This giant hole is the result of the Colorado River eroding the surrounding rock for a good seventeen million years. The result is a marvel that is virtually unparalleled. Capturing the 277 mile-long wonder is both easy (because it’s all beautiful) and challenging (because it’s overwhelmingly huge).
Below are some tips that will help you take the best photos possible of this national treasure:
#1 - Choose a side
First thing’s first! You need to choose which side of the canyon you’ll visit. (It’s that big, yes.) Some people say the North Rim is better because it’s far less traversed by tourists, reaches a higher elevation, and tends to be about 10º cooler. While these are all great reasons to visit the North Rim, don’t let the allure of the “hipster” rim detour you from exploring the more easily accessible South Rim.
In my experience, it’s easy to avoid 90% of other canyon visitors by simply walking 100 yards or so away from the main viewing points and parking lot platforms. If you avoid the hivemind, I can assure you that you will find plenty of gorgeous vantage points that are less inundated with people. If solitude is what you’re after, I’d recommend avoiding such obvious tourists traps as the Skywalk on the west end or the Desert View Tower to the south. Visiting on weekdays during the non-summer months can also help create a more intimate experience. No matter where you end up, let yourself fall in love with where you are!
#2 - Choose a focal point
When capturing the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, it’s often important to have a subject in-frame so that one can fully appreciate the scale of the canyon in comparison. A person staring out at the majestic view before them or some of the native vegetation such as a Ponderosa Pine or Utah Juniper can create gorgeous subjects for your photographs. Or, if your cohorts are as adventurous as mine, you can combine the two!
#3 - Try different focal lengths
Sometimes, shooting from the exact same spot can create wildly different results depending on the lens you're using. The Moment Superfish can help you capture the majesty of the 180º view of the canyon, while the Moment Tele can help you to hone in on the foreground or a particularly striking features of the canyon. Try standing in the same spot and experimenting with different lenses to achieve different results.
#4 - Don’t overlook the small details
From colorful quartz and clay to uniquely textured barks or vibrant mossy stones, the Grand Canyon is rich with textures that one must explore more closely to fully appreciate. Don't let the vastness of the area make you forget the magic hidden in the tiny details. Keep an eye out for scurrying lizards, vibrant wildflowers, and dewy leaves in the morning. Use a Moment Macro lens to capture a perspective on a detail that others may have never noticed otherwise.
#5 - Be aware
Lastly, as enticing as it sounds to capture an image sitting on the edge of a cliff or climbing a tree, no picture is worth your life. Sudden gusts of high winds and steep edges are no joke, and broken tree branches can lead to broken bones. Please, treat the canyon with constant respect and remain diligent at all times. When looking to capture that perfect shot, it’s easy to get lost in your screen and wander dangerously close to the edge. Always be aware of your surroundings, and never extend beyond your personal comfort zone or level of climbing expertise. Prepare for anything; bring a jacket, plenty of water and sunscreen. Wear good boots, stick together, and you’re bound to take some photos you’ll always cherish!