5 Photography Tips for Grand Canyon Sunrises and Sunsets

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With seemingly endless layers and rich colors, Grand Canyon is an epic place to capture the light at sunrise and sunset. Make the most of your time there with these tips from Ken Hubbard, field services manager for Tamron. Need more suggestions? Hubbard is co-teaching our new online Night Sky Photography course with André Costantini. 

1. Scout your location during the day.

Don’t waste the golden hour trying to find the perfect spot to shoot. Hubbard suggests making a plan during the day, when you won’t be rushed. On the South Rim, he suggests Moran Point, Grand Overlook, and viewpoints near Desert View Watch Tower. “You get really good views of the Grand Canyon, and all of them are different,” he says. Go further east to see more of the river in your shots, and go west for layers of the canyon.

Download a park map.

2. Get to your spot an hour early. 

If the weather changes and you need to find a new place to shoot, you want to have time to make a new plan. Arrive at least an hour before sunset, Hubbard suggests, so you get all the different types of light.

3. Always bring a tripod, and turn off your vibration reduction settings. 

No matter how steady you think your hand is, or how good you assume the light is, Hubbard suggests always having a tripod with you. Then you’ll be prepared for all kinds of light conditions. When you do have your camera on a tripod, you’ll want to turn off the vibration reduction settings, Hubbard says. “When you put it on a tripod, your camera is so stable that vibration reduction settings have a counter effect,” he says, meaning your photos might appear a bit blurry.

4. Download weather apps and use them.

When he’s shooting sunrise and sunset, Hubbard uses the Sunseeker app to plan out his position. It shows you where the sun will be in the sky at any given time. “It helps knowing what it’s going to hit and at what angle,” he says. For night sky shots, Hubbard uses Sky Guide to calculate what time will be best for shooting the Milky Way. He also uses PhotoPils to calculate the sun’s position, star trails and the optimal time to shoot the Milky Way.

5. Use Elements

Find strong foreground, mid and background elements to create depth in your image and compliment the main subject of your scene. Then remember the rule of thirds. This will help you place those elements and create an image with strong composition.

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Tamron photographer Ken Hubbard

Photographer Ken Hubbard

Ken Hubbard is the field services manager for Tamron. His portrait and landscape work has appeared in galleries nationwide and he teaches enthusiasts how to take better photos at workshops across the country.

Want to improve your game on starry nights? Sign up for our online 9-part Night Sky Photography course, taught at your own pace by professional photographers André Costantini and Ken Hubbard.   

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