“Golden Hour” is photographers’ light in the minutes bracketing sunrise, or sunset. In the Canyon, due to the 7,000 ft elevation, sunrise comes several hours later than it does at sea-level. But, it’s worth the wait. The minerals reflect a unique color palette. In Grand Canyon there isn’t a “Golden Hour,” because the Sun is high in the sky by the time it rises over the Canyon. We just call it Magic Hour, which appears intermittently throughout the day for only a few moments at a time. It is great fortune to be in the right spot when it happens.
Our timing that morning was serendipitous. These moments last but moments. Capturing these images was never in The Plan but they’re always in my thoughts whenever I think of that day.
Heading down The Kaibab during magic hour on the coldest day of the year was like getting a private showing at Dylan’s Candy Bar… few are present so you begin fumbling around scatter-shot. Only hardcore hikers or foolish old men come out in these conditions. It was seventeen degrees but I didn’t notice. Enthralled, I lost my sense of time, my vertigo… and my footing… the rest is in the book.
Skies wreak havoc with DSLR sensors, but editing can make it look fake. Printers have an even more difficult time rendering authentic tone. This is pretty damn close. People don’t believe the sky can become turquoise until they see it happen with their own eyes, and sometimes not even then.
I always wished we had something besides water with which to toast these views. As the book reveals, it would have been better if I would have at least used the water.
This light show on South Kaibab made everything look softer than it was. Grand Canyon is very much the world of deception beyond La Mancha.
This is exactly how it looks in the moment… for a moment.
Views from the Canyon floor around Phantom Ranch evoke Mary Colter’s christening of this place. If you don’t believe in ghosts when you arrive, you will after exploring the environs of Phantom Ranch. The combination of temperature extremes, exhaustion, and freaky vistas, cause rock formations to transmogrify into Jungian archetypes… a toxic brew of apparitions conjured from primordial memory.
There’s nothing soft or lengthy about the Canyon floor’s “golden hour.” It’s saturated and momentary. In the Canyon, these oncoming moments leave as quickly as they come. It is rare fortune to encounter them with a camera and lens capable of doing the scene minimal justice. The Canyon merits the exquisite skill of a sensitive professional with the right gear. I was not even an “enthusiast” in spite of my ludicrous boast in the chapter, “My Dinner with Jeff.” I wasn’t even a rank amateur. A hobbyist, maybe. A babe in the woods, certainly. The barenaked truth is I was damn lucky to get what I got.
The Canyon Floor, morning, January 29th 2014
This is where I wrote The Light Lies Down passage after our escape from Phantom Ranch. The title phrase is borrowed from a Genesis song which tells of the passage by the protagonist through an alien landscape — Times Square. Our mood in the moment of escape through Bright Angel Canyon followed by this scene when we emerged at the river’s edge made me think of the song.
On The River Trail near Phantom Ranch. Professionals demand I crop out the patch of sky. I regret there was not more to show.