Grand Canyon Photography Gear Guide

This guide has been created to assist you in planning & preparing for your photography trip to the Grand Canyon. Being photographers, we tend to obsess over our gear. Equally as important as bringing the right camera gear is bringing the right personal gear to best cope with the high-desert environment of northern Arizona.

Besides bringing your camera and a selection of lenses, your gear selection will revolve around when you are visiting. While we know that in most of Arizona, the temperature gets pretty hot and that it’s hot for most of the year, the reality is that northern Arizona and especially the Grand Canyon are not like the rest of the state. Please be sure to take note of the type of weather you could have while visiting the Grand Canyon.

Please note that all of the products recommended are products I would use myself. I am an affiliate marketer with B&H Photo, and I am a brand ambassador for ARCA-SWISS. Some of the links below are affiliate links, and if you purchase something through one of these links, I may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.


Camera and Lenses

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 be using an ultra-wide angle lens. I routinely use lenses with a wide range of lens focal lengths, including going as long as 300mm at the canyon to create compressed telephoto stacked compositions.

For those who are shooting with full-frame camera systems, I recommend covering focal lengths from 16mm to 300mm. For APS-C "crop" camera shooters, he recommends from 12mm to 200mm.

Landscape Photography Lenses

  • Ultrawide Zoom: 12-24mm or 16-35mm
  • Mid-range Zoom: 24-70mm or 24-105mm
  • Telephoto Zoom: 70-300mm or 100-400mm

Tripods & Ballheads

A good tripod is necessary as you will be shooting during the "blue hour" light before sunrise and after sunset. This means you will have very long exposure times, upwards of 30 seconds. Another reason to have a good tripod is to help stabilize the camera in windy conditions, which are quite common at the Grand Canyon.

After using ballheads for over 20 years, I have recently switched to using heads with geared movements that allow me to make small but highly accurate adjustments to my composition. Since late 2022, I've been using the ARCA-SWISS C1 Cube Geared Head and the ARCA-SWISS p0+Hybrid. The Cube is my primary tripod head, and I use the p0+Hybrid as a lightweight option when I'm hiking more than a few miles. I encourage you to check out the Arca-Swiss products on their website, as I'm sure you'll find one that is perfect for you. Learn more about ARCA-SWISS Tripod Heads.


Filters

I recommend using filters, when necessary, to get the photo as right as possible in the camera. To do this, I use both circular polarizer (CPL) filters and graduated neutral density (GND) filters. The polarizer is used to remove unwanted glare and reflections from the surface of foliage or water. It can also have the added benefit of saturating the colors.

My kit consists of filters made by Breakthrough Photography, including the X4 UV, X4 circular polarizers, and X4 Dark 3-stop circular polarizer filters. I keep a set of UV/clear filters in my bag to use when shooting in harsh conditions, such as blowing sand. You can read more about these filters in my Review of the Breakthrough Photography X4 and X4 Dark Circular Polarizer Filters.

My Filter Kit


Lightning Triggers

If you're visiting the Grand Canyon during the summer monsoon, I strongly suggest bringing a lightning trigger. My favorite trigger is the Lightning Bug Plus by MK Controls. You can learn more about using a lightning trigger in my blog post Photographing Lightning at Grand Canyon.


Gear for the Monsoon Season

Some of the best photo opportunities happen just before or after it has rained. For this reason, it's important to have rain protection for your camera. This can be something as simple and cheap as a shower cap or something more substantial as a dedicated camera rain cover. I have been using the Think Tank Photo Emergency Rain Cover. It is easy to use, it's well made, and it has a window allowing you to see the rear LCD display on the camera.


Photo Backpacks

Finally, you will want a photo backpack to carry everything in. This helps to keep your hands free when walking on uneven terrain, and it gives a place to hold snacks, a rain jacket, sunscreen, a hat, and water.

I am a big fan of the Mountain Series of packs made by F-Stop Gear. Their system is designed around what they call an Internal Camera Unit (ICU), which is the camera compartment within the pack. They make various sizes of ICUs to fit a variety of needs. The ICU then slips into their packs, allowing you to select a pack that best suits your needs and is adaptable via different ICUs. They do a great job on their site of explaining how all of this works.


What About Drones?

Drones are not currently allowed to be operated in National Parks. If you bring a drone with you, please do not operate it from within the park.


Planning for the Weather

Temperatures on the canyon's rim can range from summer highs in the low 90s to winter lows well below freezing. This is due to the elevation of the canyon’s rim. The altitude above sea level on the South Rim ranges from 6,700 to 7,500 feet (2,040 to 2,290 meters), and on the North Rim, it ranges from 7,500 to 8,803 feet (2,290 to 2,685 meters).

The Summer Months: During the summer months, the average high temperatures can be in the 80s (27-32°C), with early morning temperatures occasionally dipping into the 40s (4-9°C). June is the hottest month at the canyon, and temperatures can get into the 90°s. Due to the high altitude, there is less atmosphere to block out the sun. Be sure to bring a sunhat and plenty of sunscreen. The sun is intense here, and you can get sunburned very quickly.

The Monsoon Season: From mid-July through mid-September, the Grand Canyon and most of the American Southwest experience a significant shift in the weather patterns with the arrival of the Southwest Monsoon. This period typically has afternoon thunderstorms with brief periods of heavy rain. This is also the time of year when the storms tend to produce lightning and rainbows.

The Winter Months: The canyon's rim can be very cold during the winter months, and I have seen temperatures go below freezing as early as September and as late as May. Winter also brings the chance of snow, with the South Rim averaging about 60″ of snowfall annually.


Dress for Success

It’s important to come prepared with the right clothing. REI has a wonderful page dedicated to learning How to Layer Clothes for a winter environment.


Water

If you can, please bring a reusable water bottle with you. There are several water refill stations in Grand Canyon National Park where you can refill your reusable water bottle or a hydration bladder for no charge.


Where to Buy Camera Gear?

I have been purchasing much of my gear from B&H Photo for almost 25 years. They have consistently had the best prices, they always provide top-notch customer service, and they have a great return policy. You could spend your time shopping around on the web and wondering if you made the right decision, or you could buy from B&H.

If you're in the market for an Arca-Swiss tripod head, I recommend making your purchase directly through ARCA-SWISS USA.