Grand Canyon garden spot

Who knew there could be so much intimate beauty in a location known for its horizon stretching panoramas? In fact, there are so many of these little gems that I run out of unique adjectives to describe them. Springing from a narrow slot in the red sandstone to plummet 180 feet to river level, Deer Creek Fall is probably the most dramatic of the many waterfalls we see on the raft trip. Last…

Rapid day

Every once in a while an image so perfectly captures my emotions at the moment of capture that I just can’t stop looking at it. This is one of those images. After two relatively benign days of peaceful floating punctuated with occasional mild riffles and only a small handful of moderate-at-best rapids, the group was feeling pretty comfortable on the river. But our guides had made it pretty clear that we…

Your camera is not an Etch A Sketch

(In defense of the tripod) Who remembers the Etch A Sketch? For those who didn’t have a childhood, an Etch A Sketch is a mechanical drawing device that’s erased by turning it upside-down and shaking vigorously.  When I come across a scene I deem photo-worthy, my first click is a rough draft, a starting point upon which to build the final image. After each click…

Grad School

Since the first photon struck a photographic plate, photographers have struggled to stuff the broad range of light their eyes see, into the relatively narrow range their camera can capture. When we shot film, the time waiting for the film to return from the lab was filled with self-doubt and second guessing, punctuated by ecstasy or despair. Then came digital capture, with its immediate image review, histograms,…

The dark night

How to offend a photographer Gallery browser: “Did you take that picture?” Photographer: “Yes.” Gallery browser: “Wow, you must have a good camera.” Few things irritate a photographer more than the implication that it’s the equipment that makes the image, not the photographer. We work very hard honing our craft, have spent years refining our vision, and endure extreme discomfort to get the shot. So while the observer usually means…

Hurry up and wait

Photographing lightning is about 5 percent pandemonium, and 95 percent arms folded, toe-tapping, just plain standing around. A typical lightning shoot starts with a lot of waiting for the storm to develop and trying to anticipate the best (and safest) vantage point. But with the first bolt often comes the insight that you anticipated wrong and: 1) The lightning is way over there; or 2)…

2015 Grand Canyon Raft Trip: Mishaps

May 2014 After a short but strenuous hike in 90-plus degree heat, I wasn’t thinking about much more than cooling off. And what better way to cool off than a plunge into the cerulean chill of Havasu Creek? Rushing toward its imminent liaison with the Colorado River, Havasu Creek’s disorientingly blue water plunges through gaps in the red sandstone, pauses and widens into inviting pools, then departs rapidly downstream. Beckoning me…

2015 Grand Canyon Raft Trip: Unexpected gems

Before my first raft trip last year, I couldn’t help wondering about the experience of being at the bottom of Grand Canyon. My mind’s eye visualized the canyon’s immensity, the experience of being dwarfed in the shadow of mile-high walls, a towering vertical tapestry of Earth’s history. I knew I’d be overwhelmed, but I also knew there’d be aspects I hadn’t expected, the surprises that make photography so rewarding—I just had no…

2015 Grand Canyon Raft Trip: The Little Colorado

“Uh, we’re going to need more time here” Before last year’s raft trip, my relationship with the Little Colorado River was limited to the view from the Cameron Suspension Bridge on US 89: Rarely more than a muddy trickle, the Little Colorado seemed better suited as an indicator of recent precipitation than a photo destination. So last year, when Wiley (my raft trip’s lead guide) said we’d be stopping at…

2015 Grand Canyon raft trip: Getting started

Rafting Grand Canyon last year was a bucket list item, a one-time opportunity to do something I’d dreamed about my entire life. I came into that trip with ridiculously high expectations, all of which were exceeded enough that I scheduled another, then waited a year to find out whether the first one was just lightning in a bottle. After departing our Las Vegas hotel at 4:45 a.m. and flying to a small airstrip…