Sunday, January 29, 2017

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is considered one of the natural wonders of the world.  Teddy Roosevelt famously said there is no way to improve it, it was already so perfect.  Today it sits as one of the most popular national parks and undoubtedly one of the crown jewels of the NPS.

I make regular visits to the Grand Canyon to photograph it.  I have visited both the north and south rims.  I have yet to make the trip to the bottom, but it is on my list of things to do.

In May of 2016 I went west with a plan of spending a couple of nights in the park at the south rim before driving over to Zion.

My plan was to visit some of my favorite viewpoints for Milky Way images, sunrises and sunsets.

Do understand that this is a busy park. So busy that west of the lodge you have to take a shuttle bus to access the points.  That is actually  good thing as it cuts down on traffic and parking issues at the overlooks.

I had a plan to drive the rim east of the lodge where several of my favorite viewpoints are.

I went out around 0400 to Grandview knowing it had a grand view to the east.  sure enough the Milky Way was arched over the canyon and I was able to photograph it over the depths of the canyon.  The canyon is very dark during the new moon and on prior visits I got nothing but black inside it.  However having switched to the Sony A7S for my night work, I hoped I would be able to capture detail in the canyon.

Sure enough the images I was getting showed the ridges, domes and temples in the canyon.  I was able to use both my fisheye as well as other lenses for some fun images.

As night faded I went farther east to Lipan Point to await sunrise.  Here there are three views to the river as well as the desert.  It is also one of the less popular spots meaning I can often have it to myself.  

Clouds were building in the east and I was treated to an amazing sunrise.  Probably the best one I have gotten in this park.

I spent time hiking the rim.  Here is where the shuttle is really great.  Walk as far as you want and then catch the shuttle bus back.

I spent my second morning at the south rim walking the rim looking for the right spot.  The clouds did not look like a great sunrise was in the making but I happened to be at the right spot when the sun popped out between the clouds making for some great morning light.

All in all two nights are never enough for this spot.  Despite the crowds it is still a place I like to keep returning too and I am already working on that next trip.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

South Rim of the Chisos

As part of my spring trip to Big Bend I had planned to do an overnight backpack to the south rim of the Chisos.  The south rim is high in the back country and sits about 2000' over the desert below.

I wanted to camp there on the rim and photograph, sunset, the Milky Way and the sunrise from the rim.

Many people day hike the rim from the Basin, but is is 14-17 miles depending on the route.  We planned to spend the night in SW4 which is very close to the rim.  Now for an overnight in the Chisos Mountains, we planned on carrying two gallons of water each.  That was for being gone just 24 hours.  We hit the trail about 1030am, hiked, camped, photographed, and hiked out getting back to the trailhead at 1030 the next day.  We came back empty.  

Bivy Sack and Sleeping Bag
Now 2 gallons of water is 17 pounds.  That was the bulk of my weight carried.  It was heavy going up but gone going down.

The 7 miles to SW4 took about 3 hours.  We are strong hikers and made it there with a few breaks.  It stayed clear and with the dry desert air we drank a lot of water.

At camp, I set up my bivy sack and sleeping bag.  On these single night trips, I forego a tent and carry the much lighter (and smaller) bivy sack.  Some people might just sleep on the ground, but this is Texas.  Between, snakes, scorpions, skeeters, and ticks, I want netting between me and them.  The bivy has that, although there is little room in them.

We watched the sun go down, had supper, drank water to stay hydrated and fell asleep looking up at the stars above.

South Rim Sunset
I was up about 0330.  It was chilly.  I put on my jacket, grabbed the gear and went to the rim.  The Milky Way was shining over the sky.  I set up along the rim and made shot after shot.  I did some light painting and then some without.

The vast distance is so dark, I might be on the edge of the planet staring off into space.

As the dawn approached I prepped for sunrise.  There were still basically no clouds and I did what I could with the light I had.

It was still amazing to watch.

After that it was back to camp, a granola bar, a liter of water and then packed up for the trip down.  We were on the trail about 0845 and in the parking lot at 1030.  Just in time for lunch in the lodge in the Basin.  A plate of enchiladas and a big glass of water!

What a way to end the trip!