On a recent visit to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, my traveling companions and I had planned to spend 2 days at the South Rim. I know this is barely enough time, but we had other sites to visit and only so much time. We had been out before the dawn behind the geological museum at South Rim (speak to park rangers and ask for the best locations for sunrise photos, then get there early.
We returned that evening to Yaki Point, using the park system's bus service since private vehicles cannot access/park at many of the locations. Be sure to be on time; we got on the last bus to make it to Yaki for sunset, and as the bus was pulling away, a young woman was trying to convince the driver to wait for a friend who was on his way. The driver was very genial, but said "These people are all on my bus to see the sunset, and if we don't leave now, they'll all miss it because your friend is late. Sorry."
At Yaki, one of the best-closer venues for sunset shots, we found many of the best vantage points already taken. However, I like to shoot sunsets and sunrises facing away from the sun, so I faced east for the first shots, to get the color of the setting sun against the vast bowl of the canyon.
Then, I did some shots into the setting sun (see the second, third and fourth photos). I was shooting with a Canon 5Diii, with a Canon 24 mm prime, wearing a Singh Ray magenta filter and a Cokin 8 stop split neutral density graduated filter. I dialed the aperture down to f/22 to try and get a sun star as the sun sank just below the rim.
Finally, what I noticed, and what everyone gong to the Grand Canyon should know about sunset photos, is what I like to call the Canyon Effect. As the sun goes below the horizon and it's lights out, there's a residual glow, a blue ambiance that seems to illuminate the gathering fog/moisture condensation in the low portions of the vast canyon. I shot fast and furious to capture that effect, shooting, checking the playback, deleting, and adjusting shutter speed and aperture (I always shoot on manual unless I'm doing wildlife photos) until I got the shot that looked just like what I saw with my unaided eye.
Then it became quite dark, and the Canyon Effect was gone.
So while everyone else is packing up after the sun dips, point your camera (on a tripod of course) away from the dipping sun, and try and get the Canyon Effect.
I would suggest using a tripod and shutter release, a prime lens for maximum clarity and wider base aperture if needed, and filters to tame the sun. Safe shooting all.
Chris Kiez, a hardcore photographer since the 80's, learned to take a picture before the age of selfies and cell phone photography, training on mechanical cameras and film. After years of taking photos of all manner of subjects and people, he did over a 10 year stint as a crime scene photographer on two continents. Now, he does portrait and landscape photos, and is currently distressing the world with his relentlessly, excruciatingly boring blogging. To buy what you see on this site, click here!