GRAND CANYON PHOTO TIPS
DO NOT LEAVE HOME WITHOUT:
SHOOTING A TEST ROLL
CAMEL HAIR BRUSH AND LENS CLOTH
Welcome to Grand Canyon Photography! This is one of the most beautiful places in the world and it is a great pleasure to show it off to other photographers. On our photography workshops, we choose April and September for great light, but good pictures can happen anytime.
This information sheet will provide you with a basic list of what to bring. The following information will tell you what has worked best for other photographers and you can adapt it to your own needs, as every photographer seems to find their own combination of film and equipment.
CAMERAS: If you are buying a new camera for this trip, try shooting a few rolls before the trip so you can learn its idiosyncrasies. A new camera should be trouble free but you want to be familiar with its operation so you aren't trying to read the manual while going through Lava Falls. If you are planning to have your camera serviced or cleaned before the trip be sure to allow enough time to test it with a roll of film after it returns. Change the batteries and bring spares. Any good camera will work well for this trip…electronic or manual.
A second camera body or an older camera you might have makes a good spare. We take precautions to protect your equipment but accidents and mechanical failures do happen. You may also want to use the extra camera with a different film. Some guests in past years have had good luck risking their older camera while on the boat and saving their newer camera for hikes and in camp. A motor-drive or power winder is handy for sequences through rapids and quick series as we pass by scenery, but it is in no way necessary. There are times when you won't be able to shoot fast enough and times when you may take a half hour to find your composition.
Waterproof or underwater cameras like the inexpensive models by Minolta and Nikon are great to have along for snapshots on the boat of fellow passengers and spraying water. They are also scaled against dust and sand.
Medium or large format, Polaroid, or video can all provide interesting and different views of the canyon. Please feel free to bring whatever you wish to try. One caution - you will not wish to burden yourself with too much equipment. You will get better results if you concentrate on one format.
LENSES: The ideal set includes a wide angle anywhere from 17mm to 35mm, a normal 55mm and a zoom in the 80-200 range. Macro or close focusing is important for details like cactus blooms, lizards, and the beautiful rock textures. Zoom lenses generally require more light but their usefulness in the quickly changing topography makes up for their slowness. Telephotos are used rather infrequently, but you may wish to pack one along anyway for the chance of a Desert Bighorn, California Condor or other bird life. A 2X converter may take the place of a telephoto. You can probably find a use for any lens you have, so if you have room , bring it along. The lens you will use most is a wide angle.
FILTERS: You should definitely have a skylight or UV filter on each lens and perhaps one spare filter along with you. Sand, silt and water spray will be constant problems. A polarizing filter will deepen many of the canyon's colors and cut the "desert haze" common in the afternoons, and will enhance reflections. Use it only when needed though for it cuts your exposure 1 to 2 stops. Bring any special effects filters you want to try, but if you are not sure how to use them, the canyon light is beautiful enough without them.
FILM: We recommend Fuji Velvia (ASA 50) for daytime use Fuji Provia (ASA 100) for lower lights and Kodachrome 200 for night shots. It seems the Kodak colors are truer but the Fuji is closer to the colors your mind registers. As an all around film, Fuji Velvia would be a good choice.
Bring plenty of film!!! You can take extra home but you can't buy any more once we shove off unless someone loses their camera and sells you their film…By the end of the trip a spare roll of film can often be traded for a good campsite or a dry seat on the boat. Here are the amounts our photo expedition interpreters usually bring:
ASA 50,64, or 100 ………….15-25 rolls
ASA 200 .. ……………………4-6 rolls
ASA 400 ……………………...3-4 rolls
Adjust these numbers accordingly. Some guests have shot 80 rolls of film while others only 10 rolls. These are general guidelines for ASA numbers. Many guests shoot mostly one type of film like Fujichrome 50 for slides, but it is good to have the choice of a fast film if needed. Use the same categories in choosing print film. The canyon is a beautiful place for black and white film also. Again, bring what you are familiar with and we will give you the end product you want, i.e. slides or prints. The colors in the Grand Canyon are pastel reds, pinks, grays, and tans that wash out easily in bright light or if the film is overexposed. Medium or slow speed films capture the colors best.
CAMERA CASES: Grand Canyon Expeditions provides you with one (1) metal waterproof box…5 1/2 by 11 by 7 inches inside. Bring some thin foam rubber like the dense type used for backpackers' sleeping pads to line the metal box. There will be extra boxes available at the start of the trip so plan to sort things out in Las Vegas if the space seems limited. If you have your own waterproof camera case bring it and we'll find a place for it. Please bring a metal clip like a mountain climber's carabiner to attach any extra box or bag to the boat. There will be plenty of room in your river bags for film, spare lenses, flash, cleaning supplies, etc. The metal case is mostly for daytime use.
BATTERIES: BRING EXTRAS!!! Put new ones in for the trip and bring a spare set. One good idea is to bring other electrical items like a flashlight and motor drive that use the same size (AA) batteries as your camera so you can rob from one or the other if necessary.
FLASH: You may want to bring a flash for shots around camp, trying to capture night wildlife, or for fill light in some of the darker side canyons.
Bring a good assortment of cleaning supplies…lens paper and cleaning solution and lipstick-style camel hair lens brush and a soft cloth or chamois. Zip-Loc freezer bags are ideal for storing film and lenses.
A small day pack or fanny pack will free your hands while we hike. Although all hikes are optional, some require using your hands for balance and it is nice not to have them full of cameras.
Bring the equipment you are most comfortable with. There is a lot to be said for keeping it simple. Once in the canyon we will each find our own routine and work out a system for storing and using our cameras. Above all, remember to relax and have a good time, even if it means sacrificing a photograph to do it.To book an 8 or 13 day Grand Canyon River Trip, see Grand Canyon Expeditions web page.
More Tips For Photography in the Grand Canyon
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P.O. Box 14876, Baton Rouge, LA 70898