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Author Topic: Less than 3 days in the Southwest taking pictures  (Read 6870 times)
ksklo
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« on: May 10, 2013, 03:33:34 AM »
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In June I will be going to Las Vegas for a show.  Afterwards I think I can spare a little less than three days taking pictures around the area.  Here is my preliminary plan, and what do you think?

Day 1: Rent a car from Las Vegas and drive straight to Page, Arizona.  Plan on taking sunset pictures at Horseshoe Bend.

Day 2: Attend the Canyon X Photo Tour hosted by Overland Canyon Tours.  Originally I planned on going to the Antelope Canyons, but I read that there is going to be so much traffic inside that it would be nearly impossible to take great photos, especially when the light beams happen in the middle of the day.  Hopefully the experience would be more pleasant and enjoyable if I went to the less crowded Canyon X.  After that, I will drive to Zion and try to catch some sunset shots.  I've never been there, but read that probably the easiest and best location for sunset there would be either the bridge over the Virgin River near the Canyon Junction shuttle stop, or the view south of the Virgin River with the Watchman in the background, which has an iconic view of Zion.  After finishing the sunset shots, I will start driving back to Nevada.

Day 3: Sunrise pictures at the Valley of Fire, and then probably spend as much time as I can there so long as the light remains decent.  I have to be back at the McCarran Airport no later than 5:30pm, so sunset is going to be out of the question.

As my schedule is rather tight, this is probably the best itinerary I can come up with.  I welcome any suggestions or comments from anyone who knows the area well.  And if there are any decent hotels that you can recommend along the way, please let me know.

Since there is going to be some hiking involved with the Canyon X tour, I would like to travel "lighter".  I shoot with a Hasselblad H3D2 50mp, and the only lenses I am planning to bring are the 28mm and 35-90mm.  Do you think I will need a telephoto lens, such as 150mm or 210mm, either for Valley of Fire or Zion?  If so, which would you prefer?

Lastly, I am not sure if I should stay overnight in Springdale and and try to shoot sunrise at Zion the next morning or leave for Valley of Fire after sunset.  It's just going to be a 2 hours drive, so I think I can manage that after sunset, and so the decision really comes down to which location would give me better sunrise photo opportunities?

Look forward to hearing any constructive comments.  Many thanks.

Ken
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francois
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2013, 05:28:36 AM »
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Your schedule is very tight indeed but you seem to have good plan so far.

Just a note, for Canyon X (which I recommend), unless it has changed, there's really not much hiking involved. The 4x4 will drop you near the canyon's entrance. The only "hiking" portion is the descent into the canyon and it is moderately steep.
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Francois
ksklo
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« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2013, 05:39:50 AM »
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This is even better!  So you would also agree to take the Canyon X over the Upper Antelope Canyon tour?

I think my main focus really is around Page.  The rest of it, a Zion sunset and possibly some Valley of Fire shots would just be bonus.

I am now thinking to add a 150mm mid-telephoto lens now.  Heavier, but hopefully manageable.
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francois
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« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2013, 06:40:14 AM »
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This is even better!  So you would also agree to take the Canyon X over the Upper Antelope Canyon tour?

I think my main focus really is around Page.  The rest of it, a Zion sunset and possibly some Valley of Fire shots would just be bonus.

I am now thinking to add a 150mm mid-telephoto lens now.  Heavier, but hopefully manageable.

Yes, I would go to Canyon X over Upper Antelope (mostly due to the crowd). IIRC, the Canyon X tour is about 6 hours with something like 4 hours in the canyon…

If I had to choose between Upper and Lower Antelope, I would go to Lower Canyon, access isn't as easy (vs Upper) and there's less people.

With more available time, I would go to Canyon X then to Lower Antelope and finally to Upper Antelope.

FYI, the vertical image is the entrance of Lower Antelope and the image with people is the Upper Antelope entrance.
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Francois
ksklo
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« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2013, 06:55:04 AM »
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Francois, will the pictures I get from the various canyons significantly different?  In other words, if what I would get coming out of Canyon X is more or less going to be similar to shots taken from Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon, then I don't see a point in visiting all of them, especially when I am on such a tight schedule.

Otherwise, what I can do is spend the rest of Day2's afternoon going to the Lower Antelope Canyon, then start driving back, and probably spend the night near Zion or the Valley of Fire (depending on time) in order to catch some sunrise shots the next morning.
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francois
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« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2013, 07:45:08 AM »
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Francois, will the pictures I get from the various canyons significantly different?  In other words, if what I would get coming out of Canyon X is more or less going to be similar to shots taken from Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon, then I don't see a point in visiting all of them, especially when I am on such a tight schedule.

Otherwise, what I can do is spend the rest of Day2's afternoon going to the Lower Antelope Canyon, then start driving back, and probably spend the night near Zion or the Valley of Fire (depending on time) in order to catch some sunrise shots the next morning.

All the canyons are different. Upper is very deep and can be very dark for example.

You might want to contact Overland Canyon Tours and ask them what they think. Charlie Moore or Jackson Bridges are both photographers and can really give you good advices.
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Francois
NashvilleMike
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« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2013, 01:29:08 PM »
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Of course I'll type the standard sentence of "what, only 3 days?" but of course one does what one has time to do.

My thoughts:

a) Not sure sunset at Horseshoe Bend is of the highest importance; it will all depend on cloud formations there. I actually like the other end of the day for Horseshoe Bend when the sun is behind you.

b) Canyon X is part of water holes. I'd rank Lower Antelope as a higher priority if you can deal with the stair/ladders and climbing. (Lower is not the place to bring your ultra mega 200 lb backpack with 8 bodies, 14 lenses and a sink - it gets tight and narrow down there). Because Lower Antelope takes a little work, it doesn't get the masses of tourists that you'll find at Upper Antelope, which I'd skip. Lower Antelope is ABSOLUTELY a morning canyon - best in the 8am - 10:30am hours of the day, IMO the earlier the better. If you're not there on a weekend, you'll probably find the number of people down there to be manageable - if you have a tripod/DSLR you get a photo pass (36 bucks I believe as of may 1st) and you get 2 hours to wander around. Tour groups will pass by you every 20-30 minutes or so. I've not yet met a single photographer who has done the slots who doesn't really like lower - so if you haven't been, I'd suggest this is your focus, not the others. Alternate: Unless you want to consider secret canyon (which is part of Peach Wash IIRC) done by Hummer Adventure Tours, which is quite expensive and very private. I'd consider that before Canyon X every day. I'd still suggest Lower Antelope over everything else myself though. Again, if you do Lower Antelope, it really needs to be done in the morning.

c) One possibility is that you do sunrise at Horseshoe Bend but don't linger once it gets near 7:15, then drive over to Lower to get to the gate opening around 8am; Horseshoe Bend and Lower aren't that far apart.


d) Consider sunset at Cape Royale at the North Rim of Grand Canyon on your way out (although it's not as direct as Zion), or even poking around the rim rocks early evening at the Paria Rimrocks / Toadstool Hoodoo off 89 (near the Paria contact station) on your way back to I-15.

Oh, and you probably already know this, but HWY 89 south of Page (just south of Horseshoe) is closed due to  landslide. This may not affect your plans but you shold be aware of it. If you're headed to Page from Mccarran airport you'd be doing I-15 to St. George to Fredonia to Kanab to Page most likely anyway.

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leeonmaui
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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2013, 03:32:23 PM »
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Aloha,

My 2 cents;

Lower antelope is good early in the morning, but the light gets washed out and its hard to get great color later in the day.
Upper is awesome and dark, most of the day. If you pay for a photographic tour there, the guides will help block the people from walking through your shot.
Telephotos are really useful in the canyons, as there are some great formations above you as well.

If you have never been to Zion its freaking amazing!
You should totally hike the narrows! it will seem crowded fro the first bit but most people turn back pretty quick.

Valley of fire is a very nice place to shoot, but light gets pretty harsh anytime after early morning and until late afternoon.
I hope you have a circular polarizer... 

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francois
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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2013, 02:46:41 AM »
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Lower Antelope is ABSOLUTELY a morning canyon - best in the 8am - 10:30am hours of the day, IMO the earlier the better
.…

Very true. I found that the light quality goes down quickly. I always went down at the opening of the gates and never was tempted to stay beyond 2 hours (spring and fall seasons, never visited in summer).
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Francois
ksklo
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« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2013, 03:46:12 AM »
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Of course I'll type the standard sentence of "what, only 3 days?" but of course one does what one has time to do.

My thoughts:

...

d) Consider sunset at Cape Royale at the North Rim of Grand Canyon on your way out (although it's not as direct as Zion), or even poking around the rim rocks early evening at the Paria Rimrocks / Toadstool Hoodoo off 89 (near the Paria contact station) on your way back to I-15.

...


I have looked up the map and realized how much more driving will be required to make just another stop at the Cape Royal, North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  I think it's better to stick to my original plan and go through Zion instead.  However, I am now thinking whether I should spend my second night in Spingdale and enjoy part of Day 3, including sunrise of course, in Zion and forget about Valley of Fire.

In terms of slot canyons, I think I will just follow Mike's advice and just do Horseshoe Bend at sunrise, and then go straight to the Lower Antelope Canyon on my own and not take any tours.

This way, I can probably save some time and leave Page right after lunch and head directly to Zion.
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francois
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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2013, 05:57:56 AM »
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So, Have a nice time there and let us know how it was!

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Francois
framah
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« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2013, 02:39:14 PM »
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Make that Horseshoe Bend BEFORE sunrise!

Get there WAY early so you have all of the light emerging into the morning. The colors are better and smoother. As soon as the sun breaks the horizon, you can pack it up and go over to Lower Antelope.
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2013, 02:57:12 PM »
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I should spend my second night in Spingdale and enjoy part of Day 3, including sunrise of course, in Zion and forget about Valley of Fire.

This way, I can probably save some time and leave Page right after lunch and head directly to Zion.

That sounds better.  You have enough on your plate already.  And once you see what Zion has to offer "up top", east of the tunnel, it's going to be hard for you to leave.  Save Valley of Fire for another trip.
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ksklo
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« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2013, 08:56:50 PM »
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Make that Horseshoe Bend BEFORE sunrise!

Get there WAY early so you have all of the light emerging into the morning. The colors are better and smoother. As soon as the sun breaks the horizon, you can pack it up and go over to Lower Antelope.

I have spent quite a bit of time researching this upcoming trip this past weekend, and saw a lot of images of Horseshoe Bend.  I think you are absolutely right that it makes little sense once the sun breaks out from the horizon and when it starts to lit up the the subject, it's going to be way too harsh.  Not sure the timing of sunrise in third week of June is going to be, but I think it will just work out perfect for me to pack up and leave for the Lower Antelope.

I also know that I will need an extremely wide-angle lens to cover the sky effectively on the Horseshoe Bend, probably like a 21mm in 135mm format.  Since I shoot medium format, and the widest I can go is 28mm (in 645 format) with a 1.1x crop factor, I might need to stitch to get the best out of this location.
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ksklo
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« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2013, 09:43:55 PM »
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After doing some more research over the weekend, I have now come up with two different options.  I'd love to hear your comments...

Option 1 (more like the original plan, but with little modifications)

Day 1:  Drive from Las Vegas directly to Page.  Settle in and shoot Horseshoe Bend at sunset.  I know this is not ideal but not sure where else to shoot sunset near Page.
Day 2:  Shoot sunrise at Horseshoe Bend, then head straight to Lower Antelope, spend two hours there, and then pack up and drive over to Zion for sunset photos (maybe Watchman?)
Day 3:  Spend the morning shooting sunrise (Towers of the Virgin?), maybe do some light trails and shoot around, and then leave for the McCarran Airport early afternoon.

Option 2 (thanks to Nashville Mike who suggested North Rim of the Grand Canyon which looks like a more interesting option to me)

Day 1:  Drive from Las Vegas to North Rim, Grand Canyon.  Try to get there early, shoot around from late afternoon to sunset.
Day 2:  Shoot sunrise until light gets harsh, then go back to the hotel and rest.  Start again late afternoon and shoot till sunset.  Then I'll take the 3 hours drive to Page.
Day 3:  Start early and shoot Horseshoe Bend at sunrise, then head out to Lower Antelope.  Take an early lunch and will head back to Vegas.

I kind of like Option 2 better because I was so impressed with some of the Cape Royal images I found on the web.  I noticed that I will have time for 2 sunsets and 1 sunrise, and some possible points of interests are Cape Royal (I think both sunrise and sunset would work here, but sunrise is probably better?), Point Imperial (looks like sunrise is the choice here), and the Bright Angel Point (sunset?).  I know another great location is Toroweap, but I really don't want to risk going there by myself for sunset shots.

Option 2 is going to be very demanding, and I know I am going to be very tired in the second and third days.  But it is what it is...  I just want to squeeze the best out of these three days.
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kikashi
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« Reply #15 on: May 13, 2013, 02:40:52 AM »
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After doing some more research over the weekend, I have now come up with two different options.  I'd love to hear your comments...
Option 2 (thanks to Nashville Mike who suggested North Rim of the Grand Canyon which looks like a more interesting option to me)

Day 1:  Drive from Las Vegas to North Rim, Grand Canyon.  Try to get there early, shoot around from late afternoon to sunset.
Day 2:  Shoot sunrise until light gets harsh, then go back to the hotel and rest.  Start again late afternoon and shoot till sunset.  Then I'll take the 3 hours drive to Page.
Day 3:  Start early and shoot Horseshoe Bend at sunrise, then head out to Lower Antelope.  Take an early lunch and will head back to Vegas.

I kind of like Option 2 better because I was so impressed with some of the Cape Royal images I found on the web.  I noticed that I will have time for 2 sunsets and 1 sunrise, and some possible points of interests are Cape Royal (I think both sunrise and sunset would work here, but sunrise is probably better?), Point Imperial (looks like sunrise is the choice here), and the Bright Angel Point (sunset?).  I know another great location is Toroweap, but I really don't want to risk going there by myself for sunset shots.

Option 2 is going to be very demanding, and I know I am going to be very tired in the second and third days.  But it is what it is...  I just want to squeeze the best out of these three days.

Sunrise at Cape Royal was, for me, a magnificent experience: jolly cold, though. I also enjoyed sunset at Bright Angel point, and the lodge at the North Rim is a pleasant place to stay.

If you can bear the tiredness, option 2 is very appealing.

Jeremy
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nma
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« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2013, 12:10:34 PM »
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I sincerely mean for this post to be helpful.

What are you thinking?

Your plans are impractical, too much driving. For example, it's a long way from LV to Page and back -- time wasted. And why Page? I understand it is a personal decision but there are other places at least as good. I offer a much simpler plan: Drive LV to Bryce Canyon to do sunset and sunrise. After sunrise drive to Zion and spend as much time as you can. That's it.
 
There are several viable variations on this plan but the key is to keep it simple.

Furthermore, don't assume that you are going to drive up to any of these places, jump out of your car, and snap superior images without some prior experience at the location.  Many of us scout the location extensively to plan our shoot. Sometimes it takes several visits to understand a location. While I understand that this is impractical for your short visit, it does argue for a less-is-more-approach.

Finally, I say to you: Relax a bit. Take it in with your eye. Absorb it before you start photographing. You will be glad you did because no photographs actually capture these magnificent scenes.
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NashvilleMike
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« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2013, 12:16:00 PM »
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Ah, you went and looked at Cape Royale images Smiley....

A few more comments:

On your option 1:

a) Call me crazy,  but I have a freaking love affair with the area around the Paria Rimrocks Hoodoo's in late afternoon light - specifically with the shooting ENDING about 30-45 minutes PRIOR to sunset (by 30 minutes to sunset the light is gone here). You get a location without a lot of folks, some truly cool looking hoodoo's with a tremendous red rock foreground (if you snoot from up top), and the well-shot toadstool hoodoo is just, well, cool. Look in Laurents book for the location - it's a bit tricky to find (I'd give you the GPS coords but my hiking GPS is nowhere near me at the moment), roughly 35 minutes west of Page on 89, near the Paria contact station. It's not perfect - there are some power lines you have to deal with, but for me, it's just a ball of fun working the area. I'd shoot here every day over Horseshoe at sunset unless there was a tremendous sunset AND you had a serious grad filter along. One of my nicest shots from the southwest is from this area and every time I'm in the area, I go back. Since you'd be driving right by it on the way to Page, you might as well try for it... (note if you do this: keep track of your bearings. My first time I got seriously tangled up in the washes on the way out and forgot where I turned, and it took me a while to figure out how to get out, even though it's only a mile and change back from the road)

b) Horseshoe Bend focal lengths. Ultra Wide City. My first time there I saw more Nikon 14-24's there in one place than Nikon probably had in the stockroom. It was crazy. Then I understood why. You *might* be able to squeeze with a 20 (I'm going to try with a Zeiss 21 next time out, but I'll have the 14-24 with me) but it's a tough fit with anything in the 24-28 in 135mm equivalency.

Discussing Option 2:

Regarding the North Rim: POINT IMPERIAL FOR SUNRISE !!!!  Bit shorter drive to here than the longer haul to Cape Royale. Cape Royale definitely for the later in the day stuff, but at least for me, Point Imperial prior to sunrise. No question.

Also remember: If you go from North Rim to Page, you'll have to go the longer way: up to Kanab, then across. The other way isn't going to work with the landslide of Hwy 89 south of Page blocking you (until they get the Indian Route 20 converted to alt-89 later in the summer). In addition, keep an eye out for the time changes in this area when planning...


Have fun!
-m
« Last Edit: May 14, 2013, 12:22:02 PM by NashvilleMike » Logged
kikashi
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« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2013, 12:38:13 PM »
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Regarding the North Rim: POINT IMPERIAL FOR SUNRISE !!!!  Bit shorter drive to here than the longer haul to Cape Royale. Cape Royale definitely for the later in the day stuff, but at least for me, Point Imperial prior to sunrise. No question.

I'm interested you say that. I read the books and believed it, so i went to Point Imperial. I found it very underwhelming, so just after the sun came up I jumped back in my car and drove (perhaps a tad quickly) to Cape Royal. I was hugely glad I had.

It's a much longer drive, I agree, but I certainly felt it was worth every second.

Jeremy
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #19 on: May 14, 2013, 05:05:23 PM »
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What are you thinking?


X2 on all counts.  I just got back from a month-long trip to most of those places.  You'd be FAR better served by driving less, shooting more.
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