USA Road Trip, Part I / by Mark Greenfield

USA Road Trip Part 1


USA Road Trip Part 1

 Only one year in the planning and when I say one year in the planning it was asking for the time off work then a few months later saying don’t you think we better book those flights now.... and maybe book some places to stay. Thankfully I knew where I wanted to go, but that was probably the easy part!


Las Vegas

What is there to say about Vegas? It is just one big theme park in reality but it is quite an experience watching the Bellagio Fountains whilst listening to Elvis’  “Viva Las Vegas” and I even managed to see Elvis shopping in the supermarket on his mobility scooter. At least it looked like him. Photography wise I thought I’d struggle here especially when I considered I had the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon still to see but actually I found it pretty easy to get some shots here. I made my way up to the 32nd Floor of the hotel and for the first time used a tool which will now be going everywhere with me, a Manfrotto Clamp. There was no way you could use a tripod up there because of the high wall and railings but the clamp with the geared head fitted to it worked perfectly with the Canon 5d and a tilt shift lens attached it was sturdy enough for some long exposure shooting. I even managed to get a panoramic shot as seen below and now I can’t recommend this clamp enough for those places where it is impossible to use a tripod (that’s most crowded places!)


Out and about (once I was able to get used to the heat) there is plenty of architecture to photograph and me being me I even photographed the corridor inside the hotel (Marriot Grand Chateau) although I did have to use the tripod for this shot.

 And if you’re a little bit discreet you can get away with shooting inside the casino’s although I don’t remember anyone shouting out signalling they’d won a big jackpot.


And of course you can’t visit Vegas without photographing the famous sign. 


On the final full day in Vegas I took in the Hoover Dam, no real photo opportunities here so took the Canon M5 camera with me, which again I can’t recommend enough for those days you want to travel light, but what I do remember is the heat as it tipped over 106 degrees Fahrenheit and for someone used to the cold damp Northern English conditions it felt like I was in a furnace.... 


Before leaving Vegas I had one building I wanted to photograph which was the Frank Gehry building. Without Sat Nav's these days I would have had more difficulty finding it but thankfully didn't take that long to find and this is such a stunning building I knew I wanted to photograph it. Now I didn't venture inside the building so can't comment on what the inside looks like as it's the centre for brain health and is a research centre into illnesses affecting the brain I decided to remain outside. 




After Vegas came the 5 hour plus drive to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Should have been less than this but there is a long hill somewhere along that drive where the trucks were overheating due to the heat and taking out the inside lanes and in winter I found out at the hotel the trucks get stuck in the snow going up the hill, so I guess I should be grateful for them only breaking down due to the heat.


First night at the Canyon ventured out to the Desert View watchtower which is at the eastern most point on the Southern Rim. The tower is 70 feet high and is the highest point on the Southern Rim with views to the Painted Desert and the San Francisco Peaks. With the sun setting the tower captured the setting sun brilliantly being bathed in a golden light and even with plenty of other people watching the sunset here it’s not hard to find your own spot to enjoy this breath taking sight.


Day two at the Canyon and it was time for a non-photography tour (well I wasn’t travelling alone and it couldn’t all be about photography...) with All Stars Grand Canyon Tours. These guys came recommended by someone who had used them in the past and I would certainly recommend too as the guide was very knowledgeable, didn’t rush anyone and laid on a great buffet lunch which was unfortunately interrupted by a heavy rain shower. Which brings me nicely on to the weather at the Canyon.  Summer months are monsoon season. The weather can be very changeable, sunny to rain to hail to thunderstorms can all come and go very quickly, although it does provide with some great photo opportunities with the lightning strikes, the one below was taken as the lightning struck over the North Rim. Anyway I digress so back to the tour. The tour takes in most of the viewpoints across the Southern Rim including Navajo Point, Moran Point, Grand View, Mather Point, Yaki Point, Lipan Point and finally Duck on a you can see from the photo below it looks like a duck......apparently!


The landscape at the Canyon is truly spectacular!


On the final full day I revisited the points seen the day before, this time with the tripod before finishing  the day at Mather Point hoping for a sunset but instead being met with more changeable weather conditions as a storm passed through which did mean I could shoot (or rather attempt to) the lightning strikes over the North Rim.


Waiting for the storm, threw up some fantastic cloud formations letting the light fall over the canyon creating these amazing patterns.


The one thing that perhaps doesn't come across in photographs is the sheer scale of the canyon, so placing a couple of people goes some way to giving a photograph a sense of scale. And even when you see photographs like this nothing compares to actually standing on the edge and seeing the canyon stretch away into the distance.



For those that are interested this is the clamp used for getting the shots in Vegas where it was impossible to use a tripod for those long exposures so I used a Manfrotto clamp is great as it holds the Manfrotto 410 Geared Head, Canon 5d and the 24mm tilt shift lens. I can't do without it now!


If you've enjoyed this then come back in the next few weeks for Part 2 covering my trips to Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in Page. After that comes the imaginatively entitled Part 3 which will cover Yosemite, San Francisco, Carmel and Santa Monica and I'll include a full itinerary of the trip in this part.

Thanks for reading :)