Grand Canyon Experts | A conversation with Tom Bean
Q Where do you recommend visitors go when visiting the South Rim of Grand Canyon?
A Maricopa Point is nice. It’s on the west rim side so you take the west rim bus and get offon the second stop. I recently did that and then walked back to the Village where the Trail of Time begins.
So you can also walk along the Trail of Time from Verkamps to Yavapai Point and then catch the bus back.
Q As a professional photographer what do you suggest for visitors to keep in mind when photographing the Canyon?
A I would say to look for viewpoints, vistas – some of the points that stick further out. For example Hopi Point is one of those places and Yaki Point is a good place although it is harder to get to these days. My experience is a large percentage of people will shoot photos from points or vistas where you can see in one direction but not the other.
Q So how about some of the tips you would provide to getting a great sunset image to take back home after your Grand Canyon visit?
A A lot of people make the mistake of facing the sun and shooting an image of the sunright at it while it’s setting. They end up with a picture of the sky with sun and clouds, but not a photo of the Grand Canyon. I find that it is much better to look the other way – see what the low angle light is doing on the walls of the Canyon, to see what those rich colors are doing. I notice that visitors will shoot a sunset looking west across from the South Rim to say Mt. Dellenbaugh in the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. It’s an impressive sight, but it doesn’t necessarily make a great photograph of the Grand Canyon.
I also recommend for shooting Grand Canyon photographs you arrive at your vista point or where you want to shoot from early in the morning or late in the afternoon and then watch the light on the Canyon walls. That said, it can also be good at say three in the afternoon if you happen to be there when there is a dappled cloud cover – that will give you shadow and light. A dappled or broken cloud cover can also sometimes give you a spotlight in one area and shadow in another. That way there is some drama to the lighting.
Q Where else in the Grand Canyon region do you suggest people visit if they can?
A Well, I would certainly recommend the North Rim. What I like about it is that each point is approached as a separate drive. My favorite view there is from Point Imperial. It is the highest point in the northeast corner of Grand Canyon National Park. That’s a nice place for sunset – if conditions are right.
Q Is there something unusual you would also recommend, maybe a resource for visitors that they may not know about yet?
A Well, as a photographer who works with publications it is not going to be a surprise that I’ll recommend that visitors pick up a book that explains the natural and human history of the park.
Grand Canyon: Valult of Heaven is a best seller, with some of my Grand Canyon images and an informative text by, Susan Lamb, my wife. There is another interesting publication I’ll recommend, it’s fun, and fact-filled book by Don Lago, titled Grand Canyon Trivia.
Tom Bean is a member at American Society of Picture Professionals, and has been a seasonal Park Ranger Naturalist for the National Park Service. He earned a B.S. in Fish and Wildlife Biology from Iowa State University. He specializes in dramatic use of natural light to capture powerful landscapes and travel destinations, often with a human presence, and has over 150,000 images in his stock photography library – these are available for licensing for all manner of publications and digital media uses. Tom Bean’s photos have appeared in thousands of publications worldwide. Visit and view images at www.tombean.com
Resources and for further reading:
Grand Canyon Trivia: The Most Incredible, Unbelievable, Wild, Weird, Fun, Fascinating, and True Facts About the Grand Canyon by Don Lago, Riverbend Publishing, 2009.
Grand Canyon: The Vault of Heaven by Susan Lamb, Grand Canyon Association, 1995
Exploring the Southwest’s Grand Circle, by Mark A. Schlenz, photographs by Tom Bean, Mountain Press Publishing, 2010.