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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

10 Tips For The Grand Canyon

A seasoned pro shares his secrets for getting original shots in one of the most iconic locations in America

This Article Features Photo Zoom

I find both kinds of ND grads to be useful at the canyon. While looking into the sun, I prefer the reverse graduated filters to avoid a heavy look to the upper sky. (While the reverse grad is handy in these situations, if you don't have one, it's certainly not a deal breaker. Just use the graduated filter tool in Lightroom or Photoshop in postprocessing to lighten that heaviness in the upper sky.) While looking away from the sun, I use the standard soft and hard graduated filters.

The key to effective ND grad filter work is avoiding the unevenness at the "blend" point. I'm talking about that area of midground darkness that can look unnatural when the filter is pulled down over the sky. Photographers have had problems determining that "blend" point properly since they were invented. Fortunately, our new cameras give us perhaps the best tool for doing just that: Live View. I use Live View for adjusting ND grads on the front of my lens, as it gives me complete control of the process.

4 It's All About Foreground
Most people familiar with my work know that I'm "all about the foreground," so it's no surprise that, for the most part, I consider my only job during the middle of the day is to find usable foreground, effectively looking for my sunset shot, as well as possible compositions for the following morning. Since my GPS/phone tells me exactly where the sun is rising/setting, it makes the pre-visualization of future shots not only possible, but preferable to doing it the other way—hoping to stumble upon something come crunch time.

While anything from an overhanging tree to simple rocks can be used as effective foreground, I like to find objects that might mimic lines and folds in the canyon. While to some a small, promontory outcropping might be a nice place to stand for an unobstructed view of the canyon, to me it's best used as a compositional element.

5 Finding Isolation
The canyon is visited by millions of tourists per year, and it can be a problem for photographers. My initial moments when I arrive at the canyon are almost always accompanied by feelings of claustrophobia caused by the sheer number of people. But finding isolation isn't really all that difficult. Here are a few ways to accomplish just that.

• Go to the North Rim. The North Rim, mostly because it's much farther away, is visited by far fewer people than the South Rim.

• Take the shuttle bus. The shuttle bus system visits those viewpoints that don't have a sufficient parking infrastructure. These viewpoints are the entire West Rim Drive and Yaki. Most tourists avoid the inconvenience, so these viewpoints are comparatively empty.

• Pick a viewpoint and start walking. At any given viewpoint, tourists congregate at the railing. Walk even 200 yards in any direction, and you'll most likely find yourself alone, with two notable exceptions: Mather and Yavapai Points. While they're exceptionally beautiful spots, Mather and Yavapai are the closest viewpoints to the Grand Canyon Village and have the best parking infrastructure. As such, they're always overrun by tourists. If you shoot here, even at sunrise, you'll have people crawling into your image. The fact that you were there first will be meaningless to them.


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