Creatively Photographing Viewpoints in the Grand Canyon by Whit Richardson

Get inspired and follow these tricks of the trade to make your Grand Canyon landscape photographs look like they were taken by a pro.
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Follow these tricks of the trade to make your Grand Canyon photographs look like they were taken by a pro.

Lipan Point. Photo by Whit Richardson

Lipan Point in the Grand Canyon by Whit Richardson

Creative Viewpoint Photos

The Trick: Use post-processing software to improve the shot.
Location: Lipan Point, South Rim
Tools and Settings: DSLR camera, 24-105mm lens with 3 stop reverse hard edge neutral density filter, ISO 100, f/8, 1/90 second on tripod Post processing: Nik Silver Efex Pro

I almost did not take this photograph because of the late-afternoon glare. And the raw unprocessed file out of the camera did not look good. But I used Nik Silver Efex Pro software ($170) in post processing to change colors to toned black and white and added a border. Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, Topaz Labs and Photomatix are also great programs for
achieving creative effects with editing including dodging and burning, sharpening, intentional blurring and changing colors. Shoot what moves you, and if it does not turn out to your liking, you can always play around in post-processing with a host of creative
software options.

Tips:
> Use software to experiment with different levels of contrast and saturation.
> Change mood of photo by adding a vignette.
> Most programs allow the manipulation of the entire photograph or just one part of it.

Photographing Broad Canyon Overviews

Plateau Point. Photo by Whit Richardson.

Plateau Point. Photo by Whit Richardson.

Location: Plateau Point
See it: From Grand Canyon Village, hike 4.8 miles on the Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden Campground. Take the 1.5-mile (one-way) spur to Plateau Point.
When to go: Spring and fall for moderate temps and an ice-free trail

Sunset brings extra beauty to the already stunning Plateau Point, a ledge overlooking the Colorado River and the northern stretches of the Bright Angel Trail. Even with all the trail's amenities—drinking water and shaded rest stops at regular intervals—the trip to Plateau Point makes for a long and strenuous dayhike. Consider making the trip an overnight at Indian Garden.

Tips:

When setting up this shot, I got close to the cliff so I could see more of the river. My biggest challenge with this composition (looking to the west) was the extreme contrast between lights and darks. I knew I had to shoot on a tripod and later combine multiple exposures in Photoshop if I was to retain all the detail in the shadows and highlights. It was very windy, so I put my camera on a tripod, kept the tripod low without legs extended for more stability, pulled down on the center column to steady it, and shot off three quick photos using the exposure compensation function to take three different exposures each two stops apart.

Shot details Canon Rebel SL1 camera, 10-22mm lens at 10mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/200 sec

Photographing Sunsets

Sunset at Bright Angel Point on the North Rim. Photo by Whit Richardson

Sunset at Bright Angel Point on the North Rim. Photo by Whit Richardson

The Trick: Scout your position and shoot until dark.
Location: Bright Angel Point, North Rim
Tools and Settings: DSLR camera, 24-105mm lens with 2 stop hard edge neutral density filter, ISO 250, f/6.7, 1.5 second on tripod

There are endless places to shoot along the walkway here and at other Grand Canyon overlooks, so it helped to scout out the ideal tripod spot before the evening colors got rich. Just 20 minutes prior to taking this photo, I took some shots of a rainbow, but then the light went flat. Although most of the tourists and other photographers packed it up and left, I stuck around just in case the great light came back. And it paid off.

Tips:
> Include people in images of vast landscapes to give perspective. This also allows the viewer of the photograph to place himself in the scene.
> Use a tripod in low light to avoid blurriness.
> Deploy the remote shutter release mechanism and lock up your mirror to avoid camera shake.
> Never leave until you are absolutely sure the light will not get any better; keep shooting until it's practically dark.
> Run around and shoot from as many spots as you can, both wide and zoomed out.
> Use graduated neutral density filters to staunch the brightness of the sky, keeping well-lit areas from blowing out and bringing detail to dark spots.

Desert View Point. Photo by Whit Richardson

Grand Canyon Desert View Point by Whit Richardson

Photographing Canyon Vistas

The Trick: Zoom in on what's interesting.
Location: Desert View Point, South Rim
Tools and Settings: DSLR camera, 70-200mm lens with graduated neutral density filter, ISO 100, f/8, 1/250 second on tripod

One of the challenges of shooting landscapes at the Grand Canyon is creating a variety of photos beyond the standard view from the rim. Your first impulse will be to shoot wide and get the whole scene in the photo. But sometimes zooming in on one part of the landscape can have more of an impact. Here, I chose to zoom in on the backlit mesas in the distance; in post-processing, I cropped the frame to make a panorama. There are two ways to create a panorama: shoot wide and crop it later in post-processing (as was done with this shot); or shoot a series of images that overlap, then stitch them together with the software that came with your camera or with a program like Adobe Photoshop.

Tips:
> Use a telephoto lens to zoom in on an interesting part of the landscape.
> Use graduated neutral density filters to darken the sky.
> Shoot early or late in the day (this shot was late afternoon). The lower the sun is in the sky, the more atmosphere it has to go through, resulting in warmer colors.

Related

Grand Canyon from Space. Photo from YouTube Video by National Geographic

Photographing the Grand Canyon from Space

Photographer John Flaig outfits weather balloons with cameras to capture the Grand Canyon from 90,000 feet. Watch this video to learn how he sends the cameras up, how he retrieves them, and the beautiful results.