The monsoon season has started here in the desert. We can envision what the storm will bring us as we wait for dust storms, wind and rain. Monsoon storms start to build with big puffy white clouds. The wind picks up as we watch the clouds turn to dark gray, hoping that rain will come. The storms can be quite powerful with wind, thunder and lightning and rain and sometimes all of a sudden the storm will dissipate and be gone.
Last summer I had the opportunity to go to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was a three-day photography workshop just for women and being held during the monsoon season. Opportunities for capturing monsoon storms, rainbows and horizontal rain were anticipated. The North Rim is quite different than the South Rim. While the vistas seem so far away on the South Rim, they are up close on the North Rim. The North Rim is also 1,000 feet higher in elevation.
On day 2 of the workshop we were headed to Cape Royal for sunset. The sky was overcast, perfect for shooting wildflowers along the way. We arrived at Cape Royal well in advance of sunset with opportunity to explore. From the parking lot you can take multiple trails. One trail leads out to the top of Angels Window, you are actually standing on top of it. While another leads to an area perfect for small wedding ceremonies and yet another trail takes you to the picnic area. Then there is the trail that takes you to the Cape Royal overlook. I first went to the wedding ceremony spot and captured a few intimate shots of Wotan’s Throne. Then several of us were off to take the trail leading to the Cape Royal overlook.
The view was magnificent, almost overwhelming. Views to the east, south and west seemed endless. From here you could see all of Wotan’s Throne. While looking to the west, the Colorado River flowed far below. The skies were overcast and the possibility of a beautiful sunset was doubtful.
We climbed over the rail and out onto the cliff in order to have more options for shooting the sunset we hoped for. While waiting for sunset I made several intimate landscape shots. The clouds were building up from the east and the west. You could see the clouds dropping rain far to the west. The clouds to the east were looking angry. Both storms were coming together and would be colliding right on top of us. In anticipation of rain, were prepared with rain gear for us and our cameras. What would the storm bring? Heavy rain, wind, thunder and lightning were all possible. Being out on a cliff during a monsoon storm is not safe to say the least! Due to the safety issue we headed back to the bus.
We waited as heavy rain and wind came. Our instructor was watching the sky. Would there be a break in the storm? She didn’t want us to get caught sitting on the bus and miss what could be an epic sunset. Still we waited and watched. I took the rain cover off my camera thinking we wouldn’t be going back out to shoot. The rain slowed and knowing that it was almost an hour drive back to the lodge, I got off the bus and headed for the restroom. I came out and headed back to the bus and noticed it was empty! Our driver said everyone headed out to shoot. I still had my rain gear on, but there wasn’t time to cover my camera or grab my graduated ND filter. I grabbed my tripod and camera and ran quickly. All the ladies were headed to the wedding ceremony area as that was the closest vantage point to capture the sun breaking through the clouds. It was still raining, but not a light downpour, it was horizontal!
I first set up to capture the most incredible light on Wotan’s Throne. The rock had turned to an amazing red! The rain was coming from behind me. I then turned looking to the west to capture the most incredible sunset I had ever seen. Our instructor, Colleen Miniuk-Sperry, and I were giving each other high-five with excitement of horizontal rain! The type of rain we had hoped for in Acadia National Park about a month before. Although the rain was horizontal it wasn’t heavy. Hopefully light enough that my camera would not be damaged. I borrowed a cloth from one of the ladies to wipe off my lens. It’s quite a task to photograph in horizontal rain and keep your lens free of raindrops. Still we continued to shoot this amazing light. Without my graduated ND filter I knew the canyon walls and trees would be in silhouette. The sky was the story and I kept the canyon walls and trees to a minimum in order to capture as much of the sky as possible. The sunset was layers of color; yellow, orange, pink, blue and even purple. It was exhilarating!
After shooting for about 20 minutes we headed back to the bus. We were filled with excitement having been able to not only witness, but capture such an epic sunset and not get caught sitting’ on the bus!
Was this a lesson well learned or have I been caught sittin’ on the bus since then? Well, that’s another story for another day.
©Tamara Becker and Different Isn’t Wrong, It’s Just Different, 2013.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tamara Becker and Different Isn’t Wrong, It’s Just Different with appropriate and specific direction to the original content