••• tiff firth photography •••

Saturday, February 4, 2012

grand canyon 4.2.12

I booked an hour long helicopter ride over the canyons this morning for 8.30am. There was just 3 of us on board and I was lucky enough to sit up with the pilot in the front seat. Prime viewing area indeed. I could shoot straight in front of the chopper, on the pilots side via his window at full zoom on the 70mm end of the lens, I could shoot between my feet (plexiglass window at my feet, and over on my left side. Talk about spoilt for choice.

The cloud was low over the North Rim which is 1000 feet higher than the South Rim, so we turned into a different part of the canyon which is little seen my most people. Lucky us.

281 shots later (all in RAW file) we landed. I so highly recommend this trip. I would suggest a bit later flying time, say late morning so the canyon shadows are not over the Colorado River and the Little Colorado River, but still enough shadow to give the canyon texture and depth.

I was so impressed with this way of viewing the canyon that I've booked a plane flight over it tomorrow at a different time of day (midday was the earliest I could get, and it tends to snow late in the afternoon).

On the way back to the hotel to drop stuff off I stopped at the IMAX theatre to view the 20 minute video of the Grand Canyon. That certainly was eye popping to see on the HUGE screen. I stocked up on a sandwich and fruit for later in the day and shopped in the National Geographic shop. Good stuff in there.

After this full morning I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that I had seen, and slightly headachy  (happens often at 8000 feet altitude apparently) and higher again with the chopper ride. I needed a power nap.

Feeling much refreshed and raring to get out there I bypassed the Visitors Info Centre and headed west to the Bright Angel Trailhead. At the IMAX theatre a lovely lady told me this trail that takes all day to get to Phantom Ranch at the very bottom of the Canyon. At the beginning of the trail there is a stone arch with Indian Paintings on a nearby wall of the Canyon.

On my way there I came across this. I had no idea that trains were here. Silly me. Trains are everywhere in USA. The beginning of the train transport here is what really opened up the tourism to this area.

I started heading down the Bright Angel Trail with the backpack on and tripod in hand, to discover treacherous ice underfoot. I walked about 50 metres and decided to head back up to the Kolb Bros Studio Lodge at the head of the trail to see if they sold any strap on ice cleats. Thankfully they did.

Seeing as the sun was shining and I was already hot in my big wool lined jacket I asked if I may park it there behind the counter for me to collect when I came back up from the trail. The gentleman was so kind. He worked out my shoe size (different to our Aussie shoe size), showed me how to attach, told me he goes running with confidence with these cleats on and stowed my jacket.

I watched a lady slip and land on her bum in the same spot that I nearly did, and quietly had a laugh to myself at some of the footwear people were wearing on the snow and ice. They ranged from thongs (I can't quite believe it either) to heeled boots (still more disbelief), to Ug Boots. All Japanese people who are being driven around in coach buses. And some of the clothes they were wearing...... sheeesh. It's not shorts weather people.

After collecting my jacket I had a quick look at the Klob Bros studio. These two men were notorious for their antics and deifying danger to capture a photo of the Grand Canyon. Imagine climbing  up with ropes and dragging up a big bellows camera on a heavy wooden tripod where ever you went. Unbelievable stuff.

The road to the west is open to cars this time of year in the low season, for the rest of the year, its shuttle bus only. My next stop was the Trailview Outlook. From here you can see the countless switchbacks that make up a portion of the Bright Angel Trail. This is also one of the few passes that have mules travel on it too. Mule trains have right of way and the person on foot must stay as close to the canyon inner wall as possible to give the mules as much room for head clearance, for some of the paths have low overhanging rock ceilings. There was fresh mule poo on the trial this morning.

From the Trailview Overlook I went to an un named lookout point on Hermit Road.

Then to Maricopa Point

on to Powell Point where I met two ladies and started chatting. I noticed one of them had the same camera and lens set-up as I had, so asked if she'd mind taking a pic of me with the GC in the background. And I took one of those two together!!!

I went passed Hopi Point as I wanted to be back there in time for the golden hour before sunset and checked out Mohave Point.

Back to Hopi. There would have been about 50 people scattered about to watch the setting sun. I did wonder that if this was the number of people in the low season, just how many would there be during the peak. As a photographer I'd hate to think of how early you'd need to get there to 'claim' your spot of choice.

I cracked a PO shot of the setting sun and waited awhile to see if the remaining cloud would fire up.

 At this point everyone had left and I was on my own. As soon as the sun was down, everyone cleared out. On occasion this is when the sky really lits up, you just need to be patient to see it. Quite often it doesn't, and tonight was one of those nights that it didn't. But when it does, ohhh la al.... its worth all the waiting.

By now my feet were cold and I was wishing I wore 2 pairs of socks. And my knee (that one that gave me bother at Christmas time) really started to ache. It's been sore all day and it feels really like I'm walking with bone rubbing on bone. After seeing the last lot of xrays this is a distinct possibility. :(  By this time and with the cold, it's really giving me grief. I'm walking with a limp and taking pain killers to take the edge off. I just need it to hang together for a couple more days before I can give it a weeks rest. It needs to be better before my next trip which is later on this month on the Great Ocean Road.

I discovered that getting out of the park in the dark when I'm still unfamiliar with it from the western end, was reason to get slightly lost. I ended up following a car and hoping it would be heading out of the park. The signage in the park is really poor and it wasn't until I stumbled upon the Visitor Info Centre by accident that I knew how to get out (the car had turned off into a lodge within the village in the park). I still needed to check the map to be sure.

Back in Tusayan I pulled into the local Pizza/Pasta place for tea. There I found the two ladies that I took their photo of at Powell Point. We ended up having tea together and talked camera speak for a while. It was really nice to sit with someone to have a meal. That's one of the things I've really missed at meal times is conversation.


Party of one can be quiet sometimes. I generally read my photography guide book and check FB via WiFi while I'm eating. Not the habits I condone at home, but I can get away with it here.

A long hot shower and time for the cameras to warm up slightly. If I bring the cold gear (and the metal casings feels really cold) into the middle of a warm room I might get condensation in the camera or in the lenses. I need to leave them by the inside door for a bit and then bring them partway into the room for a bit, before downloading the days images on the laptop. Better to be safe than sorry.

I'll post the images that I've done for this post tomorrow. Its late, and I need to got to bed.

nity nite.


Anonymous said...

Hi Tiff
Sounds like you are having a fabulous time - love reading your blog and seeing your great photos.
Enjoy every minute of it - all the best. Irene x

Deb said...

Hey Tiff......looks like you are having an amazing time. tfs the photos.

becky said...

Hi Tiff,
It was great meeting you in the October Afternoon booth. I kept your card, so I could check out your Grand Canyon photos-they're great! Sounds like it was a great adventure!

:) Tiff said...

thanks so much ladies.
Becky. I'm so very flattered that you kept my card. thank you very much for the comment!!