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Author Topic: National Parks besides Grand Canyon? - recommendations please  (Read 5263 times)

Cali_PH

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Re: National Parks besides Grand Canyon? - recommendations please
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2012, 11:11:18 AM »
Antelope - I don't think I mentioned it in the email I sent, but I shot mostly with a 10-22 on a cropped body my first time, and 17-40L FF the next, typically near the wider end.  Different people have different styles though.  But because of the wind and dust in there, you don't want to be switching lenses if you can avoid it.  If you bring your backup body on the trip, consider having them both ready to go with different lenses. 

Yosemite - I know you had just said it's out, but since you did mention it at first and others are suggesting it, I thought I'd chime in.  I do think it's definitely a place everyone should see at least once.  The problem is your limited time, and desire to see other locations further away.  How badly do you want to see it compared to other locations, and what are the chances you'll return again?  FYI, it's been a hot dry year, and from what I hear the falls have less water than typical for this time of year.  Yosemite falls is mostly dry (a quick view of the Yosemite webcams confirms this).  Unless there are some storms, they'll be even drier in October.  Yosemite is so much more than waterfalls, but I thought it worth mentioning in case those are important to you, and you think you'd come back and see it another time. 

IF you did go from LA to Yosemite, and then maybe Utah/Arizona, you'll want go through Tioga Pass, which closes in winter, but almost never before November.  You could swing by Mono Lake and see some of the beautiful Eastern Sierras along the drive.

EDIT - Also, finding lodging in Yosemite this close to your trip could be difficult; if you find something it'll probably be pricey.  The same could be said for most of the places you want to see, since they're all popular.
 
« Last Edit: August 27, 2012, 11:18:56 AM by Cali_PH »

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Re: National Parks besides Grand Canyon? - recommendations please
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2012, 11:11:18 AM »

unfocused

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Re: National Parks besides Grand Canyon? - recommendations please
« Reply #16 on: August 27, 2012, 11:38:25 AM »
Just a few comments about the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

There is a reason why it is is crowded. It wouldn't be if it wasn't worth seeing. Along that same line. There is also a reason why they put El Tovar and the other lodges where they did. That's where the best views are. Main advantage is: you can roll out of bed a little before sunrise, walk outside the hotel to the edge of the Canyon and get all set up in the few minutes. Same thing at sunset.

Just don't make the mistake that most tourists do. They all point their cameras in the direction of the sunrise in the morning and sunset at night. But, the real light show is in the opposite direction, as the sun bounces off the canyon walls.
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theqspeaks

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Re: National Parks besides Grand Canyon? - recommendations please
« Reply #17 on: August 27, 2012, 01:17:44 PM »
+1 Bel-Air Camera in Westwood
+1 the "Grand Circle"
+1 Cali_PH

I've been to a lot of the places mentioned on this thread, and while they're all awesome, Yosemite really is a step above in terms of natural beauty.  That said, given the time of year, the number of days you have, and your photographic interest, I'd skip Yosemite on this trip and would do the "Grand Circle" instead.  Cali_PH is right about the water levels.  Plus, from a photographic stand point, Yosemite is totally overphotographed.  If you want to  make some compelling and unique photos, you REALLY have to work for them (i.e., hiking to unique perspectives.) 

Here's a google map from Lancaster, through the Grand Circle, back to LAX. 
http://goo.gl/maps/Mk4vb

This would take you to Flagstaff for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, Canyon de Chelly, Moab for Arches and Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bryce, and Zion.  It's about 1750 miles, but you should add at least another 250 for driving into and around the parks.  Definitely doable during your time frame, as I basically did the same route (minus the Grand Canyon and Zion) in a little over a week. 

You could shave a couple hundreds miles off by doing the North Rim instead.  Missing out on Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands, though, would be a bummer. 
http://goo.gl/maps/plh12

Either way, you'll see a stunning amount of the American West, and MUCH more than a trip to Yosemite.  Furthermore, you'll see places (like Capitol Reef and Grand Staircase) that few Americans ever see. 

BTW, if you do find yourself in Torrey, do yourself a favor and eat at Cafe Diablo.  That restaurant is amazing, and if it was in LA or NYC, it'd be a critically acclaimed restaurant charging a king's ransom for haute Southwestern cuisine.  Call ahead, though, as they do close for the winter. 

drmikeinpdx

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Re: National Parks besides Grand Canyon? - recommendations please
« Reply #18 on: August 27, 2012, 06:53:40 PM »
BTW, if you do find yourself in Torrey, do yourself a favor and eat at Cafe Diablo.  That restaurant is amazing, and if it was in LA or NYC, it'd be a critically acclaimed restaurant charging a king's ransom for haute Southwestern cuisine.  Call ahead, though, as they do close for the winter.

I visited Torry last May and Cafe Diablo definitely gets my vote.  I have to admit I did not try the Free Range Rattlesnake!

I think an ordinary automobile will be fine.  You won't really have time to explore the unpaved back roads on this kind of trip.  If it were me I'd try to find a good deal on a mid-sized car instead of a tiny economy model.

BTW, I explored Utah by motorcycle last May and wrote up an article for Rider Magazine.  They have accepted it but it won't be published for several months.  I sent them lots of pretty photos, which I'm sure impressed them a lot!

One thing you will notice at the Utah parks is how the view changes with the lighting.  At each park I wished I could stay there for a month and record the changing lightscape.

I will be going back there at the end of October myself.  Looking forward to re-visiting Bryce, Arches and others.
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kaihp

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Re: National Parks besides Grand Canyon? - recommendations please
« Reply #19 on: August 28, 2012, 09:56:33 PM »
Alas, I only have so much time this time around, and I need to prioritize.
So, it will be the Grand Circle, so Yosemite, Death Valley, Yellowstone and Teton will have to go from this trip.
After all, my starting point was to see Grand Canyon and the Antelope slot canyons ... and then things grew from there, thanks to you wonderful people :)

Here's what my current trip looks like this: http://goo.gl/hXwQl - 1963 miles and 40 hours of driving. Plus the miles in the parks.

I've added in Valley of Fire and Joshua Tree since they're kinda on the way, and I can cut Joshua Tree out if I'm pressed for time. After much internal debating, I'm planning to cut the North Rim out - it would be an extra 200 miles and 5 hours of driving (plus the time there). Going to Antelope slot canyons means that Canyon de Chelly becomes quite awkward and it will have to be some other time.

As for Yosemite being overphotographed: I take the pictures for my personal use, not to sell them, but to record and remember the trip so I don't care about how many people have taken the same shot before.

Café Diablo is duly noted and it looks like I might even make it for dinner time :)

drmikeinpdx: I would have loved to ride a motorcycle, but with luggage bikes just not that convenient and less safe when leaving the bike for exploring an area.

Lenses: I mentioned the 17-40, 24-70 and 70-200/IS (+1.4x TC), since those are what I have so anything else would be rental or purchase.

For Antelope the plan is to put the 17-40 on the 5D3 and the 24-70 on the 50D (38-112 effective) to get minimum overlap, and not change lenses exactly due to the dust.
Sure, the only light that can fill the GC is that 'sun' thing, but sometimes you need a filler for something and that's where it's a good idea to bring the 580EX. But a flashlight for the pre-dawn/post-sunset treks is duly noted.
There was an excellent shot in the thread I mentioned, that very vividly demonstrated unfocuseds' point about shooting the beautiful warm light on the walls for Grand Canyon rather than trying to capture the sunset. Unfortunately the poster has removed the shot since then.

Car: At 6'6", I'm not going for a tiny car, but a mid-size (e.g. VW Golf, not a Lincoln Town Car) should do fine.

Thanks again for your invaluable input.

And now for hotel and car bookings. Wheww.

unfocused

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Re: National Parks besides Grand Canyon? - recommendations please
« Reply #20 on: August 28, 2012, 10:56:31 PM »
One more thing to be aware of at Grand Canyon. This is one of the few places in the country where you are might see California Condors. Like the tourists, they frequent the South Canyon rim near the grand hotels, so if they happen to be in the vicinity, you have a good chance of seeing one. Stop at the ranger station and ask about sightings.

One cool thing about them is that every adult is tagged. So if you do get lucky and get a shot of one, you can look him or her up on the internet and find out its life history.

Finally, after you are done getting your shots from the rim, look away from the canyon and study the nearby trees. You are likely to see mule deer grazing.

Good luck and enjoy.
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Cali_PH

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Re: National Parks besides Grand Canyon? - recommendations please
« Reply #21 on: August 29, 2012, 09:24:00 AM »
Thought I'd share a couple of sites I ran across doing research for Valley of Fire before:

Synnatsche's Secrets of the Southwest - Website of a German couple that are talented travel/landscape photogs.  They have travelogues of some of the southwest's most interesting places; it's in German, so most people will need to use Google translate or something like that to read it.  Or just look at the pretty pictures ;) I used the website to discover some places I'd never heard of before; the gallery includes other parts of the US too.

The page I linked to has some fantastic shots of Valley of Fire.  There are also links on it to the Valley of Fire travelogue, as well as their eGUIDE about Valley of Fire.  Great pictures and lots of locations with GPS coordinates, tips, if the location is a sunrise/sunset/afternoon location, etc.  Well worth the $5 or so IMHO.

Sunset Cities Valley of Fire Info - Has a lot of good basic info on the park (directions, fees, etc.) and lots of pictures about various parts, but the picture quality isn't great.

If you're there around sunset, don't be surprised to see a wedding or wedding photoshoot, seems like a lot of people drive up from Vegas for that.

EDIT - for the car rentals, if you can, check more than one discount site (Hotwire, Travelocity, Kayak etc).  Not sure which ones you might have access to if you're in China.  Usually they're all relatively close to each other, but sometimes one will give you a great deal.  For example, when I've gone to Oahu the past couple of years, most the sites would quote me basically the same prices but Hotwire was ridiculously cheaper for some reason (two times I got a mid-size car for $9.95).

EDIT 2 - A friend asked me to help with directions to the Fire Wave in Valley of Fire, so I threw something together on google maps.  Thought I'd put it here too, in case it helps anyone. 

Fire Wave map
« Last Edit: August 29, 2012, 03:01:35 PM by Cali_PH »

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Re: National Parks besides Grand Canyon? - recommendations please
« Reply #21 on: August 29, 2012, 09:24:00 AM »

kaihp

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Re: National Parks besides Grand Canyon? - recommendations please
« Reply #22 on: August 30, 2012, 11:11:27 AM »
Cali_PH: I seriously owe you a beer now for the rental links! This will save me for hundreds compared to what I had found myself.
The Kayak site works for me, but the hotwire site is just fubar even when on the VPN connection.
But then again any connection to outside China is dodgy due to the GFWC.

Cali_PH

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Re: National Parks besides Grand Canyon? - recommendations please
« Reply #23 on: August 30, 2012, 08:41:13 PM »
No problem, glad some of it helped!  I've done a ton of research for that area over the past year, plus I travel a lot for work & pleasure, so I'm glad all that effort helps others too. 

A friend and I will be in the Zion/Bryce area around 10/15-10/16, so maybe we'll spot you.  At 6'4" you should stand out.  ;)

BTW, emailed you again.  I sent a PDF you may find useful.  Just wanted to give you a head's up, it's not a virus or anything.

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Re: National Parks besides Grand Canyon? - recommendations please
« Reply #23 on: August 30, 2012, 08:41:13 PM »