If you’ve had dry weather during your trip, your stop at Havasu Creek will be stunning, as the waters of the creek will be ultra-aqua and you won’t need any saturation in processing. Be very careful to wipe off any stray water on your glass as the lime precipitate will be difficult to clean off without resorting to hydrochloric acid. Your time exploring the creek will be limited, so hiking up to the famous waterfalls is rather unlikely. Scenic possibilities include the narrow flooded gorge that’s the entrance to Havasu Creek and detail images of the pools. Havasupai means “people of the blue green water.” I shot the gorge with a Pentax 10-17mm fisheye zoom at 10mm at ƒ/13 and 1⁄125 sec., into the sun to record the sunstar [opening spread]. I felt this helped to depict the otherworldly qualities of this place, where colors are jarringly unreal. By the way, the waters of Havasu Creek are much warmer than the flow of the Colorado River, which helps as you’ll cross the creek frequently to scout and shoot images.
Anasazi granary at Nankoweap, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
How do you store and preserve your gear on the river? I store my Pentax K-7 and lenses from 10mm to 300mm in Pelican cases and secure them to ropes using carabineers, so I always have easy access when we stop for a hike or to shoot between rapids. Bring a dry bag or two, as they will come in handy. You can and should bring a tripod, and ask your trip leader where they would like to stow it for use during the day. Comfortable wet/dry hiking shoes work very well for most of the hikes offered, which tend to be less than a half mile. Forget about electricity for at least a week, so bring plenty of charged batteries and limit your chimping! A backup drive is welcome, but keep it in a padded and sealed case, as the ride through the rapids can be violent and not just wet.
You may want to shoot your way through some of the 133 rapids on this stretch of the river, and this is the way I pull that off without sacrificing bodies, and lenses, to the river. Ewa-Marine makes very good, reasonably priced shooting bags to fit various camera makes and models. The bags can be used with compact up to large optics mated to an optical glass port for best quality. You operate them with your right hand in a rubber glove and hold on for dear life with your left, a skill that you develop rather quickly. Digital capture makes this so much better than all my previous trips shooting color transparency through the contrasty rapids, when 36 frames always seemed to run out way too soon, making missing peak action a problem.
There are a number of river companies permitted to operate in Grand Canyon National Park, but my favorite is Arizona River Runners, based in Phoenix, (800) 477-7238, www.raftarizona.com.