Rafting the Grand Canyon • 10-Day Photography Expedition

Morning in the Granite Gorge

April 29 - May 9, 2025

Join us for a 10-day, 225-mile trip rafting the Colorado River on a photography journey through the Grand Canyon, the most incredible natural cathedral on Earth! The trip is led by professional river guides who are accomplished outdoors persons with a background in natural history and the ability to make each river trip special and memorable. They will guide our boats through the rapids of the mighty Colorado River and lead the hikes to the photography locations, which include slot canyons, waterfalls, and ancient archaeological sites.

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 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, micro four-thirds, full-frame, medium format, or large format, color or black & white, we have a spot for you.

Two photographers with cameras on tripods photograph the Grand Canyon with the Colorado River in the background.

A couple of photographers enjoy the view from an overlook high above the river, but still far below the canyon's rim.

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.

Who Are 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 three guests.

In addition to piloting 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.

Boatman John "Bugs" Buggenhagen is having a great time chatting with his passengers as they float the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon one on of our 18-day oar-powered trips.

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 fourth on the way.

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

Approaching the Navajo Bridges on a rafting trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

The Boats

We will be using two motorized boats on this expedition. The primary boat is a 37-foot-long "S-rig," as seen in the photo below. The S-rig is designed to carry up to 14 passengers and two river guides. In addition to carrying passengers, this boat also is used to carry all of our camp equipment. The secondary boat on our trip, known as a "Baby J," is piloted by two river guides and is used to carry our camera gear. The Baby-J can also transport up to 4 passengers for anyone that is looking for a more adventurous ride.

A Tour West "S-Rig" raft departs Lees Ferry at mile 0 on the Colorado River, heading downstream on a 10-day, 226-mile river trip.

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 take down your cot and 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.

A group of river runners gather around the campfire while eating dinner at Little Redwall camp in Grand Canyon National Park.

Gathering around the campfire while eating dinner.

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.

Photography Locations

With 225 miles of river corridor to cover over 10 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 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.

A Desert Bighorn sheep walks on rocks along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

The Desert Bighorn sheep are frequently seen along the river. This one walked the bank of the Colorado River keeping pace with us for nearly a half-mile.

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.

Tall limestone cliffs glow yellow, orange,, and red in the reflected light of Saddle Canyon in the Grand Canyon. A tree with green leaves gives scale.

The warm glow of reflected light in Saddle Canyon, a side canyon to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

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.

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).

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 Tour West in the registration paperwork of your specific needs to best accommodate you.

Two river guides preparing dinner in a pot over a flame at night while camping in the Grand Canyon.

Jacob and John, two of our river guides, prepare dinner at "Sticks" camp at river mile 110.

What is the Weather Like?

Spring 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 Spring trip has cooler temperatures, with highs on most days in the upper 80s to the low 90s (29-35°C). Overnight lows are typically in the 60s and can dip into the 50s (17-12°C).

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

What's 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.
  • 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 a tent, ground cloth (tarp), sleeping bag, cot, 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 Lees 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. We recommend dry bags made by Watershed.
  • 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.
  • $20.00 fee to enter Grand Canyon National Park*
  • Medical Evacuation Insurance
  • Travel Insurance**
  • Gratuities for the river guides
  • Anything not listed on the 'What's Included' list above

* This fee is waived if you have a valid America the Beautiful - The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, also often referred to as a "parks pass."

** For best coverage, clients must purchase travel insurance within 14 days of paying their initial deposit.

Trip Preparation

Participants in this river trip and workshop will be provided with a PDF document packed full of helpful information to 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.
A moonlit view of the Colorado River and yellow rafts in the Grand Canyon.

A moonlit view of the Colorado River and our boats at Nankoweap Camp at river mile 53.5.

Pre-Trip Orientation

There will be a pre-trip meet & greet and orientation session via a Zoom meeting on February 22nd, 2025. In this orientation, I will demonstrate how I pack my gear, including my cameras and lenses, and cover many other topics.

The Zoom meeting will be recorded and available to be played back at your convenience.

Trip Itinerary

April 29th: We will meet at 3:00 pm at Ceiba Adventures* in Flagstaff, Arizona, and then Ceiba will shuttle us in their vans to Marble Canyon Lodge**, where we will spend the night before the river trip. You will have an opportunity to grab dinner at the lodge, and afterward, we will meet the river guides.

April 30th: After grabbing an early breakfast, we will load our gear onto the shuttle for the short ride to Lees Ferry, where we will then load our gear onto the boats and start our trip.

May 9th: This is the last day on the river. We will take out at Diamond Creek, 225 miles downstream of Lees Ferry. Ceiba will have a shuttle vehicle there to pick us up and take us back to Flagstaff. Don’t expect to be back in Flagstaff much before early afternoon.

* You can leave your vehicle at Ceiba Adventures in their secure locked facility for a daily fee. Ceiba has not yet set the rate for their parking fee in 2025, 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 $120.00.

Studying the map book and disucssing possible locations to photograph along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The 'Guide to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon' by Tom Martin and Duwain Whitis is perhaps the most comprehensive guide book and map of the river corridor within the canyon. © Adam Schallau, All Rights Reserved.

Post-Trip Lightroom Instruction

I will provide a post-trip Lightroom instruction session via Zoom on June 14th, 2025. I'll use participant photographs made during the river trip to 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.

River Trip & Workshop Cost

The National Park Service requires all photography workshops on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon to list the outfitter's cost separately from the additional fee for the workshop component of the trip. For this river trip and photography workshop, the following charges apply:

  • Tour West (the outfitter) is charging $4950.00 per participant.
  • The cost for the workshop provided by Adam Schallau Photography is $1200.00 per participant.

We Hope You Can Join Us!

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

Come join us in rafting the Colorado River and photographing the Grand Canyon!

Sign Me Up!

To reserve your spot on this trip, a deposit of $800.00 is due to Tour West, and the workshop fee of $1200.00 is due to Adam Schallau Photography. The final payment for the river trip portion is due to Tour West no later than January 2nd, 2025.

You can start the process of reserving your spot on this expedition 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 their deposit.

We look forward to seeing you on the river!

Payment methods accepted on this website.