Day 20 - Grand Canyon NP (cont)  
    A lone tree tenuously perches on the cliff edge.    
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

By the time I had got my gear together and headed back to Yavapai Lodge David was up and about and ready to tackle the day. We decided that a hearty breakfast would set us up for a big day, and so headed down to the restaurant for a great meal of pancakes. Well I had pancakes, David (more responsibly) had fresh fruit and yoghurt. This brings up an interesting fact - despite all the walking we did, after a month of American food and about a brewery of beer, I ended up putting on quite a few extra kilos! I can probably blame the pancakes for some of that.

We set out from Grand Canyon Village and started walking West along the rim walk. The day was already heating up, and the sun was very bright. Our plan was to walk along the rim trail for as long as we could, and catch the shuttle bus back into town when we had had enough. I thought that this would be a challenge for David, as I had found out when we were in Colorado National Monument that he wasn't particularly comfortable with heights. However, he handled it with aplomb.

David wearing one of his two prized souvenirs from New Orleans. The other is a big red stuffed toy crawfish. How it fitted in his case I will never know.
Minolta X-570 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

The views that await visitors to the Grand Canyon are truly astounding. As we walked along the rim track we were able to take in some glorious sights, and thankfully the sky was relatively haze free.

Wow, you just have to love the Minolta 24mm lenses. Pin sharp from centre to corner.
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Superia Reala

The harsh sun was beating down, so we took regular breaks in shaded spots to admire the view, and the local residents!

The deer along the rim trail are exceptionally tame, and it was a real thrill to get some photos.
Minolta X-570 with 200mm f/2.8 MD Tele Rokkor Film: Fuji Superia Reala
Me taking a break to admire the view. Yes, my feet are hanging over the edge!
Minolta X-570 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

The Grand Canyon National Park was set aside by the US Congress in 1919, and in 1979 it was declared a world heritage site by the United Nations. Carved over several million years by the Colorado River, it is impossible to fathom what happened to all that dirt!

It is difficult to show the sheer scale of the canyon, but suffice it to say, it's not called "Grand" for nothing.
Minolta X-700 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Superia Reala

We walked over three miles along the track, enjoying the views, passing the trailhead where you can get a donkey to ride the Bright Angel Trail down into the Canyon (or walk down if you are sufficiently fit and prepared). We finally reached Mohave Point, famous for its incredible vistas, including glimpses of the Colorado River as it snakes its way through the floor of the Canyon. After looking around Mohave Point, I quickly decided that it was where I wanted the shots of the sunset. Sweeping views from North-East to West made the place perfect for the evening.

The Colorado River winds its way through the Canyon. The view West from Mohave Point.
Minolta X-570 with 200mm f/2 MD Tele Rokkor Film: Fuji Velvia

After our several hour long walk in the hot sun, we decided that if we didn't want to end up the colour of David's stuffed crawfish New Orleans souvenir, we should head inside. We caught th shuttle bus back to the village, and given it was only about midday we decided to do some touristy things, buying souvenirs etc. We shopped at the stores available at the Grand Canyon (which were actually very good, and not exhorbitantly expensive), and then with several hours until sunset we decided to get the car and go visit Tusayan, a town just outside the park boundaries.

A very interesting car - someone has a sense of humour!
Minolta X-570 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

The tourist traps abounded along the highway at Tusayan, but that was what we wanted anyway. David purchased some lovely jewellery for one of his friends back home, and much to my amusement, a book called "Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon". After some time shopping, we headed back to the lodge for a rest for an hour or two until sunset.

Looking East at sunset from Mohave Point.
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Superia Reala

After our rest David and I caught the shuttle back to Mohave Point. It is a very popular destination for sunset photographs, and it very quickly became obvious that if I wanted shots without people in them I would need to do some quick thinking. I decided to cross over the safety barrier and move a little East of the viewing area, to look for a suitable location to shoot from. I ended up finding a nice site, with a tree branch to provide some framing, about 30 metres from the platform. The only problem was that it was on a 25 degree, gravel slope, with a 1,000 foot drop into the Canyon at the end of it. I decided to be very careful.

Meanwhile, David (who had started reading his new book during our rest) proceeded to advise me that there was an entire chapter dedicated to photographers who had died in the Grand Canyon doing exactly the sort of thing I was doing. He chose an entirely more secure position to watch the sunset from!

On setting up I had got out my Cokin filter system, in order to be able to use the graduated neutral density filters. These filters enable the photographer to balance the difference in lightness between the sky and the ground, ensuring that even with the limited dynamic range of slide film you can still capture a well exposed image. The image above uses a neutral density grad together with a polariser to darken the sky and help the colours pop.

The last rays of the sun on the Canyon.
Minolta XD7 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Velvia

In addition to the plain neutral density grads, I also carried a selection of colour graduated filters. Many photographers eschew these, feeling that to add colour to a scene doesn't portray nature properly. Personally, I figure that an attitude like that may be ok if you can regularly visit a place, but I had one sunset at the Grand Canyon, and I wanted it to look great in my photos. Of course you can always add colour later in Photoshop, but I wanted my original slides to look spectacular, not just my digital files. The image above uses a graduated neutral density (P121) together with a graduated tobacco (P124) filter. I am pretty happy with the effect overall, I feel it looks much better than the pale sky that was really there at the time.

After the sun fell below the horizon a whole new array of colours were visible.
Minolta XD7 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Velvia

The image above, taken after the sun finally dropped below the horizon, would have looked odd with the tobacco coloured filter. The muted blues and magentas in the Canyon floor cried out for a similar hue, so I switched to the graduated pink (P128) filter. Even if not 100% accurate, it captures perfectly the feel to me of the moment.

Looking East from Mohave Point.
Minolta XD7 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Velvia

The image above uses the P129 dark pink filter. It probably goes a little far, but I like it anyway. By this stage the sun had dropped below the horizon and all of the tourists had scrambled to get back on the shuttle bus for the trip back to the village. There was a huge number of people, and so David and I just enjoyed the changing light while they queued for the bus. We caught the last bus back to the village, after experiencing an incredible sunset that I will remember forever.

Most of the tourists had left on the bus when I saw this.
Minolta XD7 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Velvia

I must admit, I unashamedly admit to using the graduated dark tobacco P125 in this shot. The slide is just amazing when projected.

After the sun was finally gone we boarded the shuttle back to the village, and ate dinner at the Arizona Room at Bright Angel Lodge. Over many beers, some sautéed trout and baby back ribs we discussed the experiences of the day, certainly one of the most amazing of the journey so far. Then with a sunset to shoot in the morning before a drive to Las Vegas I hit the sack for some well deserved sleep. After all, I had to shoot another sunrise the next day.

Day 21 - Grand Canyon to Las Vegas
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