Culture Magazine

The Grand Experience

By Jpbrandanophoto @JPBrandanophoto
Although I am a Florida based photographer, I have been lucky to travel to other states and countries. I have seen the mountainous beauty of the Canadian Rockies, the free to roam wildlife in Colorado, the great vistas of Arizona, the shear wonder of the haystacks along the Oregon Coast, the diverse ecosystems of Washington State, the colorful surroundings in Nassau and Saint Martin islands, the Spanish Steps in Rome and the art and architecture of Florence, Italy. 
These all, in their own rights, are amazing sights to experience but for me, three stand out as a total awe inspiring moment when they first come into view. When you visit Seattle, you can see Mount Rainier in the distance from all over the city. As you are driving toward Rainier, it is omnipresent, always there in your sight. After you enter the park and are driving on a tree lined road, you loose sight of it for awhile. At one point the road bends and as you come around that bend it appears, looming large and truly magnificent; seemingly filling up the sky in front of you. It is snow capped, breathtaking in its enormity, with a beautiful deep blue sky surrounding it. We have visited three times and each time it is truly an amazing experience, one of those times that for a moment you don't speak you just look and enjoy nature's work. 
In Rome, at the Vatican you can take a tour and at a certain point you enter the Sistine Chapel. My eye and I think most other people's eyes are drawn to the ceiling and to Michelangelo's fresco painted circa 1511. It illustrates the biblical story from the book of Genesis in which God, the Father breathes life into Adam, the first man. God is depicted as an elderly white bearded man wrapped in a swirling cloak while Adam, on the lower left is completely naked. God's right arm is outstretched to impart the spark of life from his own finger into that of Adam, whose left arm is extended in a pose mirroring God's. 
When I looked up and saw this and realized that I was in the presence of a truly fantastic piece of both art and history dating back to the 1500s, I experienced a strange feeling, a mixture of excitement and serenity.  I stood with others our heads raised in awe of this wonderful piece of art painted by an artist who was mainly a sculptor. He stood for hours on a large scaffold with his neck bent back painting his vision, a vision that has lasted over 500 years. Whatever religious doctrine you believe or don't believe, you cannot help but be in awe the first time you see this magnificent sight.
The last of my three stand out experiences was the first in chronological order for me. In the 1970s, I moved from Massachusetts in the USA to the state of Arizona. I was not there very long when I knew I had to see the one place in Arizona you have to see if you're a photographer or not, the Grand Canyon. It was about a three hour drive back then and when we entered the park we found a line of cars traveling slowly up towards the rim. If my memory is correct it took us about an hour to reach the rim and find a parking space. We parked and I walked very quickly up to the rim and look out and into nature's work of art.
I am not sure anything has ever been named better than this canyon! What other word can best describe the experience of seeing this for the first or the one hundredth time. I am not sure how many times over the last thirty years I have visited but each time I do, I still find myself just standing and staring out into this wondrous canyon. 
The last time Phyllis and I visited was 2009. We decided to book a cabin on the rim and stay overnight. If you decide to stay at the rim, call months earlier than the date you want to stay, as you can imagine their rooms are booked months ahead. There are a few accommodations right on the rim. The two hotels are the Tovar and the Bright Angel Lodge. Another option is to rent cabins which are less then a one hundred feet from the rim. While not overly luxurious, they are really great to stay in. We stayed in a one bedroom called the Pioneer Cabin and would stay in it again, gladly. Below is the desk where you check in.
THE GRAND EXPERIENCEThis was the cabin we stayed in for the night.
THE GRAND EXPERIENCEThese are some of the views from about 100 feet from our cabin.THE GRAND EXPERIENCE
This is not an amusement park but a real life nature experience and with that comes real life responsibilities and danger. We spoke to one of the park rangers and found out that almost every year people fall to their deaths here. While the rim has a small wall running along it (maybe 3 feet high) in many areas it is a pretty shear drop to the bottom about 5000 feet below.

That past year a family was standing on an area with no retaining wall and as the mother stepped back to take a picture, she stumbled and fell over the edge to her death. A young man was showing off  and attempted to jump out to an area much like the white outcropping in the above photo. He made a great jump but a very poor landing both on the outcropping and on the floor of the canyon, falling to his death. I do not want to see anyone fall to their death but people need to take precautions and be aware of their surroundings at all times when out in nature. The star here is nature not us and nature can be very unforgiving! THE GRAND EXPERIENCE
THE GRAND EXPERIENCE  Below is one of the buildings on the rim. This is actually a gift shop lol, you always need a gift shop!!!

THE GRAND EXPERIENCE Some of the things that makes the canyon a beautiful and difficult place to photograph is the haze, changing light and the contrast that is almost always present. In my next installment, I have more images of this GRAND CANYON and my story of meeting an elk on the rim, very late at night, while walking back to our cabin after dinner and a few adult beverages.

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