After we were shown our cabin and unpacked we started walking along the rim taking photos. As I mentioned in my first post on the Grand Canyon the view down into it seemingly changes by the minute. As the sun moves across the sky shadows form in different areas. Atmospheric haze can be seen more or less always but depending on the light it becomes more evident. Between the haze and the different locations of the sun, colors seem to change; intensifying or becoming muted.
If you're there after a rain shower the air becomes really clean and clear and the haze dissipates. On this trip there were no rain showers but the canyon is always wonderful to see. It is one of those places where you realize the enormity of the world and how small you are in it!! It's a great place to get a sense of perspective on life.
On the rim there are critters: the ones on the ground and the ones that fly.
The squirrels are very use to people and will take food from your hands. It is never a good idea to feed wild animals, they can become dependent on humans for food and loose their fear of us. In larger animals this can become really dangerous for humans. Also some of the food we usually have with us might not be healthy for the animals.
There are larger animals on the rim but I'd never seen any until later that night!! More about that later!
We wanted to try and photograph a sunset and one place to do that is at Mather Point. When we arrived there it was already getting crowded and we quickly staked out our place on the rim from where to shoot. I was amazed at the number of people, some with children who ventured out onto the rock outcroppings along the rim. These are natural formations and have no railings, one slip and you fall at least 450 feet on hard rock. Surviving a fall is rare. But people still feel the need to chance it. As you can see from this picture there is very little room for error. If the two people farthest out had ever slipped, stumbled or fallen they more than likely would have been dead.
As I was standing there looking at them I heard a voice say, " That's nature's way of thinning the herd." I turned and saw a man in his 50s fully bearded wearing a cowboy hat. He was a local guide speaking to a group that was with him. He told them that at least once a year someone falls to their death. He said, "It's almost always due to their own foolishness. People don't think and up here. If you don't think you could die". He said that the year before on the same rocks a couple had taken their really young child out and didn't hold the child's hand. The child ran towards them and something happened: the child ended up falling to it's death.
The sunset turned out not be anything great. Most people started leaving but we have been through this before. With nature nothing is guaranteed, it's not produced by Disney. We knew that sometime when the sun goes down you can still get some pretty nice images. We and a few others waited. It was not the best sunset we have ever seen but it was worth the wait.
I composed different images as the sun went down behind the mountain range. After dark we went over to the El Tovar Hotel for dinner. I think it is your best bet for a really good meal and a glass of wine (or two) on the rim.
After dinner we went upstairs to the lounge for a few adult beverages. We were lucky because there was a small patio with one table and no one was sitting there. We spent an hour or so out in the night air relaxing and talking about our day. We knew we had an early morning and decided two martinis would do. In hindsight one might have done the trick quite nicely!!
As we walked outside on the path to our cabin talking and laughing just enjoying the night and each other, we saw them. On the lawn in the back of the hotel were a few large plastic elks. I had my camera with me and thought it would be a fun image. Then I heard Phyllis say," Jim they're real!!" Now, why we thought that the park would put fake elk out side on the rim, I have no idea. Well, I think it had something to do with a few glasses of wine and a few martinis!!
I have photographed elk before in Colorado and other places. I know the signs when you're getting to close to them, there are no signs!! The only ones who know how close you can get to them without triggering a negative response are the elks. They get as big as a thousand pounds and have a surprising burst of speed. I knew that you should stay about 30 yards from them. I repeat, I knew this. I had photographed them in the past but not after a few drinks. Remember my mantra..ABS (Always Be Shooting). At night after a few drinks and close to wildlife may not be the best time to ABS!!
I took a photograph from a reasonable distance, (not 30 yards).
The elk ignored me which gave me a false sense of security. I had a mid range zoom with me and decided I wanted a closer picture. Now even though I knew you don't go running up to the elk, I slowly started walking closer photographing. In the background, I remember hearing Phyllis telling me not to get too close. But I proceeded to go closer.
At this point I am about 60 feet from the elk and you can see he is eating but keeping one eye looking at me.
I am now about 50 feet from it. He is paying much more attention to me at this point.
I knew at this point I was as close as I was going to get. He was still looking at me as he ate. When he put his head down to get more grass, I really noticed how large his antlers were. I also remember thinking if he charges me, I really don't have anywhere to run, the rim was about 60 feet behind me in darkness. I started thinking I should back up and get out of there. But this time when he brought his head back up from the ground, he snorted. That's not a good thing and I remember seeing him charge at me. I still took one more images as I was backing up quickly.
You can see I clipped off the top of his rack and a hoof. At this point I wasn't thinking too much of composition. I walked really quickly back and to my right. The elk charged once more but stopped a distance from me and just looked. A false charge meant to warn me. It worked!!
He went back to eating as we walked up the path but he kept looking at me, I think daring me to come back. I thought better of it and we went back to our cabin.
The next morning we went out early and started photographing the morning light on the canyon.
In this picture (above) you can see people (lower left) starting out on their hike down into the canyon.
This shows the early light warming up the walls of the canyon and reaching into some points in the canyon.
The images below are of Lookout Studio. It was designed in 1914 by Mary Colter as a gift shop and lookout point. There are two good lookout points opened in good weather. You can see how well it was designed to blend into the surroundings.
This is the top of the rim in the early morning. There are not too many people up and walking around. You can see a small retaining wall and a bench carved out of trees from the canyon.
Like I had written in my earlier post, I have visited the Grand Canyon many times over the years. Every time I visit, walk up to the rim and look down and out at this wondrous canyon, I feel the same feeling: a sense of solitude, no matter how many other people are near and a renewed respect for nature and the natural world. This is a wonderful country and world with many amazing areas. Go into it and search them out. The closer we all get to nature the more we will understand what we stand to lose if we do not try harder to co-exist with nature.
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