Properly known as Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the site offers photographers of all types a memorable experience. It presents serious photographers some challenges and great satisfaction if they are pleased with their efforts.
Tom and I arrived at the park late in the afternoon. After setting up Mellie in the park's campground (30 amp electric provided but no water or dumping), we headed out to explore. The very first stop we chose was Devil's Lookout. We quickly realized that we had a huge challenge ahead of us. How were we going to capture the essence of this place? We had read that photographers often felt that their images were wanting in this regard. Now we understood! The photos we selected (above) were the best we could do in meeting the challenge.
Along with trying to capture the true sense of the space, we were challenged by the wide dynamic range. The name, Black Canyon, is a well deserved one. The narrow walls of the deep canyon means that many gorgeous spots have one side of the canyon or the other side in deep shadows. Some parts of the bottom of the canyon only get 33 minutes of sunlight a day! Our eyes can easily discern and span the dynamic range. Even our expensive camera sensors struggle to capture the scene properly. I tried using a graduated neutral density filters (limited success), bracketed shots (sometimes worked) and even some extreme and focused post editing to try and get it to look like I saw it.
Steep canyon walls just add to the sense of grandeur of the place. Dynamic range aside, add what I called rock wall graffiti and you get a wonderful appreciation of what has been created here. The best example of this can be seen at Painted Wall. This massive rock wall rises 2,250 feet above the river. What makes it so interesting are the pegmatite intrusions that run against a dark schist. We saw these intrusions throughout the canyon but none quite as impressive as those on the Painted Wall. They are also viewed at Dragon Point and Cedar Point. Some of the intrusions have names, such as 'Dragon'.
I have mentioned the river, its roar and the whitewater rapids. How to capture the force one hears and sees is a bit of a challenge. So, I tried taking my camera off the tripod, hanging over a couple of rails, (a quick prayer helps still the heart at this point) and pointing straight down into the river below with my long lens. A pounding heart does not help still the camera!!
There is more to this park than steep walls, a roaring river, natural wall graffiti and a sense of utter expansiveness. There are lovely paths, lots of flowers, critters and birds of all sorts, deer outside our window in the morning, well signed paths, ample parking, solitude, and so much more. The park only gets about 250,000 visitors a year (compare that with 4.5M in 2013 at the Grand Canyon and 4m at Yosemite). There are no tour buses, hordes of tourists pushing each other around at small lookouts or waiting for parking spaces. It seems to be a well kept secret.
There are so many reasons to return to this park and photograph it in a different season and light. My heart is full. Thank you for sharing with us. We think of our friends and family often as we are out and about. I especially remember my mother. She would have reveled in this trip and its posting. She would look at the images again and again, checking every detail. Then she would whip out an email with questions! I miss sharing with her. Sharing with you makes up for a great deal of that 'missing'. I was not expecting that. Thanks for being there. Better still . . . if you can . . . grab your camera, pack lightly and head up to Black Canyon. My hope is that our images will inspire you to make this trip, or any other trip for that matter, and share with other photographers who are looking for good photo opportunities.