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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

6 Stay Safe
The canyon is a huge place, and the only guard rails are at the overlooks. Deaths are recorded every year when people slip, misstep or merely look up at the view while walking. Conditions are further complicated by the high winds that are prevalent at the canyon for much of the year. YouTube is littered with the follies of people doing foolish things just trying to get pictures.

Secure your tripod! These previously mentioned gusting winds also claim many cameras left alone on tripods. I've been personally knocked down by wind gusts while on the edge of the canyon. Be very careful with your tripod.

7 Predicting Slashing Light
That fabulous "slashing light"—when prominent canyon features become "spotlit"—happens when low-level, fast-moving clouds scud along on those ever-present canyon winds. With the sun as a relative (slow-moving) constant, and the clouds moving quickly, it's fairly easy to predict where the light will occur. The fun part is scrambling around, even changing viewpoints, to find a composition to take advantage of the situation. Many of my best canyon images were made by realizing how fast-moving events were unfolding and responding quickly.

8 Go Short, Go Long: Pick The Right Lens
The Grand Canyon is a photographer's smorgasbord, with its gently folded layers covered in the textures of time. The compositional possibilities are virtually endless. Since modern zooms now can approach or exceed the sharpness of fixed focal lengths, for me, lens choices are easy. I like light, high-quality zooms for the variable perspective they offer, but the benefits of zooms don't end there. Modern digital cameras are susceptible to dust, and it's beneficial to change lenses only as often as required, and zooms help keep that to a minimum.

Most of my canyon work is done with a wide to normal focal length, with the majority of images falling somewhere between 24mm and 55mm on a standard full-frame DSLR. I use my long lenses (ranging from 70mm up to 300mm) to capture the fascinating and marvelous detail of the canyon.

Interestingly, my extreme wide-angle, the lens I seem to use the most everywhere else, is the lens I use the least at the Grand Canyon. And there's a very good reason for that. At some points on the South Rim, the canyon stretches east and west for 180º. It's so vast that superwides tend to render everything so small that detail kind of vanishes in everything but very large prints.


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