Having finally finished processing the photos I took on our USA road trip last October, I wanted to write a few words about how I found photographing the Grand Canyon. Out of all the wonderful places we visited, the Grand Canyon was by far the most difficult to photograph well.
The problem I found wasn’t that there was too little to photograph there (obviously) but too much. Far more than any other place we visited, the scale of the Grand Canyon was overwhelming and no matter what I tried, I found I couldn’t capture the majesty of what I saw to anything approaching my satisfaction. Shooting with a standard zoom doesn’t get enough in the frame, but shooting with a wide angle lens tends to lose individual details in the crowd – peaks, curves, colours. Shooting with a telephoto is great for picking out particular details, but you miss the wider context that gives these details much of their power. Still images will of course never truly replicate the experience of ‘being there’ but never have I felt that more keenly than here.
Over time I began to get the hang of things a little more and I’m pleased with a lot of the images I got, but I know I’ve barely scratched the surface. The best time to make sense of the canyon photographically was in the golden hours around sunset and dawn, when the shadows would start to highlight particular features or the soft light allowed the beautiful pink colours of the rock to blossom.
I think to really well photograph somewhere like the Grand Canyon you need to spend time absorbing your surroundings, to get the feel for the landscape and how it works photographically. This is of course true for any location, but the Grand Canyon is so different in its scale that I think you need a but longer to acclimatise – at least longer than the couple if days I could afford as a tourist.