Delayed First Impressions

They say that first impressions mean a lot.  Whether it’s a person or a place or an experience, it sticks with you.  For my first-ever trip to the Grand Canyon, I was expecting a big “AAAAAHHHHH…” moment with the sound of angels singing as I laid my eyes on that majesty for the first time.  Alas, that moment would have to wait – just my luck!

Our trip to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim was a little semi-last-minute journey we decided to take since my husband’s birthday fell on a weekend – an excellent excuse to get away with what little vacation time we had available from our “regular” jobs.  We were both unlucky and lucky in the timing and location we chose because we booked the trip before the US government shutdown happened (unlucky), but the state of Arizona bailed us out (lucky)!!  (The state provided funding for basic services at Grand Canyon National Park because they recognize it’s so vital to their economy – even in winter.)

We weren’t sure what to expect because of all of the uncertainty caused by the political garbage going on.  There was also weather to consider.  Heading into the trip, there was a good chance we’d get caught in a storm on the 3-4 hour drive up from Phoenix.  That’s where luck struck again and the storm hit 2 days before we got there, meaning the roads were clear, even if the skies continued to look threatening.  We tried to stay positive, even though we were a little leery of how all of this was going to go.

Thankfully, travel went as planned and we got to the park about mid-afternoon… just as rain started to come down.  The park rangers were working at the entrances to hand out maps & info.  (They weren’t allowed to collect the entrance fees that help support the park.)  As the ranger handed us our map, she said we should hustle if we wanted to see the Canyon because it was quickly filling in with fog and might not be visible within the next 15-20 minutes at the rate the weather was rolling in.  Gah!

We took her advice and got our hustle on and bolted straight to the rim.  While impressive and – photographically speaking – kinda cool with the mist & fog in the air, it certainly wasn’t what I pictured in my mind as a first impression.

First Impressions

Don’t get me wrong – I was thrilled to finally be there and recognized I had a few days’ stay for the weather to improve.  But, that first impression of the Grand Canyon wasn’t exactly what I thought it’d be.
The weather was steadily getting worse as the cold rain picked up in intensity, but we were able to walk around a bit along the rim to see if anything else was visible.  Unfortunately, the ranger was right – it didn’t take long for the Canyon to fill in with fog and ick to become a sea of soupy white blah.

Without the Canyon to distract us with its beauty, I kept my eye out for any little quick shots I could grab with my phone in the wintry rain.  That’s when we came across this scenic locator.  It looked old, and from the inscription on it, it was.

Old School Sight Seeing

We couldn’t quite figure out how it worked until the next day when we ran into some simple devices on the trail that were metal tubes that locked into a notch to direct your eye towards a point of interest.  It didn’t magnify it at all.  It just got your eye pointed in the right direction when the tube rested on a preset notch.  We suspect this locator once had one of those tubes and you’d rest it on those notches to see the sights each slot pointed you too.  What a magnificently simple, clever solution!

So that was my lackluster first impression of the Grand Canyon.  I wasn’t going to let it get me down as we would be in the park for a few days.  It was bound to get better – I just had to wait a little bit longer and hang onto that optimism bubbling away in my mind.

– JC

Foggy Drama

(Originally posted November 5, 2012)

Foggy Morning - Valley Forge NHP
Foggy Morning – Valley Forge NHP

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry… and that was certainly the case on this steamy August morning when I grabbed this shot at Valley Forge National Historic Park!

Things were lining up perfectly for a foggy, sticky sunrise shoot on an early August morning, so I made a last-minute call the night before to go for it.  The day started with a 4:30am wake-up to get myself and the gear together so I could arrive at the park, find my location, and get setup by 5:30 or so to catch the first rays of sunlight as they split through the trees and the valley.  The nearly-full moon was going to be setting within an hour of the sunrise too!  Sounds like a recipe for some good pictures, right?  Well, life had some different thoughts on the matter.

I dragged my sleepy body, cup of coffee, and my camera gear into the car.  Then I turned the key in the ignition – nothing.  Absolutely nothing from the car.  No lights, no turning of the engine, no clicking.  Just silence.  Not good.

Thinking of ditching the shoot and just heading back to bed was certainly an option, but my husband let me borrow his car for the morning so I could get on with my day.  Wonderful – problem solved, and quite easily.  After a quick switch of vehicles, I was frustrated and wondering what was up with my car, but I put that in the back of my mind and headed off to the park.

As I arrived at the park entrance in the darkness and thick fog, the gates were still closed with nary a sign of life that they would be opening anytime soon.  Dang it!  I’ve gotten sunrise shots in the park before during the winter without problems – I just needed to figure out how to get in for today’s shoot.  With nowhere to put the car, I headed down the street to the local casino (of all places) knowing that I could park there in a well-lit area and do some research on my phone.  That’s when I remembered that the park doesn’t open until 7am – not at dawn.  Double dang it!!  Clearly, the fog wasn’t only outside of the car because it seems I needed more coffee or more sleep.

After this latest blip, I was determined to get some kind of session in because the fog was making the scenery really eerie and that couldn’t be passed up.  The park is big, with some main state roads going through it, so I figured there had to be a way in.  I drove around a bit more and managed to find a parking area along one of the main public drags that would suffice, so off I trekked to see if I could find something good.

It wasn’t long after I setup that I came upon this scene behind the Maurice Stephens house.  The tree and the fog in the valley certainly play a big part in the scene, though I think the thing I like most about this shot is the little optical illusion I was able to create.  On a quick glance, some may think that the structure next to the tree is a small house or a cottage.  It’s not – it’s a chicken coop or some kind of colonial shed structure!  The way it was positioned next to the tree made the building look smaller than it was (or the tree look bigger than it actually is).  Quite a lovely surprise!

So, with this shot and a few others tucked away, I returned home to start working on my car troubles.  It turns out it was – thankfully – just a dead battery.  It was so dead that the first time we jumped it, it only kept the car running for about 500 feet before it lost power again and we had to get it towed to our mechanic!  After a bumpy start to the day, it all worked out with a couple of fantastic summer shots in Valley Forge and a minor car repair bill.  Phew!!

– JC

PS – We were extremely fortunate and only sustained a little minor damage during Hurricane Sandy, so our lives returned to normal quite quickly.  Others were far, far less fortunate, and we here at Alpha Pup Photography are sending out our thoughts and prayers to everyone – both along the coastlines and in the mountains that were pummeled with snow – who have lost so much and face a long road to recovery.