After obtaining a Navajo Nation backcountry permit, head North on Hwy 89 to Gap, AZ. At Gap, turn West onto a dirt road and follow your favorite navigation app to the East Rim through a maze of dirt roads.
Location: Unnamed East Rim Overlook near the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers, Grand Canyon Navajo Tribal Park, Navajo Nation, Arizona
Equipment: Nikon D850, AF-S NIKKOR16-35mm f/4G ED VR at 16mm, Really Right Stuff TVC-24 Tripod. Exposure: 1.3 sec., f/8, ISO 64.
Do I really want to make a 30-mile trip on an unmarked, deeply rutted dirt road through the backcountry of Navajo Nation just to have this view? Well Yes! Of course I do! Why? The reason is simple. While the Canyon’s South and North Rim’s see over six million visitors per year; this spot, on a remote East Rim overlook sees, in my estimations, probably less than a hundred. On this visit in early May, 2018, for example, two photographer friends and myself had the entire location to ourselves; as far as the eye could see – a very private viewing of one of the grandest places on Earth.
On the morning of this shot, wake up call was 4:40 AM. Sunrise was at 5:30 AM. We did not have to go very far – maybe 100 yards from our campsite to the rim. First light had already broken and I had scouted my location the day before. With the river whispering below, I quickly set-up and composed my shot. It was a bit challenging to manually focus at first, but as the sky brightened, my cameras live-view focus locked on. Then it was time to wait. As the minutes went by, and as I gazed down at the turquoise-blue color of the Little Colorado River, the canyon began to light up – and on this morning, Mother Nature did not disappoint! When it comes to the Grand Canyon, reflected light is the best light! And in this image – from the Confluence and Chuar Butte below, to the South Rim at the horizon and the North Rim to the right – the entire canyon, wall-to-wall, rim-to-rim is naturally illuminated – painted with a colorful palette of beautiful, soft redirected light. And oh by the way, the sky was pretty good too!
To me, the Grand Canyon IS the iconic American Landscape – history book of the world; layer-upon-layer, 1.8 billion years in the making.
President Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”