Panorama Discovery cont.

Dusk at Mojave Point — Grand Canyon National Park, AZ © jj raia

Dusk at Mojave Point — Grand Canyon National Park, AZ © jj raia

If you missed the prequel to this post, click here.

I arrived at the south rim late in the afternoon and wanted to watch the sunset from Mojave Point, which necessitated taking a shuttle bus there. The problem was finding a parking spot!! Even though I was expecting loads of people, it was still a shock to my system at just how many people and cars were there, especially since I was coming from the solitude experienced on the North Rim. There was quite a hike back to the bus stop from where I finally found a spot to park the car, and crowded onto the bus when it arrived.

At Mojave Point, the crowds filled in every inch with a view, and didn’t thin out until after the sun went down. As dusk evened out the light falling on the canyon, eliminating the deep contrast of sunlight and shadows, the true shapes, textures and colors were fully revealed in a way that took my breath away. The image above could have been taken in a single wide-angle frame, but to really emphasise the small details that were actually several miles away (the shortest distance from rim to rim is amazingly 8 miles), a 50mm lens was used to keep the perspective normal, and in a portrait orientation, clicked off a few frames for a panorama, with both exposure and focus in manual. It is a simple technique to correctly record the proper perspective as seen, and achieve much more detail in what appears to be a normal single frame ratio. There was no time to level the tripod, since the light was changing rapidly, so I simply used markings in the viewfinder to keep the horizon in the same relative position frame to frame as it panned across the view. Had I not been convinced to utilize the capabilities of panoramas earlier in the trip, the level of detail would never have been captured in a single frame. Luckily, I was able to get the shot just in time to catch the final shuttle back to the village, and avoid the long hike back!!

Milky Way and Snags - Grand Canyon, AZ © jj raia

Milky Way and Snags – Grand Canyon, AZ © jj raia

After having a wonderful dinner at the historic El Tovar Hotel (the only one during the entire trip), I headed out to a standing snag I scouted earlier in hopes it could be lined up with the Milky Way. It was during this trip that I made the first attempts at this type of shot, and used my headlamp to light the snag and surrounding brush. During each 25-second exposure (using the 500-Rule, dividing focal length into 500 to determine the shutter time to avoid star streaks), I lit the scene from the left side, and ran behind the camera to the other side to light it from the right, before the shutter closed. Since the snag was pretty close to the main road through the park, during one of the frames, the headlights from a passing car dimly lit everything just before the end of the exposure. It turned out to be the best lighting of all the many attempts!! How lucky was that?! I do have to admit, it was a bit spooky being out there alone in the dark, hoping not to have the misfortune of disturbing some unseen creature.

Shoshone Point - Grand Canyon, AZ © jj raia

Shoshone Point – Grand Canyon, AZ © jj raia

The following, final morning of the trip, the plan was to visit Shoshone Point. It’s a place without any signs or markers, and to find where it was, required asking a ranger at the visitor center. Without that help, I would have never found the little pullout to begin the mile long hike there. What made me a bit nervous during the dark hike, were several signs along the road indicating this was mountain lion territory!! So I made plenty of noise with the bells attached to my pack that were originally put there for bears. When I finally arrived at the point, this unexpected, unique stone pillar was there to greet me, overlooking the yawning depths of the canyon, and catching the first red rays of the rising sun. The few clouds in the sky provided some added interest, as well as leading lines directing the viewer to the singular stone, even though the stone itself needed no help in determining it was the main player in this show. I wondered how much longer the narrow base would continue to hold up this massive monolith. Would it give way soon, or in centuries? But at some point, it will give way, and the stone will begin its journey to the bottom of the canyon into the Colorado River.

The visit to Shashone Point was a reminder of the solitary sunset and sunrise on the North Rim at Cape Royal described in the post last Sunday, so divorced from the throngs at Mojave Point the previous evening. These singular, solitary experiences would not have been possible with a photo workshop or tour, since by nature they include other folks. They are only possible during a solo photo trip, and understandibly not a method for everyone. But it is one that gets me much closer and in tune to the land, than mere proximity.

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