Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Grand Canyon in Winter

Since we live in Southern Sweden where the winters are dark, cold and wet, we often spend Christmas with my parents in San Diego, California, where the winters are about the same as a Swedish summer. But after 20 years of traveling to sunshine and beaches we were running out of things to see and do in the Southern California. So with a little arm-twisting and the promise of a good time in Las Vegas I managed to get the family to agree to a week long excursion including a trip to the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Monument National Park.

Las Vegas always lives up to expectations with the neon lights, comfortable hotel rooms, big-screen tv's, and plenty of good food. Johan and Kristina wanted to try their luck on the slots but thankfully the law said otherwise. So after a good nights sleep at the Luxor Hotel, we headed East to the Grand Canyon National Park where we had booked rooms at the Maswik Lodge.

A couple of good things about a winter visit to the Grand Canyon is that there are no crowds, and you are able to drive your car all along the canyon rim on roads reserved for buses during the summer season. For sunrise and sunset photography this saves you a few precious minutes and may you allow to visit and photograph several places when the light is at its best.

After checking in at the hotel we started with sunset at Hopi Point with several vantage points.

And then made some evening and night shots on the way back to the village.
Later when I got back to the hotel I discovered I my Blackberry was missing. So in the pitch black of the desert night I retraced my steps back to my where I had been photographing, and thankfully the little green LED of my Blackberry made it easy to find in the snow. Whew!

The next morning I was back before sunrise in -20F, while the rest of the family was snoozing away under their comforters.
 After a great breakfast we began our sightseeing trip east along the canyon rim before exiting the park and heading towards Page, Arizona to photograph Horseshoe Bend.
We arrived in Page in time to catch the sunset at Horseshoe Bend, but the light and clouds were not great, so I headed back the next morning to catch the sunrise instead. It's hard to see, but I am standing about one foot away from a 1000 foot sheer cliff. About the same as the two other photographers in the image below.
We would have liked to visit the Wave, but there were no spots available, so we will save that for another trip. Instead we also visited Lower Antelope Canyon before heading on to Monument National Park where we spent the night in the newly opened hotel at the visitors center.
Although we had planned on spending the entire next day at Monument Valley, a storm alert with threats of road closures and getting stuck chased us out as soon as we finished our breakfast. But I think the family was just as happy to be back in the sunshine of San Diego after a week of sub-zero in the high desert.
The images in this series are taken with the Canon 5DII and the 24-105L and 17-40L.In many cases I have taken multiple images and exposures to achieve HDR panormas. In the case of Horsebend the image is 9 images wide (portrait orientation) x 3 exposures of each image for a total of 27 images. Each set of three processed as HDR and then the finished HDR images stitched together in Photoshop.

A few more images from our trips in the Southwest can be seen at:

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