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Gear Talk => Lenses => Topic started by: ahsanford on November 13, 2012, 09:13:48 PM

Title: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: ahsanford on November 13, 2012, 09:13:48 PM

Hey CR folks,

I'm pondering a few days at the Grand Canyon, and I'd love your advice on a host of things. 

WHERE/WHAT I WILL BE DOING

I'm game for level day hiking around the rim, but I'm unlikely to walk/mule the descent into the Canyon itself.  I'm sure I will also get a good look at Sedona, the Page/Lake Powell/Antelope Canyon area, and possibly even Monument Valley.

Generally, I will be shooting landscapes (day and night).  But street/walkaround stuff (in the touristy places) and handheld macro work (cacti, flowers, etc.) will likely happen as well.  I have no desire to go after birds/wildlife unless I stumble across something (please note that I've spared myself the burden of owning huge glass -- madness that way lies, IMHO).

WHAT I WILL BRING

Since I'm driving to this, it will be easy to over pack.

Body + Lenses
5D3
24-70 2.8L (Mk I)
28 2.8 IS
50 1.4
100 2.8L IS macro
70-200 2.8L IS II + 2x III
Hoods for everything

Filters
UV and CPL for all of the above
ND grad 0.6 Hard + 0.9 Hard + Big Stopper only for the 77mm dia lenses above (the two zooms)

Standard stuff
Tripod, ball head, Arca plate, level, remote shutter, batteries, backup cards, etc.

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

Now, all that said, here are the questions:

1) Should I consider renting an ultrawide prime or zoom?  Given the wide open spaces, one might think I am missing 16-24mm on the list above.  Rent a 16-35?  Rent a 14 prime? 

2) I don't own a flash (no, I'm not kidding), but I can get my hands on a friend's 430 EX II -- how essential is a flash with landscapes?  In your answer, please consider that I'm only capable of doing rudimentary flash work at this stage (no trick shot / off-camera / radio stuff).  I will learn that someday, I'm sure, but this isn't likely to be that moment.

3) I've never done star trail work but might give it a go one night.  I'll read up on how, settings, etc., but is there any specific gear above what I'm bringing needed to do that?  Is the weight of my bag enough (15-20 lb loaded up), or should I build/buy some heavy stabilizing weights?

4) For those who have been to the GC, assuming the North Rim is closed this time of year, where is the best place on the South Rim to shoot?  I've heard that Lipan Point is a good spot shooting the Colorado from East to West, but I'm game for other great vistas if you know of any.

5) Will I have any flat horizons to use the ND grads against, or will I largely be bracketing for HDR to capture everything I am seeing?  I am opposed to HDR just for HDR's sake, but I recognize that with any bright sky I will have to make some tough exposure decisions.  Depending on my orientation to the sun, a CPL can only do so much to rein in the sky.  Have any thoughts on how to manage this best?


As always, I am in your debt.  Your advice is appreciated to no end.

Thanks,
A
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: DianeK on November 13, 2012, 11:52:10 PM
Lipan Point and Navajo Point along the Desert View drive are great vantage points if you want to get the Colorado River in your shot.  Although you said you are not interested in hiking, the South Kaibab trail down to Ooh-Aah Point or a little further to Cedar Ridge is worth doing and only takes about 2 hours round trip.  We did that during the early afternoon, leaving Lipan and Navajo for sunset. If you actually get accommodations in the park that opens up more possibilities for avoiding mid-day sun.

I had a 60D and used the 10-22 and 15-85 (which is sharper than the 10-22), often doing stitched panos in post with images from the 15-85 so I certainly would advise something wider than the 24-70 unless you want to stitch.

If you are also thinking you want to take in the surrounding areas you mentioned you may want to change "a few" days to "several" days.

Diane
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: Minh Nguyen on November 14, 2012, 12:01:42 AM
I think you've got a wide range of photography covered with the assortment of lenses you're bringing. If you're strictly doing landscapes and looking to rent a wide angle I would go with a 17-40 f/4 or a 14mm prime over a 16-35 f/2.8, from what I remember during my research the 16-35 f/2.8 is a great event photography wide angle because of its fast optics but overall it was not as sharp as the 17-40 f/4.

1.) Between the 17-40 f/4 and the 14 prime. I'd still go with the 17-40 because it'll give you range and versatility over the 14 prime. and I don't think losing 3mm of wide angle on a full frame is much. Primes are sharper but both lenses are L lenses so I don't think sharpness will be a concern.

2.) I don't think you'll need a flash. A flash is not powerful enough to illuminate a grand expanse like the grand canyon. It won't even come close. A better and cheaper investment for landscapes would be a trigger release. You can set your camera to Bulb and capture the stars traveling across the night sky in the background with the grand canyon in the foreground. How beautiful would that be right?

3.) Oh whoops star trails...I mentioned that in #2. :) But you'll need a trigger/cable release and a tripod. I would invest in at least a Giottos or Enduro tripod if not better. Something that can handle a lot of weight. I've got a Giottos and a Gitzo Traveler myself.

4.) I've been to the Grand Canyon but this question is too difficult for me to answer. I'm not an expert on that area. I did see tours by mule/horse and I think that might be more creative and give you a more unique look than just the top down view most people do.

5.) HDR all the way. This seems like a trip where you'll have a lot of time to set up for your shot in which case you have time to do a proper HDR. Forget bracket shooting. Do a proper HDR. I'm talking 5-8 photos depending on the time of day and range you want to capture.

ND and Grad ND shooting is for run and gun shooting where you don't have time to set up. I did that in Spain and New Zealand...mixed feelings about it. HDR will always give you a better look. But please please don't over do the contrast. I HATE it when people make their skys look like some sort of electrical storm or apocalyptic explosion is happening. I think the best HDRs are the ones that have slightly more range than the human eye captures at that moment. Just my opinion though.

Here are a few of my own HDRs
http://www.flickr.com/photos/halogenlab/8184226516/#sizes/l/in/photostream/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/halogenlab/8184226516/#sizes/l/in/photostream/)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/halogenlab/3703942284/#sizes/o/in/set-72157621035695209/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/halogenlab/3703942284/#sizes/o/in/set-72157621035695209/)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/halogenlab/3703934582/#sizes/o/in/set-72157621035695209/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/halogenlab/3703934582/#sizes/o/in/set-72157621035695209/)

- Minh Nguyen
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: Mr Bean on November 14, 2012, 12:08:14 AM
3) I've never done star trail work but might give it a go one night.  I'll read up on how, settings, etc., but is there any specific gear above what I'm bringing needed to do that?  Is the weight of my bag enough (15-20 lb loaded up), or should I build/buy some heavy stabilizing weights?
A laptop and cable will be handy to set manual focus for night work. While it can be done with live view (on the camera) using live view (via the EOS Utility app) on a laptop is much easier. Plus, you can manage the camera via the same software.
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: TAF on November 14, 2012, 12:08:53 AM
1. Check to see if the South Rim is still open.  It is getting late in the year; it could already be snowed in.

2. Sedona is beautiful and the people are really friendly.  I love going there.  The main street can be very photogenic.  There is a nifty camera store in town, nearby is Oaxaca, is a nice mexican restaurant.  Note that the economy is not great in the area, so you can get excellent deals on lodging.  Pull up Google maps; you'll find a turnout south of town at 34.82335 N/-111.77610 W.  Look due east from there and you'll see a pair of spires (locally called the sisters).  If you get lucky, you can catch the moon rising between them.  It's a spectacular shot.

3. It is well worth the drive up Highway 89A to the top of Oak Creek Canyon (straight out of town heading north, can't miss it).  There are numerous places to stop and take interesting photos at this time of year, and when you get to the top there is a parking area/scenic lookout where the local Indians set up tables and sell beautiful hand made jewelry and other things.

4. Pack a jacket, hat, and sunglasses.  While it may be shirtsleeve down in Sedona, it may well be below freezing at the top of the canyon.  And the higher in elevation you go, the stronger the UV and the greater the risk of sunburn (especially in winter).

5. If you are driving your own car (as opposed to a rental), make certain the cooling system and brakes are in top notch condition.  Even at this time of year your can can overheat driving up the canyon, and the brakes take a beating driving down.

6. I hear that the glass horseshoe out over the Grand Canyon is spectacular, but I haven't been there yet.

7. If they are still operating (there were some issues a number of years ago), there are scenic flights over the GC.  Worth the price if the weather is really clear (it should be this time of year).

8. At the GC you will find plenty of flat horizons for the grad filter (I wish I had had one of those years ago).

9. I would forget the flash; seek maximum fulfillment with the high ISO capability of the 5D3.

10. If you feel the need for some additional weight, bring water bottles.  Gallon jugs are a good idea (9 pounds each, and you can drink them if the car breaks down and use them if you need water for the radiator).

I'll leave lens recommendations to others.
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: JPAZ on November 14, 2012, 01:08:02 AM
OK.  I need to add my thoughts.  I live here!

If you are going form Phoenix, it is only about 4 to 4.5 hour drive to the canyon.  Take I17 to Flagstaff then I40 to Williams and then a well-paved road about 60 miles (with a few gas stations along the way) to the South Rim (which is open year round).  There will be plenty of vehicles and getting stranded is very unlikely.  There are a gazillion cheesy hotels just outside the park but I always stay in the park (if you can get a reservation).  There can be snow at the top but it does not last long on the South Rim.  The North Rim is closed now until May or so. 

IF you are up to it, a short hike on the South Kaibab trail has some spectacular scenery.  Go early for the best light but the character of the lighting in the canyon changes constantly.  Even setting up in one position for a while can be very rewarding as the colors of the rock change in the shifting sun.

If you decide to do any hiking (and I cannot emphasis this enough), be prepared.  Make sure you always have water and snacks and dress in layers.  I am not trying to scare you, we hike there often and I do see a lot of very stupid people, some of whom can have a very bad day when they get injured.  Respect the edge!

Another thing you might want to look for are some Petroglyphs maybe a mile or so down Bright Angel Trail for the Rim.  Ask.  They are kind of hard to see unless you know where they are.

I concur, Sedona is wonderful.  While it is kind of goofy, you might want to take a "Pink Jeep Tour."  They get you out to some great photo sites and the guides are a trip as well.

If you've never been to this part of the world, be prepared for very clear skies, multiple climate zones and big vistas.  You will enjoy.
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: TAF on November 14, 2012, 01:18:14 AM
A couple of random shots from last year's trip to Sedona:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/34970367@N03/sets/72157632005390936/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/34970367@N03/sets/72157632005390936/)

(the sum total of shots from that trip convinced me of the need to replace the 50D with a 5D3; looking forward to returning soon)

Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: Cali_PH on November 14, 2012, 01:33:54 AM
I'll link to an earlier response I made (http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php?topic=8945.msg161659#msg161659) to someone else asking about the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon areas.  If you want me to email you the mini-Antelope Canyon guide I mention there, feel free to PM me.  I may even be able to fit it into a PM, but it was a bit long.

Yes, you should have some nice flat horizons from the rim to use your ND grads on.  Keep that CPL handy, it'll help with the haze commonly found there.

As far as other locations in the GC area, you may want to consider Havasupai for the falls, although I'm unsure of the water flow at this time of the year (assuming you'll be going sometime soon?).  And if you did go, I'd also suggest paying for the helicopter ride, instead of the 8 mile hike to the village, and then more to the various falls.   ;)

I'd also really encourage you to include Monument Valley if you can fit it into your schedule; it's a special place.  The View hotel is a bit expensive but it's worth it to me. All the rooms face one direction, towards the classic Monument Valley view, and it's an easy stroll to the viewing points for sunset/sunrise shots.  It's also supposed to be a pretty good star trail location.  You can shoot right from your balcony if you wanted.
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: DianeK on November 14, 2012, 01:54:33 AM
First image is Lipan Point, second is Navajo Point
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: RichardTHF on November 14, 2012, 02:31:47 AM
DianeK, those pictures so beautiful, what camera and lens did you use for each?


I drove Vegas to Denver when I was in the states earlier this year, went so close to the Grand Canyon and didn't even get to go see it. was very very gutted!
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: yablonsky on November 14, 2012, 04:55:23 AM
Hi,

we travelled to the southrim of the Grand Canyon in May this year. It was amazing!

We stayed 2 nights at Mather Campground. We also hiked the South Kaibab trail until Skeleton Point and back.

My favorites beside the hike was the sunset from Hopi Point and the sunrise from Yaki Point. Also the view from the Desert Watchtower is great. You can do the Watchtower when you leave the park to the East.

Camerawise I brought the 5D2 along with the 17-40L and the 70-200 4L IS.

You definitely need the 17mm on FF for the Canyon!!!
Also the 70-200 @ 200 was great in the evening hours, just before sunset.

On more recommendation for the Antelope Canyon:
Go there during noon if you can. We did the lower Antelope Canyon at 10 a.m. which was great and the upper Antelope Canyon unfortunately at 1 p.m. It was dark as night down there!
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: DianeK on November 14, 2012, 10:20:29 AM
DianeK, those pictures so beautiful, what camera and lens did you use for each

Richard, thank you for the compliment.  60D with the EFS 10-22 for both.  Lipan at 22mm, Navajo at 16mm.  Both f/11, 1/40, no filters, handheld.  We were losing the light quite quickly at the end of the day.  There's only 13 minutes between the two shots and they are at different places (no...we didn't break any speed limits  ;) )
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: ahsanford on November 14, 2012, 12:59:44 PM

First and foremost, you folks are wonderful for the quick, detailed and thoughtful feedback.  I love this forum.

Let me buzz through this stuff and follow up.

- A
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: ahsanford on November 14, 2012, 01:07:13 PM
I think you've got a wide range of photography covered with the assortment of lenses you're bringing. If you're strictly doing landscapes and looking to rent a wide angle I would go with a 17-40 f/4 or a 14mm prime over a 16-35 f/2.8, from what I remember during my research the 16-35 f/2.8 is a great event photography wide angle because of its fast optics but overall it was not as sharp as the 17-40 f/4.

1.) Between the 17-40 f/4 and the 14 prime. I'd still go with the 17-40 because it'll give you range and versatility over the 14 prime. and I don't think losing 3mm of wide angle on a full frame is much. Primes are sharper but both lenses are L lenses so I don't think sharpness will be a concern.

2.) I don't think you'll need a flash. A flash is not powerful enough to illuminate a grand expanse like the grand canyon. It won't even come close. A better and cheaper investment for landscapes would be a trigger release. You can set your camera to Bulb and capture the stars traveling across the night sky in the background with the grand canyon in the foreground. How beautiful would that be right?

3.) Oh whoops star trails...I mentioned that in #2. :) But you'll need a trigger/cable release and a tripod. I would invest in at least a Giottos or Enduro tripod if not better. Something that can handle a lot of weight. I've got a Giottos and a Gitzo Traveler myself.

4.) I've been to the Grand Canyon but this question is too difficult for me to answer. I'm not an expert on that area. I did see tours by mule/horse and I think that might be more creative and give you a more unique look than just the top down view most people do.

5.) HDR all the way. This seems like a trip where you'll have a lot of time to set up for your shot in which case you have time to do a proper HDR. Forget bracket shooting. Do a proper HDR. I'm talking 5-8 photos depending on the time of day and range you want to capture.

ND and Grad ND shooting is for run and gun shooting where you don't have time to set up. I did that in Spain and New Zealand...mixed feelings about it. HDR will always give you a better look. But please please don't over do the contrast. I HATE it when people make their skys look like some sort of electrical storm or apocalyptic explosion is happening. I think the best HDRs are the ones that have slightly more range than the human eye captures at that moment. Just my opinion though.

Here are a few of my own HDRs
http://www.flickr.com/photos/halogenlab/8184226516/#sizes/l/in/photostream/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/halogenlab/8184226516/#sizes/l/in/photostream/)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/halogenlab/3703942284/#sizes/o/in/set-72157621035695209/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/halogenlab/3703942284/#sizes/o/in/set-72157621035695209/)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/halogenlab/3703934582/#sizes/o/in/set-72157621035695209/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/halogenlab/3703934582/#sizes/o/in/set-72157621035695209/)

- Minh Nguyen

Great stuff.  A few thoughts / responses:

Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: ahsanford on November 14, 2012, 01:19:00 PM
1. Check to see if the South Rim is still open.  It is getting late in the year; it could already be snowed in.

2. Sedona is beautiful and the people are really friendly.  I love going there.  The main street can be very photogenic.  There is a nifty camera store in town, nearby is Oaxaca, is a nice mexican restaurant.  Note that the economy is not great in the area, so you can get excellent deals on lodging.  Pull up Google maps; you'll find a turnout south of town at 34.82335 N/-111.77610 W.  Look due east from there and you'll see a pair of spires (locally called the sisters).  If you get lucky, you can catch the moon rising between them.  It's a spectacular shot.

3. It is well worth the drive up Highway 89A to the top of Oak Creek Canyon (straight out of town heading north, can't miss it).  There are numerous places to stop and take interesting photos at this time of year, and when you get to the top there is a parking area/scenic lookout where the local Indians set up tables and sell beautiful hand made jewelry and other things.

4. Pack a jacket, hat, and sunglasses.  While it may be shirtsleeve down in Sedona, it may well be below freezing at the top of the canyon.  And the higher in elevation you go, the stronger the UV and the greater the risk of sunburn (especially in winter).

5. If you are driving your own car (as opposed to a rental), make certain the cooling system and brakes are in top notch condition.  Even at this time of year your can can overheat driving up the canyon, and the brakes take a beating driving down.

6. I hear that the glass horseshoe out over the Grand Canyon is spectacular, but I haven't been there yet.

7. If they are still operating (there were some issues a number of years ago), there are scenic flights over the GC.  Worth the price if the weather is really clear (it should be this time of year).

8. At the GC you will find plenty of flat horizons for the grad filter (I wish I had had one of those years ago).

9. I would forget the flash; seek maximum fulfillment with the high ISO capability of the 5D3.

10. If you feel the need for some additional weight, bring water bottles.  Gallon jugs are a good idea (9 pounds each, and you can drink them if the car breaks down and use them if you need water for the radiator).

I'll leave lens recommendations to others.

Thanks for the heads up.  Checked into the South Rim on the national parks website -- it's a 365 day a year open sort of place, though I may not get to all of the rim's little trails.  It's the north rim that closes down in October. 

Just had a brake job on the car.  Should be fine.  Great tip.

Since I'm taking my own car, I will pack for nuclear winter as far as clothes go.  It's 60s in Sedona (one of those great regions where the weather rarely changes, I'm told), but yes, it will be somewhat cold but very windy at the rim.  I will bring the appropriate layers, hats, sunscreen, etc.  Again, great tip.

Wow.  Sedona is 15 degrees warmer than Flagstaff, which is only 30 miles away.  GC Village will be in the 50s by day but teens by night.  Will plan accordingly.

Any thoughts on cold weather shooting?  I know 15 F / -10 C is not terribly cold, but should I take any precautions regarding condensation in the lens?  I will be bringing far too much glass to ziplock bag everything prior to coming to room temp.  The padded camera bag must insulate the non-used lens to some degree, right?  What are your thoughts?

Great ideas for Sedona, thanks!  I also must hit the Frank Lloyd Wright church, it looks outrageously interesting to shoot.

- A
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: ahsanford on November 14, 2012, 01:26:08 PM
First image is Lipan Point, second is Navajo Point

Nice shots.  I've noticed a blue shift like yours on the distant horizon mountains in my photos as well. It is certainly what my eyes see, so these shots are well rendered.

Can you walk me through what causes that blue cast (physically, that is)?  I'm guessing it's diffraction of light through so much air (perhaps that's nonsense), but from a photog perspective, is that something you wish to capture, wish to filter out, wish to shift to true black shadows, etc.?  What are the composition and post-processing considerations for this?   Would I see a similar cast if I went with the longer tele?

Just curious.

- A
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: ahsanford on November 14, 2012, 01:36:54 PM
Hi,

we travelled to the southrim of the Grand Canyon in May this year. It was amazing!

We stayed 2 nights at Mather Campground. We also hiked the South Kaibab trail until Skeleton Point and back.

My favorites beside the hike was the sunset from Hopi Point and the sunrise from Yaki Point. Also the view from the Desert Watchtower is great. You can do the Watchtower when you leave the park to the East.

Camerawise I brought the 5D2 along with the 17-40L and the 70-200 4L IS.

You definitely need the 17mm on FF for the Canyon!!!
Also the 70-200 @ 200 was great in the evening hours, just before sunset.

On more recommendation for the Antelope Canyon:
Go there during noon if you can. We did the lower Antelope Canyon at 10 a.m. which was great and the upper Antelope Canyon unfortunately at 1 p.m. It was dark as night down there!

Great tip on Antelope Canyon.  I think I will limit this trip to just the GC and Sedona for time reasons, but Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley will definitely make the next trip (along with Bryce and Zion if I can).

That does it, I've heard too much about needing ultrawide -- looks like it's time to look at the 17-40 for rent.  The 16-35 II is out as it's an 82 diameter, which burns me for filters and the Lee 4x4 adaptor ring (which LensRentals.com doesn't carry, btw).  The 17-40 has a 77 dia which plays nicely in my bag, and I'm told it's a solid performer when stopped down (which I clearly will do).

Since I'm shooting liveview for most of this, I thought of renting some ultrawide Zeiss hotness, but all have odd diameters as well.  Too much trouble for a one off on such short notice, I think.

- A
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: Minh Nguyen on November 14, 2012, 01:38:50 PM
Hello again. :)

For star trails I don't use a laptop. I just set it to Bulb use a cable release and set it to lock. Then I sit back and relax and come back between 30mins to an hour later. But if others are telling you to use a laptop I would get more info on that. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. I've always been happy with my star trails though *shrug.

A proper HDR, I just meant that I've seen people use the actual Bracket mode to get three images to five images but sometimes you need more depending on. I think its easier to do it by manually and tweak the settings for each of the multiple images being used.

So what did you ever decide to do with the wide angle situation? Are you going 16-35? 17-40 or 14 prime? Very interested in knowing what your findings and choice will end up being.

Do you plan to do any birding or other wildlife photography while you're at the GC? I've been dying to get a 300mm F/2.8, I just can't afford the financial hit right now.

I read a suggestion for Sedona. I loved it there, beautiful sunsets. I wish I had more time, hopefully you take some amazing photos and share with us.

And thanks for liking my pics! I should have been more precise. The one of the castle in Madrid was done with a Grad ND and the other two were HDRs. Just wanted to show both could work but forgot to write that in.
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: ahsanford on November 14, 2012, 01:43:13 PM

@DianeK and others that have been there:

One more thing comes to mind.  Canyons inherently have shade challenges.  The best light at sunup / sundown will come part and parcel with very large shaded areas.  Is there any credence to choosing to use more unfriendly overhead/midday light to minimize the massive dynamic challenges the shadows will bring?

That's a really broad composition question, and I appreciate it depends on what you are trying to accomplish.  But I'd like your thoughts on how to pick your exposure battles on sun vs. shade.

- A
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: ahsanford on November 14, 2012, 01:49:49 PM
Hello again. :)

For star trails I don't use a laptop. I just set it to Bulb use a cable release and set it to lock. Then I sit back and relax and come back between 30mins to an hour later. But if others are telling you to use a laptop I would get more info on that. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. I've always been happy with my star trails though *shrug.

A proper HDR, I just meant that I've seen people use the actual Bracket mode to get three images to five images but sometimes you need more depending on. I think its easier to do it by manually and tweak the settings for each of the multiple images being used.

So what did you ever decide to do with the wide angle situation? Are you going 16-35? 17-40 or 14 prime? Very interested in knowing what your findings and choice will end up being.

Do you plan to do any birding or other wildlife photography while you're at the GC? I've been dying to get a 300mm F/2.8, I just can't afford the financial hit right now.

I read a suggestion for Sedona. I loved it there, beautiful sunsets. I wish I had more time, hopefully you take some amazing photos and share with us.

And thanks for liking my pics! I should have been more precise. The one of the castle in Madrid was done with a Grad ND and the other two were HDRs. Just wanted to show both could work but forgot to write that in.

Birding/wildlife photography is a virus that I, thankfully, have never contracted.   ;D   

Just kidding.  For me -- I can't say that enough -- big glass, it's cost/weight/trouble/etc. is not worth the high you get from the chance of shooting things that are far away.  The give to get just isn't there for me.

See other post.  Looks like 17-40 for this trip.  If my 10-22 crop experience is any indication, I only used the 16-22 end of that lens (i.e. 25-35mm FF equivalent) as the 10-16 side was comically distorted (not from the quality of the glass, but from the lens's perspective).  So I may not like the look of the 17 end of the 17-40, but the 20-24 region (as close to 24 as that seems) may be where I use it.  We'll see.  I must admit that since I went to FF my 24-70 has 99% of the time been wide enough for my needs...

...but I've never shot the Grand Canyon. 

- A

Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: PackLight on November 14, 2012, 02:04:33 PM

1) Should I consider renting an ultrawide prime or zoom?  Given the wide open spaces, one might think I am missing 16-24mm on the list above.  Rent a 16-35?  Rent a 14 prime? 

2) I don't own a flash (no, I'm not kidding), but I can get my hands on a friend's 430 EX II -- how essential is a flash with landscapes?  In your answer, please consider that I'm only capable of doing rudimentary flash work at this stage (no trick shot / off-camera / radio stuff).  I will learn that someday, I'm sure, but this isn't likely to be that moment.

3) I've never done star trail work but might give it a go one night.  I'll read up on how, settings, etc., but is there any specific gear above what I'm bringing needed to do that?  Is the weight of my bag enough (15-20 lb loaded up), or should I build/buy some heavy stabilizing weights?

4) For those who have been to the GC, assuming the North Rim is closed this time of year, where is the best place on the South Rim to shoot?  I've heard that Lipan Point is a good spot shooting the Colorado from East to West, but I'm game for other great vistas if you know of any.

5) Will I have any flat horizons to use the ND grads against, or will I largely be bracketing for HDR to capture everything I am seeing?  I am opposed to HDR just for HDR's sake, but I recognize that with any bright sky I will have to make some tough exposure decisions.  Depending on my orientation to the sun, a CPL can only do so much to rein in the sky.  Have any thoughts on how to manage this best?

Never shot the Grand Canyon but landscapes quite often.
So my thoughts by the numbers;

1, The 14mm is wide, very wide. The diffrence between it and the 16-35mm at 16 is very noticable. I would be renting and taking one of the following if I were going. 24mm f/1.4L, 24mm TSE or the Zeiss 21mm. If I could afford to rent one more I would rent the 14mm or the 16-35mm but only for the very widest shots. But I probably wouldn't even take the 14mm or 16mm, In stead of super wide I would plan on doing Pano's for the areas I couldn't cover.
2, Not sure a flash is going to do much for you if you are taking pictures of the Canyon. You only need it if your subject isn't the Canyon. Instance would be your faimly in front of the Canyan and you need fill flash.
3, Sounds fun and no comment here.
4, No answer on this one either.
5, HDR used lightly is not noticable. However it is best if you have a good set of Grad ND's. I am assuming you are talking 4x6. You can hand hold or manipulate the Grad's in odd positions to darken the bright sky. It doesn't have to be just horizontal. I have used mine at odd angles when taking pictures of mountain sides and such. You can be creative with the grad filters and stack to get what you need. I think they are a must have, as well as the CPL. But the best option isn't filters. The best option for landscape is always timing, unfortunatly on vacation we often do not have that luxury.

Have fun.
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: ahsanford on November 14, 2012, 02:16:28 PM

Never shot the Grand Canyon but landscapes quite often.
So my thoughts by the numbers;

1, The 14mm is wide, very wide. The diffrence between it and the 16-35mm at 16 is very noticable. I would be renting and taking one of the following if I were going. 24mm f/1.4L, 24mm TSE or the Zeiss 21mm. If I could afford to rent one more I would rent the 14mm or the 16-35mm but only for the very widest shots. But I probably wouldn't even take the 14mm or 16mm, In stead of super wide I would plan on doing Pano's for the areas I couldn't cover.

5, HDR used lightly is not noticable. However it is best if you have a good set of Grad ND's. I am assuming you are talking 4x6. You can hand hold or manipulate the Grad's in odd positions to darken the bright sky. It doesn't have to be just horizontal. I have used mine at odd angles when taking pictures of mountain sides and such. You can be creative with the grad filters and stack to get what you need. I think they are a must have, as well as the CPL. But the best option isn't filters. The best option for landscape is always timing, unfortunatly on vacation we often do not have that luxury.

Have fun.

Yes on 4x6 (for the ND grads, the big stopper is 4X4 as it is frame filling).  Still don't know to use ND Grads with a CPL at the same time without filter stacking weirdness, rotating the ND without rotating the CPL, etc.  So I typically use ND grads or CPL, never both simultaneously.

I'm with you on rotating the grads to counter the sky, but with hard grads, I'm not sure how to use them against uneven (and bright) skylines.  I'll darken the tops of some rock peaks, right?  I thought uneven skyline + limited movement threat (leaves moving in the wide, walking people in the frame, etc.) would mean to opt for HDR instead of ND grads, but I will try both for sure.

The big stopper, on the other hand, seems fully in play for this trip.  Besides water long exposure work, it could be killer for stretching out a cloudy sky.  Just got it, and I am fired up to try it.

- A


I looked at the Zeiss 21, but I won't have a
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: PackLight on November 14, 2012, 02:40:54 PM

Never shot the Grand Canyon but landscapes quite often.
So my thoughts by the numbers;

1, The 14mm is wide, very wide. The diffrence between it and the 16-35mm at 16 is very noticable. I would be renting and taking one of the following if I were going. 24mm f/1.4L, 24mm TSE or the Zeiss 21mm. If I could afford to rent one more I would rent the 14mm or the 16-35mm but only for the very widest shots. But I probably wouldn't even take the 14mm or 16mm, In stead of super wide I would plan on doing Pano's for the areas I couldn't cover.

5, HDR used lightly is not noticable. However it is best if you have a good set of Grad ND's. I am assuming you are talking 4x6. You can hand hold or manipulate the Grad's in odd positions to darken the bright sky. It doesn't have to be just horizontal. I have used mine at odd angles when taking pictures of mountain sides and such. You can be creative with the grad filters and stack to get what you need. I think they are a must have, as well as the CPL. But the best option isn't filters. The best option for landscape is always timing, unfortunatly on vacation we often do not have that luxury.

Have fun.

Yes on 4x6 (for the ND grads, the big stopper is 4X4 as it is frame filling).  Still don't know to use ND Grads with a CPL at the same time without filter stacking weirdness, rotating the ND without rotating the CPL, etc.  So I typically use ND grads or CPL, never both simultaneously.

I'm with you on rotating the grads to counter the sky, but with hard grads, I'm not sure how to use them against uneven (and bright) skylines.  I'll darken the tops of some rock peaks, right?  I thought uneven skyline + limited movement threat (leaves moving in the wide, walking people in the frame, etc.) would mean to opt for HDR instead of ND grads, but I will try both for sure.

The big stopper, on the other hand, seems fully in play for this trip.  Besides water long exposure work, it could be killer for stretching out a cloudy sky.  Just got it, and I am fired up to try it.

- A


I looked at the Zeiss 21, but I won't have a

Not sure what you mean on stacking weirdness.  I often use CPL with the 4x6 hand held, since I dont have a CPL that will mount in the Lee holder I put the CPL on and it just takes a bit of a steady hand.

For the senario you are describing I think soft grads would be real helpfull on the trip.

I wouldn't opt for HDR over any combination I can create with the camera and filters. HDR doesn't have to end up looking like the cartoonish look some people do.  Here is the deal though, do your best with the filters and then bracket a set with the filters on. That way later if you don't feel you got the effect or look with just the filters and a single picture you can always do a bit of HDR with the set. Set up takes the longest, taking an extra exposure or two takes no time.

Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: Mr Bean on November 14, 2012, 04:50:49 PM
For star trails I don't use a laptop. I just set it to Bulb use a cable release and set it to lock. Then I sit back and relax and come back between 30mins to an hour later. But if others are telling you to use a laptop I would get more info on that. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. I've always been happy with my star trails though *shrug.
Note: I have a 5D m3 that I've been using for star work.
Note2: Sorry for the long winded details following.... :)

Modern autofocus lenses don't have in infinity stop, unlike the good 'ol days with FD lenses. As viewing stars through the viewfinder is pretty poor to work out if a faint object is in focus, the next best option is "live view" using the screen on the back of the camera. You can zoom up on a star, then manually focus. I find it fiddly, but do-able. Using the cable that normally plugs in to the camera / computers USB port (to download images) you can start up the "EOS Utility" on the laptop and select an option to drive the camera, via the laptop. This has an option for "live view" on the laptop screen, which is larger than the screen on the camera.
If your cable release has the ability, you can also take a series of "short" exposures (15 second, then wait 15 seconds - so 2 shots per min) over a period of a couple of hours, then string the images together into a movie (using After Effects, for example). A movie of stars rising over the Grand Canyon would look pretty neat :)
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: filipmakowski on November 14, 2012, 05:52:45 PM
Definitely worth considering Antelope, I was there just before noon and was able to capture the sun streaming in.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/filipmakowski/6158291826/#in/set-72157627571758317 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/filipmakowski/6158291826/#in/set-72157627571758317)

The biggest challenge is that at any time when the sun is coming in you have over 200 people in the canyon across 10+ guided groups. I had to take this photo handheld at ISO1600, f2.8 with the 16-35mm II (which I have never found to lack sharpness) as there was absolutely no time or space to put up a tripod.

Suggestion for Grand Canyon: hang around after the sun sets, you may be able to get some great shots with iridescent clouds. When I was there everyone had returned to their hotels just after the sun had set, missing the opportunity for what turned out the best part of the evening.
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: DianeK on November 14, 2012, 06:40:29 PM
First image is Lipan Point, second is Navajo Point

Nice shots.  I've noticed a blue shift like yours on the distant horizon mountains in my photos as well. It is certainly what my eyes see, so these shots are well rendered.

Can you walk me through what causes that blue cast (physically, that is)?  I'm guessing it's diffraction of light through so much air (perhaps that's nonsense), but from a photog perspective, is that something you wish to capture, wish to filter out, wish to shift to true black shadows, etc.?  What are the composition and post-processing considerations for this?   Would I see a similar cast if I went with the longer tele?

Just curious.

- A

Thank you.
There was a general haze that day which is what I think caused the distant blue haze. Twas a very frustrating day for that reason.  I don't know if a UV filter would have helped or not because I don't use them. :-\
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: DianeK on November 14, 2012, 06:56:55 PM

@DianeK and others that have been there:

One more thing comes to mind.  Canyons inherently have shade challenges.  The best light at sunup / sundown will come part and parcel with very large shaded areas.  Is there any credence to choosing to use more unfriendly overhead/midday light to minimize the massive dynamic challenges the shadows will bring?

That's a really broad composition question, and I appreciate it depends on what you are trying to accomplish.  But I'd like your thoughts on how to pick your exposure battles on sun vs. shade.

- A

I'm afraid I'm not a very "thoughtful" shooter.  The only plan so to speak I had that day was to be at the east end of the canyon on Desert View Drive so I could have the setting sun on my viewpoints (although the haze on the horizon really complicated things).  When we were down about a mile on Kaibab trail it was noon, so I just did the best I could with what I had even attempting to get some detail on this raven in the harsh noon light  ::)
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: kaihp on November 18, 2012, 05:58:54 AM
I'll link to an earlier response I made (http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php?topic=8945.msg161659#msg161659) to someone else asking about the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon areas.  If you want me to email you the mini-Antelope Canyon guide I mention there, feel free to PM me.  I may even be able to fit it into a PM, but it was a bit long.
As the asker of the thread that Cali is refering to, I can only +1 on his recommendations.

I used my 17-40mm primarily on the 5D3 and exclusively for Upper/Lower Antelope as well as Horseshoe Bend.

I had great use of grad filters for 6am-9.30am shots I took at the Horseshoe. Oh, and bring a (big) tripod to lower antelope.

Personally, I was underwhelmed by GC - but then again, I had been on an 8-day streak of Valley of Fire, Zion, Bryce, Grand Staircase, Torrey, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Needles overlook (with a hailstorm!), Natural Bridges, Monument Valley, Antelopes, Horseshoe bend and then the south rim of GC.
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: Mika on November 18, 2012, 07:42:25 AM
If the haze bothers you, I think there is one comparatively cheap option to try. You can try diminishing that effect by using a circular polarizer. What is harder to know is how much difference it makes, as this depends on the scene.

It is not like I'd typically nitpick about this stuff, but the scientific term for cause of the blue haze is scattering, not diffraction. Other than that, the explanation was correct, the blue haze is caused by stratospheric scattering, and since blue is the shortest wavelength, it is the most affected.
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: sagittariansrock on November 18, 2012, 10:08:49 AM
My 2 cents based on my last trip to Grand canyon and Page

1) Yes. I missed a UWA on several occasions, especially the horseshoe bend in Page. I'd get a 16-35 rather than a 17-40 personally, since I had the latter (but on a 7D) and neither the colors nor the sharpness (at f/8 or f/11) were that compelling, and no experience with the 14mm.

2) I'd borrow that flash if you are taking pictures of people. The harsh sunlight necessitates fill flash and the 5DIII doesn't have a pop-up. I'd get it- I needed it.

3) Your bag should be sufficient, especially since the 70-200 will likely be in your bag and not on your camera at this point. It gets very windy and sometimes worried me.

4) Already answered above.

5) You will have plenty of flat horizons, and you will need those grad NDs.

Couple other things: The glass horseshoe is overrated and overpriced in my opinion. Get a monopod for the antelopes- it gets too crowded and too rushed for proper tripod usage, unless you are comfortable running with it and setting it up quickly (and if the tripod is carbon-fiber).

Happy shooting!

[/quote]
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: Minh Nguyen on November 18, 2012, 01:37:31 PM
Best wishes on your Grand Canyon trip. You renting or buying that 17-40mm?

I rented the 10-22mm EF-S a few times and hated it. For almost the same price as a 17-40 it wasn't nearly as sharp. Maybe it was the copy I had. On a 5DmII or mIII you might find that the 17 end of that lens isn't bad for such and expansive landscape. It'll be fun to see the results. Keep us posted.
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: Adam Schallau on November 18, 2012, 03:33:07 PM
I'm a photo guide and workshop instructor at the Grand Canyon. I also lived there for a short time many years ago.  You're going to be visiting during a great time of year! The crowds have begun to diminish and there's plenty of low-angle light to take advantage of!

Your gear list looks fine and I expect that you'll get the most out of the 24-70/2.8L and 70-200/2.8L lenses. My most commonly used focal lengths at the canyon are 24mm, 45mm, and 90mm. I also love using the telephoto focal lengths to isolate areas of strong light & shadow or interesting patters in the landscape.

An ultra-wide zoom is handy to have along, but consider that they can also have an effect of minimizing some of the finer features in the landscape. I tend to use a 16-25/2.8L or Nikon 14-24/2.8 when I capturing the night sky, including the Milky Way, as Northern Arizona is a great place to do this type of photography. Depending on when you visit, and the weather you experience, you may be able to get some shots of the canyon illuminated by the moon.

As for filters...be careful with the polarizer on a wide-angle lens. It's very easy to over polarize or have an uneven polarization effect across the sky. Neutral density grads will come in quite handy with a 2-stop soft edge and 3-stop hard edge being my most used grads at the canyon.

On to shooting locations. You've already received many great suggestions here on CanonRumors.com. Ths is time of the year the points at the east end of the park are great. I love Lipan Point and Moran Point for sunrise. Desert View and Navajo Point can be great at sunset. On the Hermit Road at the west end of the park there are several good points including Powell Point & Memorial, and Hopi Point. No matter where you go, remember that you don't have to stay at the points. You can and should explore a bit!

I know several other members here have mentioned the weather at the canyon, but I'll add my 2 cents. It can get quite cold this time of year. We've already been down to 3 degrees Fahrenheit  once this fall and it's routinely getting down to the high teens in the morning. The wind has been blowing lately which makes the need for a good/sturdy tripod all that much more important. Dress in several layers and be prepared to add or take away as necessary.

If you're interested, you can view some of my Grand Canyon work on my website and Facebook page:


I hope you have a fantastic trip!
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: ahsanford on November 23, 2012, 03:37:40 PM

Just got back, team.  Nice tips.

I've attached a few decent ones, shown here.  Comments to follow.

- A
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: ahsanford on November 23, 2012, 04:02:35 PM
Okay, here were was my experience from the trip.

1) Beautiful beautiful beautiful.  The GC is a gift to see and behold.

2) I used the 28mm prime (60%) and 70-200 (15%) a lot more than I thought I would.  The 24-70 got less use than I thought it would, perhaps the remaining 25%.  I didn't buy/rent the ultrawide, and I don't think I needed it.  Someone suggested to go pano on the tripod if I needed more width, and I only needed to do that 3-4 times.  Great tip.

3) Don't leave right at sunset.  The light immediately after sunset can ping pong off of clouds and do some great things.

4) ND grads are punishing to dial in when it's cold, windy and you are aching from leaning over a tripod setup for an extended period.  They also are hard to proof for correct placement, even at a 100% pixel playback on the 5d3's screen. Such a powerful tool needs a simpler implementation and verification, IMHO.  I'm sure I'll get better at using them, but that was the biggest fail of the trip for me.

5) I shot much more handheld than I thought I would.  The tripod only came out about a dozen times over the two days.

6) I brought the big stopper (10 stop darkener) and didn't use it on day one when I had great fluffy clouds.  Day two there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  So if you have the clouds, use it when you can.  :-P

7)  Simultaneous ND grad + panorama is the way to madness.  I'm only using ND grads on single shots until I get better at using them.

8 ) Though it's 101 photo stuff, don't use s--- filters.  I have B+W MRC UVs and CPLs for everything except my staple 77mm CPL (which was a mid-grade Hoya).  As it was my only 77mm CPL, I had to constantly switch it out from the 24-70 to the 70-200.  It unthreads, the two rings wiggle w.r.t. to each other, etc.  I was fed up with it.  [I just rectified that with a 77mm Kaesemann MRC CPL purchase, btw.]

9) Though I knew this would happen, the 24 end of the 24-70 and the 28 prime both demonstrated FOV-CPL-'pseudo-vignetting' from differing levels of sky darkness.  It goes away around 35mm and up from my experience.  I know you folks brought it up, and I have fought that for years with my old 10-22 EF-S lens.  But I did it anyway.  I just felt the sky would have been too bright if I didn't accept this tradeoff, and the CPL is 100x easier to use than the (more appropriate) ND grads.

10) A monstrous bull elk walked into the GC village behind my hotel, and in nearly complete darkness, I netted a proof-of-bigfoot level of usefulness shot of him at ISO 25,600 + handheld + fully open + IS on my 70-200mm F/2.8L IS II.  I saw details and colors in that shot that my naked eyes could not see.  Love my 5D3.   8)

More will hit me later, but I had a tremendous trip and learned even more about my love of photography in the process.  Would do it again in a heartbeat.

Thanks again for your copious tips and insights.

- A
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: ahsanford on November 23, 2012, 04:06:06 PM

And one more thing, the first picture I linked could have been an epic keeper if I had only waited for the little warrior (tree) in front to get some sunlight.  Poor patience on my part.

I also should crop that into a more cinematic / pano aspect ratio.  3:2 doesn't serve such an interesting shot, IMHO.

- A
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: jsexton on November 27, 2012, 02:54:06 PM
Beautiful shots, great post to bookmark as we're heading out there for 2 weeks in June 2013 and there's lots of good advice here.
Title: Re: Landscape tips needed on shooting the Grand Canyon
Post by: kubelik on November 27, 2012, 04:33:58 PM
great shots, ahsanford!  looks like you had both an enjoyable experience and an educational one as well, that's always the best.