Grand Canyon Rafting

January 13, 2009 ·

Michael Reichmann

NewThis subject is featured in Issue #2 of The Luminous Landscape Video Journal.

These pages contains a portfolio of photographs taken in May, 2000 during an 8-day rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. 

Where possible, mileage points for each photograph have been included. These are measured from Lee’s Ferry, the starting point for all rafting trips on the Colorado.

There are 7 Sub-Sections

The Trip
Cliffs and Canyons
Along the Way
On Second Thought

The Trip

 Waiting on a sandbar for Moonrise

For more than a year, ever since I’d booked a trip to go rafting on theColorado River, I had been waiting with great expectations. I do several photographic trips a year, including conducting at least 2 landscape workshops in the Southwest, but never before had I been this pumped for a trip.

TheGrand Canyonhas a mystical draw for most people. It is arguably one of the most majestic geographical locations on the planet and is a Mecca for landscape photographers. I’ve shot on both the South as well as the North rims a number of times, and on each occasion had vowed that one day I’d explore the bottom of the canyon.

In late 1998, on a trip to photographAntelope Canyon,  we stopped atLees Ferry, the launching point for rafting expeditions on the Colorado. Fellow photographerSteve Kossackand video directorChris Sandersonand I watched wistfully as crews loaded the large rubber pontoon rafts that would soon be embarking on an 8 day, 270 miles adventure through the heart of the Grand Canyon.  At that moment we committed ourselves to doing the trip, and in May of 2000 that commitment because a reality.

To read general commentary, photographic advice and view snapshots of the trip, clickhere.

Cliffs and Canyons

Matkatamiba Canyon‚ Grand Canyon, May 2000

At Mile 148 liesMatkatamiba Canyon. An extremely difficult hike up a narrow river cascade lead us to a gentle amphitheater where everyone relaxed after the climb. At the recommendation ofC.C. Lockwood, the trip’s photography guide, a couple of friends and I hiked further up the trail and came upon this stunning mid-morning vista.

While I accept the fact that many of the locales in the Southwest that I shoot in have been photographed extensively, I’ve never seen photographs from this location before. It was very exciting to be doing photography in an almost unknown location.

I wished for a large format camera but because of the remoteness and difficult terrain there’s no way that I or most any photographer could have made it to this spot with a view camera. The perspective controls of the Canon tilt/shift lens though, which was used for this image, were extremely helpful. 

The use of a split neutral density filter would have greatly helped to tame the extreme contrast range, but because of the difficulty of the climb to this location it had been left behind in the raft, many hundreds of feet below. Nevertheless Provia 100F proved itself capable of holding sufficient detail both in the shadows and the highlights of this image.

Photographed with a Canon EOS-1V and 24mm f/3.5L T/S lens on Fuji Provia 100F

For more cliff and canyon images clickhere.


Deer Creek Falls, Grand Canyon‚ May, 2000

Dear Creek Falls,at about Mile 136, is one of those places that if you didn’t see it with your own eyes you wouldn’t believe existed. A magnificent waterfall, easily more than 150 feet high, plunges into a small deep pool which, when the light is right, createsrainbowsaround the heads of swimmers.

When we first arrived in mid-morning the light was very harsh so I spent most of the time swimming and taking snapshots. By noon, as we were about to leave, the sun had changed direction sufficiently that I could capture at least part of the falls in shade.

The use of the 24mm Tilt / Shift lens was again critical in providing the required depth of field as well as undistorted perspective.

Photographed with a Canon EOS-1V and 24mm f/3.5L T/S lens on Fuji Provia 100F

For more waterfall images clickhere.


Big Horn Ram #1, Grand Canyon‚ May, 2000

At about 6am, after overnighting on a sandbar beneath a shear cliff, someone called out that there were three big horned sheep on the cliffs above our campsite. My camera with 100~400mm zoom lens attached was already mounted on the tripod and virtually all I had to do was swing it around, frame the composition and press the shutter release.

The strong early-morning side light and cliff-face shadow silhouetting the ram all contribute to a bold and effective wildlife photograph. It was made all the more exciting for me by having been taken not more than 10 feet from my still warm sleeping bag.

Photographed with a Canon EOS-1V and 100~400mm f/5.6L IS lens on Fuji Provia 100F

For more wildlife images clickhere.


Running Lave Falls, Grand Canyon‚ May, 2000

Somewhere inside this maelstrom is a S-rig raft containing 14 people and a crew of 2.

Lava Fallsat Mile 179 is the most treacherous rapid on the river. No matter how sanguine one becomes about shooting rapids, Lava Falls is one to be reckoned with.

After our boat ran the rapids first we stood on the shore and photographed our companion boat. Taken at a focal length of about 300mm. Exposure was 1/360 sec @ f/6.3

Photographed with a Canon EOS-1V and 100~400mm f/5.6L IS lens on Fuji Provia 100F

For more rafting and action photographs clickhere.

Along the Way

Little Colorado Log, Grand Canyon‚ May, 2000

TheLittle Colorado Riverjoins the Colorado at Mile 61. Its colour is the most exquisite shade of crystalline turquoise I’ve ever seen. We spent several hours here swimming, playing and‚ of course‚ doing photography. 

Whether due to the remembrance of a joyful morning playing and shooting by the river, or the inherent qualities of the photograph itself, this image summarizes for me the sense of isolation and tranquility that this voyage provided.

Photographed with a Canon EOS-1V and 28~70mm f/2.8L lens on Fuji Provia 100F

More miscellaneous images from the trip can be foundhere.

NewThis subject is featured in Issue #2 of The Luminous Landscape Video Journal.

October 27, 2001

The following announcement was made today:The nextLuminous Landscapeworkshop is going to be the most exciting, lengthy and difficult one yet. Today I’m announcing theGrand Canyon Rafting Adventurewhich will take place in early May 2002.It will be the photographic trip of a lifetime. If you can afford the time and money, and can stand the excitement, this is a workshop that you must not miss.

You may also be interested in viewing a 
 Grand Canyon Portfolio
 shot at the same time bySteve Kossack.

Michael Reichmann

Michael Reichmann is the founder of the Luminous Landscape. Michael passed away in May 2016. Since its inception in 1999 LuLa has become the world's largest site devoted to the art, craft, and technology of photography. Each month more than one million people from every country on the globe visit LuLa.

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