Reflections in the Grand Canyon


It seems viewers expect photos of the Grand Canyon to look like, well, the Grand Canyon.  However, a great variety of reflections in the Colorado River kept me occupied.  These abstract, more intimate scenes, are preferable to me over your typical landscape photography.


This lead photo was taken on a fun, photo-rich afternoon after a short hike to a ridge above our camp.  The clouds were moving fairly rapidly across the landscape.  Rather than simply click a photo, I sat down and thought about which ridges would be best in the sunlight and which should be in the shadow.  One may not always get exactly what they are after, but waiting for the right moment can be very rewarding.  I would see my desired scene, then forget my camera was on a two second shutter delay to minimize camera shake. The scene would rapidly change and I would miss the scene I had waited for.  Then the waiting game would begin again.  In the above photo, it may have been better if the entire middle ridge was in the sunlight, but this is as close as I could come to the layers of light I was looking for.



The key to photographing good water reflections is to have the source of reflected color, such as colorful fall trees or red canyon walls, in the bright sunlight and the water in the shade.  With such steep canyon walls surrounding the Grand Canyon, this combination was frequently throughout each day while on the Colorado River.  The photo below is a good example of what a photographer often searches for in landscape photographs.  If one can find this combination next to the shore along with some ripples, abstract magic can happen.  For me, these types of photos are much more rewarding than photographing the iconic landscape locations shown in guide books and where tourists and photographers flock attempting to replicate famous photographs.  I call these reflection photos ‘found photos’ as I feel I have found them and created them myself with no guide book involved.

Red canyon walls is the sunshine and the shaded water is a good combination for beautiful reflections.


When taking photos and really working a particular scene, photographers often snap their initial photos from a distance.  They then move in closer and closer, studying the scene.  The above photo was the first in the series of my photos at this particular location.  It shows a more broad scene taken at longer shutter speeds to smooth out the water.  Later, I was doing the opposite, taking fast shutter speeds to freeze the ripples and designs.  Photography is one big experiment and exploration.

These reflection photos change many times in a single second since the water is rippling and flowing.  Therefore, one good way to take these photos is to put your camera in motor drive and take three to five photos a second.  This is obviously not something done in the days of film, but very easy to do in this digital world.  A lot of time is then spent days later looking at two similar photos trying to determine which is the better of the group.  Here are some of my favorite reflection photographs from this Grand Canyon rafting trip.


The several ovals of blue are somehow the blue sky reflection.


Ripples in the water provide hints of what the photo really is.

To provide the viewer with a hint of what the abstract photo really is, I will sometime provide some clues.  In the middle of the above photo some ripples in the river are evident.  The calm water to the right provide for some clear blue sky reflections.  As to why the blue sky appears as holes or rock bridges, I have no idea.  For me, that is the beauty and allure of these abstracts.  Many people would walk by these reflections and not see these detailed designs.

The same scene as above, seconds later.

While taking this series of photos I experimented with different focal lengths, zooming in and out as well as various shutter speeds.  All these variables change the results of the reflection photo.


All three of these photos are of the same wave in the river.  My camera was set to take several photos a second.  Finding such variations of reflections, it is hard to tear myself away and move on.  I’m always hoping for some new interesting design in the next batch of photos.  Photographers often search for that special softer, glowing kind of light which happens at sunrise and sunset.  An advantage of photographing these reflections is you do not have to set the alarm to get up early.  These were all taken after we had pulled the raft over for another great lunch in the sunshine as we try to dry off.


Morning light can also provide for some good reflections, provided that the sun has risen high enough to have lit up the nearby peaks so they may reflect into the water.  Here is a sandy shoreline.  Other photographers on this trip were often concentrating on the hillside across the Colorado River, but I was pointing the camera down toward the ground.  I could not decide which of the two photos was best, the photo with the rock acting as an anchor or the more abstract scene with no rock.  What is your opinion?

Do you like the photo with the rock or…


…or without?



Conquistador Aisle

Sometimes we can work a reflection into a grand landscape photo.  The formula remains the same, bright canyon walls reflecting in the shaded water.  We spent the night a couple hundred yards from this spot just to take this sunrise photo.  Time is spent waiting for the sun to rise and experimenting with shutter speeds and compositions.  Others photographer’s photos always seem to look better…


Hike to explore the Nankoweap Granaries


This hike to the Nankoweap Granaries may have been one of the harder hikes. Not that it was the longest, but certainly the most steep.



Deer Creek Falls

These photos have nothing to do with reflections.  I hesitate to call this a reward for sticking with me and my reflection diologue to the very end of the blog.  However, this is the waterfall shown in my previous blog where the younger kids were having quite a party, celebrating a birthday.  These falls were not nearly as cold as the Colorado River.  We had been floating in the sun and a dive into the pool at the bottom of the waterfall sounded refreshing.  Swimming in the waterfall pool above is one of our photography leaders.  I too jumped in with my shorts on, knowing they would soon dry.


Others on our rafting trip were not so shy…

Skinny dipping at Deer Creek Falls

As I turned around to look for our partying friends, they seemed to have all fled the scene…

Yet another blog should be coming soon.  Thank you for your interest in my photography adventures.


23 thoughts on “Reflections in the Grand Canyon

  1. Love this quote:
    “Photography is one big exploration and experiment! “
    Beautiful works! We thought the GC would be boring, not at all!
    Thank you for sharing

  2. OMG Harold you have become a most fascinating artist!!!
    I love these. What a treasure when the years prevent such a trip for oneself.
    Love them all.

  3. I liked the more abstract image without the rock. I find the reflections and abstract nature of the images “compelling”.

  4. Regarding the question of two photos with and without the rock: I prefer the shot with the rock! Great stuff, as usual. Thanks for posting Harold.

  5. Amazing reflection photos! I especially liked the reflection that included the rock and the landscape reflection “Conquistador Aisle”.

    Great photos and perspective as always! 👍😎.

  6. Your photos are imaginative and creative. Concentrating on reflections was a good idea. It’s true that everyone has already seen the traditional pictures. I think between the two photos in question, the rock is needed. I had no idea that there were Indian ruins in the Grand Canyon. I’ve been mooned!

  7. Fascinating differences in the abstracts. I am hard pressed to choose with the rock or without. I like the rock, but the no rock picture has wonderful black accents.

  8. The rock. Oh my, Harold. You are quite outdoing yourself! I love your wry and sly commentary and the photos are the icing on the cake. You inspire me to get back to taking photos again, but more thoughtfully. I’m more of a street photographer type, shooting from the hip and moving on. I love to read how you sit down and think about how to approach capturing the elements. Thanks again for a great blog!

    • I’ve tried a bit of street photography and believe it to be the most difficult of all. I’m proof of how inspiring your street photography is. Remember you inspired me to travel from Springdale, UT to Sibiu, Romania! I recall from your home page photos, you have been to Africa to witness the great wildebeest migration. That is my next trip…

  9. Without the rock. Very cool reflections. I really like the ripples with the blue pockets and the ripple/calm combo immediately after that.

    I do get some of the ripple type of shot by a accident when photographing waterfowl and shore birds 🙂 However these are very special and thank you for sharing your efforts!

  10. Another great post. I like the way you talk about your photographs and some of the options others took. Great learning experience for us. Thanks, Harold.

  11. What were the rapids like? Were you ever scared? Or scared for your camera? Did you ever have any close calls like at SeaWorld?

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