Rafting the Grand Canyon • 18-Day Photography Expedition

Waterfall in the Canyon

A Photographic Exploration of
the Colorado River Through The Grand Canyon

September 20th - October 8th, 2023

Only 2 Spots Left!

A journey through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River should not be rushed. The river corridor is a place where the visitor should take the time to immerse themselves in the experience of floating through the most incredible natural cathedral on Earth.

This 18-day, 226-mile river trip is just such a journey as we pay respect to the Colorado River by taking our time to listen, see, and feel the magic of the mighty river. While the pace may be slow and relaxed, we will also experience the thrill and excitement of running the rapids as our professional guides handle the rowing. And, because this is a row trip, nature's sounds will prevail. You will be able to hear the gentle sound of the river as it flows over rocks, and the song of a Canyon Wren will be heard over and over.

Most river trips rush through the canyon in an 8-day or 10-day experience, but on this trip you will discover the luxury of time and the ability it affords to explore more of the canyon. When you raise your camera to your eye, you will discover that the low-angle sun of autumn light makes for gorgeous photo opportunities as canyon walls fall into the shade which is softly lit by reflected light and color.

Who is this Workshop For?

This workshop is for anyone with a spirit of adventure, and it is open to all skill levels. We will be hiking into several side canyons with a moderate to difficult fitness level required. Our river guides lead the hikes and assist in getting you to the photo locations.

Photographically speaking, the trip is open to anyone that loves the art of photography. Whether you shoot digital or film, full-frame, medium format, or large format, color or black & white, we have a spot for you.

What About Family & Friends?

This trip is also open to anyone, and you do not need to be a photographer. We often have spouses, significant others, family members, and friends who come along on the trip. All are welcome!

Our 2019 expedition team on the final morning of the trip.

The River Guides

All of our river guides are professional boatmen who are whitewater qualified with hundreds of miles of river experience. The river guides are also Wilderness First Responders. Each guide is an accomplished outdoors person with a background in natural history and the ability to make each river trip special and memorable. For this trip, we will have one river guide for every four guests.

In addition to rowing the boats, setting up camp facilities, cooking the meals, and leading the hikes, the river guides are also eager to do whatever they can to assist you in making your photos. Our river guides love what they do, and it shows!

Our head river guide, otherwise known as the 'Trip Leader' or 'TL' for short, is John Buggenhagen, who also answers to "Bugs" or "Bugsy" when we're on the river. He graduated from the University of Wyoming with a Ph.D. in Geophysics in 1999. John brings a tremendous wealth of Grand Canyon knowledge, experience, and passion. He started backpacking in Grand Canyon in 1989 and has hiked over 1,000 miles within the canyon between the river and the rims. He has successfully navigated the river more than 40 times, both in oar-powered rafts and motor rigs.

John and I have teamed up to lead trips on the river several times. We love working together to give you the best experience possible.

Colorado river boatman John "Bugs" Buggenhagen is having a great time chatting with his passengers as they float the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

About Tour West

From the Tour West website: Tour West has been providing white water rafting trips on the rivers throughout the West for over 50 years. While many things have changed in the river running business, our philosophy has remained the same. A river trip is more than a vacation, it is an experience. Very few people go on a river trip and come back unchanged. We feel fortunate to be able to be a part of that experience.

Tour West is a family owned business. The owner Frank Stratton, was a schoolteacher and a farmer before he became involved in the river industry. His friend invited him to come on a raft trip through the Grand Canyon and the rest is history. They soon organized a company and began providing rafting trips to the public. Eventually the other owners sold out leaving Frank Stratton the sole owner of Tour West. Currently there are three generations involved in Tour West, with the forth on the way.

Tour West is an Authorized Concessioner under contract with the U.S. Government and administered by the National Park Service.

Rafting the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
Tour West river guide Brian Yadon is rowing a Tour West boat through Upset Rapid at river mile 150. If you look closely, you can see a very big smile.

The Boats

The 18-foot long oar boats are designed to be the classic Grand Canyon raft. This raft is built outfitter-tough and is stable, ready to take on the biggest waters on the planet. This boat was designed to carry anything and everything down the world's largest rivers. It has four main tube air chambers and is self-bailing, which means no one has to throw water over the side in a bucket. Each of these boats has a dedicated boatman on the oars so that you can enjoy the ride.

We will be using these boats to carry both passengers and gear. We will have several of these boats dedicated to only carrying gear, which allows us more space for our photo gear.

Last Light at Vaseys
The sun begins to dip behind the red walls of Marble Canyon.

In addition to the 18-foot oar boats, we plan to have a dory boat on this trip. A dory is a beautiful wooden boat capable of carrying three to four passengers plus the boatman. The dory offers a unique alternative to the rubber rafts. The dory also makes a beautiful subject to photograph as its elegant lines pass beneath the towering cliffs of the canyon.

A wooden boat known as a dory rests along the bank of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

Life on the River

Each morning your guides will prepare a hearty breakfast. Immediately after breakfast, you will make a sack lunch, which you will keep in your day bag on the boat. After eating your breakfast and making lunch, you will return to your campsite to pack up your belongings into a dry bag. After bringing your bag down to the boats, guests participate in the bag line once again, and then you are off on another adventure-filled day.

Most days include rafting for a few hours at a time, stopping for scenic side-canyon hikes and photography sessions, bathroom breaks, and lots of fun, laughter, learning, and excitement in between.

After a full day of river excitement, you will arrive at camp. Guests will have time to find their favorite campsite and then return to the rafts to create a bag line︎ ︎which is how︎ ︎we load and ︎unload ︎the ︎rafts. Your help in passing the gear on and off the boat is greatly appreciated and can help you feel a part of the whole river experience. Still, you are not required to if you have physical restrictions or limitations that keep you from participating in this.

While you relax, take in the beautiful surroundings, or work on your photography, our guides will prepare dinner. Every night is different, but the menu may include fajitas, BBQ chicken with rice and veggies, lasagna, steak with sautéed mushrooms & onions (on the side if you prefer), and other fresh and delicious meals.

At night you will relax under a vast canopy of stars as the fresh air and rhythm of the river lull you to sleep.

Under the Stars

Relaxing by a campfire under a starry sky after a long day rafting the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

Photography Locations

With 226 miles of river corridor to cover over 18 days, we will have some fantastic opportunities to photograph a wide range of subjects and locations. I work very closely with our TL before the trip to work out a plan, and then once we are on the river, the boatmen and I do everything we can to make that plan a reality. The boatmen and I also spend a lot of time chatting with other trips on the river to work out what camps we're all going to stay at so that we can hopefully all enjoy as much of the river as possible without stepping on each other's toes.

We hope to photograph popular locations such as the reflecting pool in North Canyon, Redwall Cavern, Nankoweap granaries, the Confluence, Elves Chasm, Deer Creek Falls and the Patio, and many more iconic locations. That said, due to the nature of the river experience, it's not possible to guarantee that we will stop at any specific location or be at a location in the best light. The reality is that it takes many years and multiple trips to see and photograph a majority of the popular spots along the river.

Photographic success comes from being spontaneous while being true to your creative vision. As photographers, we must be able to adapt to changes in light & weather (and a change of plans) while asking ourselves what we feel in the moment and then making a photo that honors and expresses that feeling. My personal approach to photography is to be open, creatively speaking, to new ideas. This means that while I may go somewhere with a specific shot in mind, I am ready to adapt to change and see the new opportunities as they are presented. I genuinely believe that a good photographer can make a great photograph in any light! This is one of the many things I hope to pass along to you on this trip.

Elves Chasm

The waterfalls of Elves Chasm on Royal Arch Creek. Photo © Adam Schallau, All Rights Reserved.

The Photography Sessions

The are many photo opportunities on the river, including shooting from the boats, hiking the side canyons, and in and around camp before breakfast and in the late afternoon. There will also be the opportunity to photograph the night sky above the canyon.

There will be organized group photography sessions, typically during our hikes in the side canyons, during which I will be providing instruction and sharing ideas. You will also have the opportunity to photograph independently if you like.

At night after dinner, we will discuss our plans and goals for the following day. We will open up the maps and chat about how far we expect to go and what possible photography locations we may hike to.

At the bottom of this page, you will see a small assortment of photographs I have made on river trips. You can see even more photos from the river in my Into the Canyon gallery (the link will open in a new window so that you don't lose this page).

Studying the map book and discussing possible locations to photograph along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

What is the Menu Like?

Our river guides take pride in offering well-rounded meals that are very appetizing with sufficient quantities for everyone. Breakfast items include many traditional favorites from pancakes to omelets, fresh fruits, and juices. Lunches are a favorite with various deli meats and cheeses, salads, chips, and cookies. Dinner includes fresh salads, chicken, steak, meals with an international theme, side dishes, and of course, desserts. All meals include water and lemonade to drink.

NOTE: If you have a special diet or allergies, please inform us of your specific needs to best accommodate you.

What is the Weather Like?

Autumn is a great time of year to be in the canyon. While the canyon is known for being incredibly hot during the peak of the summer months, our fall trip has far cooler temperatures with highs on most days in the upper 80s (27-32°C) and occasionally in the low 90s. Overnight lows are typically in the 50s and can dip into the 40s (4-9°C).

Rafts float downstream on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

Trip Preparation

Participants in this river trip and workshop will be provided with a PDF document packed full of helpful information so that you can make the most of this unique and rewarding experience. In the PDF, you will find:

  • A detailed gear guide covering what clothing to bring and how to pack.
  • Camera equipment recommendations include what lenses to have and much more.
  • How to protect your camera gear on the river.
  • Information regarding battery and memory card management.

There will also be a pre-trip orientation session via a Zoom meeting in June 2023. In this orientation, I will be demonstrating how I pack my cameras and lenses and cover many other topics. The Zoom meeting will be recorded and available to be played back at your convenience.

Post-Trip Lightroom Instruction

I will be providing a post-trip Lightroom instruction session via Zoom on November 18th, 2023, using photographs made during the river trip. I'll share my approach to editing raw images using global and local adjustments to create moody and impactful images. The Lightroom session will be recorded for later playback.

What is Included?

  • Professional river guides who are all whitewater qualified with hundreds of miles of river experience. Each guide is an accomplished outdoors person with a background in natural history and the ability to make each river trip special and memorable.
  • Boats – Custom-made, compartmentalized, and unsinkable. We have arranged to have several extra boats on this trip that are dedicated to carrying our gear so that the photographers can bring more camera gear!
  • Life Jackets – of special whitewater design.
  • Meals – all meals on the river starting with lunch the first day on the river and ending with breakfast the last morning. All meals are expertly prepared and cooked by our river guides.
  • Cooking facilities – all cooking items, including eating utensils.
  • Camping toilet facilities, toilet paper, and supplies.
  • Beverages – unlimited water and lemonade. Coffee, tea & hot chocolate in the morning.
  • Camping equipment includes; Tent, ground cloth (tarp), a sleeping bag, and a comfortable sleeping pad.
  • Waterproof bag – 16” X 33” 108 liters to put your personal duffel bag into during the trip.
  • Small water-resistant bag --9.5” X 20” 22 liters--accessible at all times) for personal articles.
  • Transportation from Flagstaff to the put-in at Lee’s Ferry and from the takeout at Diamond Creek back to Flagstaff.
  • Lessons on geology, ecology, and the history of the river.
  • Professional photographic guidance and instruction.

What's Not Included?

  • A dry bag to protect your camera pack.
  • Padded case for your tripod and a dry bag for this to slip into.
  • Alcoholic beverages. You are welcome to bring your own.
  • Meals before the trip, including the evening at Marble Canyon Lodge.
  • Personal items, i.e., clothing, water bottles, medications, etc.
  • Medical Evacuation Insurance
  • Travel Insurance
  • Gratuities for the river guides
  • Anything not listed on the 'What's Included List' above.

Trip Itinerary

September 20th: Our group will meet up in the afternoon at Ceiba Adventures* in Flagstaff, Arizona. Ceiba will drive us to the remote outpost of Marble Canyon Lodge, where we will stay that night. You can leave your vehicle at Ceiba in their secure, locked facility. After we arrive and get checked into our rooms at Marble Canyon Lodge, we will have a group dinner.

September 21st: Rise and get your breakfast at the lodge restaurant and be ready for a shuttle to take you down to Lees Ferry at 8:30 am. At Lees Ferry, we will meet our river guides and the Trip Leader (TL). The TL will give an orientation where we will provide you with your dry bags for packing your personal items into (these dry bags are not for camera gear) and go over some of the trip basics.

October 8th: On the morning of October 8th, we will arrive at Diamond Creek, 226 miles downstream of Lees Ferry. Ceiba will have a shuttle vehicle there to pick you up and take you back to Flagstaff to the place where you started. Don’t expect to be back in Flagstaff much before early afternoon. This is the end of the trip. Thank you for joining us on the river!

* You can leave your vehicle at Ceiba Adventures in their secure locked facility for a daily fee. Ceiba has not yet set its parking fee rate for 2023, but it's safe to plan for approximately $5.00 per day.

** Double-occupancy lodging at Marble Canyon Lodge is included. You may upgrade to single-occupancy lodging for an additional $100.00.

River Trip & Workshop Cost

The National Park Service requires all photography workshops on the river to list the outfitter's cost separately from the additional fee for the workshop component of the trip. For this river trip and workshop, the Tour West (the outfitter) cost is $6900.00 per guest, and the Adam Schallau Photography workshop fee is $1200.00 per participant.

We Hope You Can Join Us!

Please feel free to reach out to Sally or me if you have any questions. You can send us a message through the Contact form on this website, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

We hope you can join us for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the majesty of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River.

Sign Me up!

To reserve your spot on this trip the workshop fee of $1200.00 is due to Adam Schallau Photography.

You can start the process by purchasing the workshop portion of the trip by adding it to your cart below. Once your payment is received, I will reach out to you with the Tour West paperwork and instructions regarding how to pay them for the cost of the river trip portion of the experience.

Payment methods accepted on this website.


Morning in the Granite Gorge
North Canyon Reflection
Grandeur in Reflection
Elves Chasm
Clear Creek Falls
In Marble Canyon
Under the Stars
End of the Day
Whispers in Blacktail
Return of Sacred Waters
Rivers of the Canyon and the Sky