Frequently Asked Questions
What camera do I need to photograph the Grand Canyon?
The Grand Canyon offers a wide variety of photographic opportunities and challenges. The most popular misconception about photographing the canyon is that you will only use an ultra-wide angle lens. I routinely use lenses as long as 300mm at the canyon to create compressed telephoto stacked compositions. I still do a fair amount of work on the wide end, but my most used lens is a 24-70mm zoom.
As for cameras, over the years, I've owned many cameras, including those made by Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony. I now shoot with Fujifilm medium format mirrorless cameras. I always recall the adage, "the best camera to use is the one you have with you."
Check out my Grand Canyon Photography Gear Guide for more information about cameras, lenses, and other types of photography gear.
Where should I stay when visiting the Grand Canyon?
There are eight lodges inside the park, six on the South Rim, one on the North Rim, and one at the bottom of the canyon. There are six more hotels or lodges outside the South Rim and one outside the North Rim. Where to stay will depend on your budget and the lodge or hotel availability. You can learn more about lodging at the Grand Canyon here on my website: Hotels and Lodges at the Grand Canyon
What are the restaurant options like at the Grand Canyon?
I recommend checking the national park's website for this information: Restaurants and Groceries
Which rim of the Grand Canyon is the best for photography?
This is a hot topic often answered by those that have only been to the canyon once or twice. After many years of photographing the Grand Canyon and countless trips to the South Rim and the North Rim, I can confidently say that both rims offer great photographic potential and that each is unique in its own way.
The South Rim of the canyon has nearly 30 viewpoints to photograph from, it's open all year, and there are more lodging & dining options. The North Rim is 500 to 1,300 feet higher, which means it's 5 to 10 degrees cooler, it's more heavily forested, and fewer people visit it, but it only has nine viewpoints, and it's only open seasonally from May 15th to October 15th.
The South Rim and the North Rim have unique views you won't find on the other rim. The South Rim offers more of the classic canyon view and has excellent views of the Colorado River. The North Rim has iconic views of Mount Hayden from Point Imperial and Wotans Throne from Cape Royal, but it doesn't provide a good view of the Colorado River. So, when I'm asked which rim is best, I honestly can't imagine choosing one over the other, as each is remarkable in its own unique way. I encourage you to visit and photograph both of them if you can.
Isn't it super crowded at the Grand Canyon?
Yes, and no. Some viewpoints are typically very crowded, no matter when you visit. If you are up for making some short walks or hikes, you can get away from the crowds and experience solitude at the Grand Canyon. One of my favorite stories is of photographing a summer sunrise over a holiday weekend, and my photo tour client and I had the canyon to ourselves.
What is the weather like at the Grand Canyon?
When discussing the weather at the Grand Canyon, it's important to distinguish between the weather on the canyon's rim and that at the bottom of the canyon, where it's much warmer and drier. This is because, generally, temperature increases by 5.5°F with each 1,000 feet loss in elevation, and the river is between 4,800 to 6,600 feet lower than the canyon's rim.
The South Rim is 7,000 to 7,500 feet above sea level and experiences four seasons with cold, snowy winters and warm summers. Winter lows dip into single digits; in the summer, high temperatures are in the high 80s to low 90s. The North Rim is 8,000 feet above sea level, reaching up to 8,803 feet at the highest viewpoint in the park. In the summer months, the temperatures on the North Rim can vary wildly from morning lows in the 40s (although I have experienced lows in the 30s) and afternoon highs in the upper 70s. Due to the North Rim's remoteness and the terrain's elevation, it is closed from October 15th to May 15th. Learn more: Weather and Climate at the Grand Canyon
Will I be able to photograph lightning at the Grand Canyon?
The best chance to photograph lightning at the Grand Canyon is during the Southwest monsoon, which is typically most active from the middle of July through the middle of September.
The Southwest monsoon, also known as the North American monsoon or Arizona monsoon, is a pronounced increase in thunderstorms and rainfall over large areas of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. During the monsoon, thunderstorms are fueled by daytime heating and build up during the late afternoon and early evening. Typically, these storms dissipate by late night, and the next day starts fair, with the cycle repeating daily.
Does it snow at the Grand Canyon?
Winter precipitation usually falls as snow on the canyon's rim but melts to rain before reaching the canyon floor. We typically see the first snowfall in November, although it can happen as early as October. The first heavy snowfalls usually occur mid to late December and continue through February. It is common for lighter snow to fall in March and April and occasionally into May, with Springtime snows melting quickly.
Throughout the season, the South Rim averages 58” of snow, and Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the canyon, is less than 1”. The North Rim receives the heaviest snowfall, averaging 142” per year, with a record snowfall of 272.8” (almost 23 feet) in 1978. Moisture for these winter storms generally comes from the North Pacific.
Is there much walking or hiking?
The walking or hiking distance is up to you on my private photography tours. We can drive to some viewpoints, while a few require a 10 to 15-minute walk over reasonably level terrain. I'm always happy to assist in carrying your camera gear to help you get your photos.
Will I have to stand on the edge of the canyon?
No. I want you to be comfortable and to have a good time while making beautiful photos. I encourage everyone to practice "the body length rule," which says you should stand back a distance from the edge equivalent to your height. In other words, if you're 6 feet tall, you should stand 6 feet from the edge.
Do I need a pass or permit to enter Grand Canyon National Park?
Yes. You will need to either purchase a temporary pass that allows you to enter the park for 7 days or you will need to purchase the America the Beautiful pass, which allows you to enter any national park for 1-year. You can learn more about the park passes on the park's website: Grand Canyon Fees & Passes
Are you permitted by the National Park Service?
Yes. I have held a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) permit issued by the National Park Service to conduct photography tours & workshops since 2010.
Do you provide transportation?
The National Park Service requires commercial vehicle insurance for tours and workshops that provide transportation. To keep costs down, I have elected, for the time being, to have you follow me in your vehicle. An advantage of this approach is that you can bring as much camera gear as you like without being restricted by bag or luggage restrictions placed by other companies.
Do I need a four-wheel drive vehicle?
Most of the roads in Grand Canyon National Park are paved and in good condition. We will not be off-roading during my photo tours or workshops. I recommend reserving a four-wheel drive vehicle for my winter (December through February) photo tours and workshops because snow is common at the Grand Canyon. You may find that you don't need a four-wheel drive if it hasn't snowed recently, but it's unlikely that you will be able to get a four-wheel drive vehicle if you attempt to reserve it on short notice. You can check road conditions at the Grand Canyon on the park's website: Grand Canyon Weather & Road Conditions
Why do you start in the afternoon instead of in the morning?
Starting in the afternoon allows us to work together before the light gets good. This means that we can work leisurely through any specific learning objectives you may have.
Do you offer Lightroom and Photoshop instruction?
Yes. I offer Lightroom and Photoshop instruction via Zoom as an additional service. I'm happy to work with your image files, and then I will send you the edited file so you can review the edits. The session is recorded and available for download, so you can play it back later and follow along at your own pace.
Do you offer image critiques and portfolio reviews?
Yes. I am available to provide image critiques of the technical and creative aspects of your photos and provide feedback to help you grow as a photographer. Please feel free to reach out to me for more information.
Do you enjoy being a professional photographer and guide?
Yes! I love what I do and the people that I meet. I can't imagine doing anything else. I'm the luckiest guy in the world.
Do you have any other questions?
Do you have a question that's not answered above? Please don't hesitate to contact me with your question, and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.