Tuesday, October 2, 2012
South Rim Monsoon
Living only 80 miles from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, you would think I have a huge library of the canyon from every vanatage point and weather condition. Well, I'm working on it. It takes a bit of effort to get there for either sunset or sunrise, which is the time of day that best captures the colors and moods of the canyon. I made a bit of a push this year to get the canyon under some summer monsoon. You have to pick a spot, get there early and work the scene for a couple of hours, then you're done. You pretty much have to be prepared to spend the night, to catch both sunset and sunrise. Photographing even in early morning light leaves the canyon washed out, and flat. Not ideal for photography.
The summer around Northern Arizona is blessed with what we call the Monsoons. Basically we enter into a weather pattern that pushes up moisture from the south and for about a month give us life giving and much needed rain. Oh, and the skies with the big puffy clouds light up with the last rays of the day. In late August the monsoons are winding down, blue skies give way to large storm cells that move around dropping rain in isolated areas.
The storms can be quite fierce in those areas, but often times they last a few hours and move off. It's quite a spectacle and seeing them day after day, leaves me gazing at the clouds and dreaming about all the sunsets I could be capturing. On this day I got my wish and got up there just after a cloud burst, and just before sunset. There were still storm cells hovering along the horizon. I chose Grandview point as my muse, because, well, it is a grand view. The layers of the canyon, and the iconic Vishnu's Temple, plus the various foreground options make for good photography. I made my way to a stack of rock that had some depressions filled with water called rain pockets. I used those as a foreground element, and waited until the sun was low enough to the horizon to get the rays skipping across the top.
I had enough time to work the area and get some more shots of Vishnu's Temple and some spectators. Although the sun went down the light kept on commin'. Just as I was packing up the distant storm clouds lit up and my last shots of the day were a close up on those. We camped just outside the park off a forest service road for the evening. I had every intention of getting back to the rim for sunrise the next morning, so consulted my iPhone to get sunrise times.
Although I was 20 minutes early according to the data, I was more like 20 minutes late according to the sun. When I got to Mather Point the sun was already over Vishnu's Temple, but the light was still good. I got a couple of shots off that I was happy with either way. I guess the rule still stands: show up an hour before sunrise!