Monday, February 22, 2010

Midnight at the Grand Canyon

I watched the sunset earlier in the evening from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, but I wasn't thrilled with my pictures. There was something they were missing, something I could see, but wasn't able to capture. I set up my tent in the forest west of the canyon, and after taking a nap for a couple hours, I put my riding gear on and headed back into the park at almost 1am. The place was completely deserted, and silent. So empty that rather then leave my bike in the parking lot, I rode it all the way down the footpaths and through the buildings to the locations I'd scouted to shoot from. This was a strange feeling in of itself.

But as I started taking pictures, I wasn't having much luck. There were some tungsten safety lights on the buildings that were messing up the colors, I didn't have a tripod so I had to do my best balancing the camera on rocks, which gave always-crooked horizons, and the the full moon wasn't providing the interesting shadows that I'd hoped for. I dicked around with various exposures and stops for about half an hour, getting more and more annoyed that I wasn't able to really capture the spectacle of this place. I didn't know what I was doing wrong, but nothing was coming out the way I wanted.

I got up to leave, and on a whim mostly born out of my frustration with it, I pointed the camera at the moon and pressed the shutter.

This was the result.

I can count on one hand the number of times that I've taken a single shot that upon review has made me verbally say "Wow . . ."

(I know I've said it before, but if you've never done it, PLEASE view these larger. I've taken a gamble and linked to the full-res, 8mp images, although they are watermarked.)

I pointed the camera at something else that had been pissing me off the whole time, a stone tower just to my left that was illuminated by a bright halogen lamp. This was what came out.

(I'm sorry about the overly-obnoxious watermark)

And the moon again after the clouds had cleared a bit.

It turned out that the things I'd been bitching about the whole time yielded what, to me, are some of the coolest pictures I've ever taken. This gave me the motivation to stick around and try and shoot the canyon itself, as well as some tips on what I was doing wrong. I still think my accident shots were cooler, but at least these turned out decent.

Pointing west caught some horizon glow that I couldn't understand the source of. Vegas, maybe? It was almost 2am, far too late for lingering sunlight.

And to the east.

(Arg I wish I'd had a tripod)

Truth be told, the reason I've hesitated so long to post these is that at ANY resolution besides original, the pictures lose most of their punch. I eventually decided to compromise and watermark them, and I'm sorry about it, but it's the only way I could let myself post these at this size. I watermarked them just so that if someone does steal them or hotlink from somewhere else, at least the viewers will know where it came from.

Please, view these on as large and high-resolution of a screen as you can.

If anyone would like full-resolution, uncompressed .tif (or even RAW) files suitable for printing, sent me a message and I'd be happy to get them to you somehow (keep in mind the .tif files are almost 50mb). I'm not trying to make any money or anything, but if someone DID want these for printing, a minor donation of some sort would be appreciated. Or to be honest, just that you like them enough to want the full file would be compliment enough. So yeah, whatever.

The next time I take a trip to the canyon, I'm bringing a wider lens, or a full-frame camera.


  1. LOVE the tower shot! That came out great. Western horizon glow is from Vegas for sure.

    For your bike trips, have you considered a pocket tripod or one of those Gorilla ones (pocket-sized, but flexi-bendy, about $22)? I love my pocket tripod - it weighs hardly anything - but my only complaint is I can't do much in terms of tilting the camera body, so I am thinking about getting a Gorilla very soon.

  2. I have followed your blog since the beginning. These are some of the finest photos that you have posted to date.
    Have you considered writing a book, with photos, about your odessey?

  3. I did carry a Gorilla-pod for my point-and-shoot camera, but my big SLR is way too heavy for it. They do make one big enough for my large camera, but it's expensive and almost as bulky as a traditional tripod.