Capturing the Grand Canyon – A Guide for Landscape Photographers

The Grand Canyon is one of the most awe-inspiring places on earth. Words hardly summarize its beauty, and even photographs can fail to do it justice. Capturing a unique photograph in such a vibrant setting can take a bit of careful planning. Before your next Grand Canyon tour, brush up on the basics of landscape photography to make your snaps stand out.

Plan Ahead

Before your trip, make a map of must-see landmarks inside Grand Canyon National Park. Aim to spend several full days there in order to experience all the area has to offer. At a minimum, you should take time to see sunrise and sunset at the Grand Canyon, though the seasoned hobbyist may also want to try his hand at night photography. There are many campgrounds throughout the park if you'd like to ensure round-the-clock access to magnificent scenery.

After outlining your visit, remember to create a list of gear to bring along, too. Take a cue from experienced photographers and arrive prepared for every situation. Don't forget a tripod, filters, and even a notebook and pen to keep a record of your favorite shots. Logging the time of day, shutter speed, aperture, and other pertinent details for each photo will allow you to recreate your favorite results later on.

Consider Lighting

Spending a full day at the Grand Canyon will give you an understanding of how the sun's position can impact the landscape. Start your day with an early wakeup call so you can witness the captivating beauty of the sun rising over the canyon. The hours following sunrise are also ideal for photographs, thanks to the presence of dewy morning light.

Give your camera a rest as the clock approaches midday, as bright afternoon light can result in excessive photo glare. Late afternoon is a better time for photos, since the light is less severe, and you can often count on the presence of a few clouds to soften shadows and highlights.

Stay in the park for sunset to see the night sky paint purple shadows over the Grand Canyon. You can use a low shutter speed and a high ISO to capture views at dusk. As the day turns to night, continue lowering your shutter speed and grab a tripod to experiment with long exposures. Leaving the shutter open for several seconds to several minutes can have stunning results; including photos scattered with twinkling stars, or a shot of the moon shining brightly through midnight clouds.

The Right Location

Grand Canyon National Park is divided into four general destinations. Take time to explore all four, or consider which will provide the ideal setting for your photos:

  • South Rim: Home to sweeping views, the South Rim is arguably the most popular part of the Grand Canyon – especially for first-time tourists. It's also accessible to major cities (like Phoenix and Las Vegas), as well as local airports, making it a popular destination for visitors who plan to embark on a Grand Canyon helicopter tour.
  • North Rim: The North Rim is located at a higher altitude than the South, offering picturesque foliage that can only exist in colder climates. This includes old growth aspen, birch, maple, and oak trees that will look perfect in the foreground of your landscape photos.
  • West Rim: The West Rim is home to the world-famous Skywalk: a glass pedestrian bridge suspended over the canyon's edge. It offers visitors the illusion of walking on air, and will give you the chance to experiment with new photographic techniques.
  • East Rim: The main draw of the East Rim is Horseshoe Bend, a picturesque loop carved from the walls of the canyon. It's one of the few areas of the park where the river can be seen from viewpoints above, making for a stunning centerpiece in your vacation photos.

Do a bit of research before your next Grand Canyon visit to ensure you have everything needed to convey the experience through photography. It can take some planning to create photos that speak to the beauty of a site as impressive as the Grand Canyon.

Papillon offers aerial tours that let visitors experience Grand Canyon National Park from a completely different perspective. Exploring all four canyon rims by airplane will give you the chance to incorporate a few new angles in your vacation photos. Papillon provides access to a range of unforgettable views by way of over forty unique excursions. To plan your next tour, call us toll free at 888-635-7272.

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