I have been thinking to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison River National Park again for quite a while, mainly because my first visit in last winter was mostly blocked by a heavy snow. During this Memorial Day long weekend, I finally got a chance to drive into the western part of Colorado and I spent two days there shooting the amazing canyon that is more than 2000 feet tall.
I entered the park from the south entrance on South Rim Road. Just before the visitor center, you probably want to make your first stop at Tomichi Point. It offers a great panoramic view and gives you a general idea what kind of scenes you can expect to see in this park. There is also an overlook right behind the visitor center that is great for panoramas.
Passing the visitor center, I made stops at Devil's Lookout, Painted Wall, Cedar Point, Dragon Point, and Sunset View. They all offer great but similar views of the canyon. My personal favorite is Painted Wall because from there you can see most of the amazing texture on the cliff. I guess that is why the overlook is called Painted Wall.
There are two challenges that I found shooting in Black Canyon. How to make the photo look 3 dimensional and how to separate the subjects in the photo. Firstly, how to make photo look 3 dimensional. When you are standing at an overlook, the massive view in front of you is incredible but basically everything you see is far away from you. Moreover, the cliff is very vertical and flat. Therefore, the photo looks flat and lacking the sense of depth. In order to make the photo 3 dimensional, including a foreground object is necessary. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find an interesting foreground subject because the overlook is right at the edge of the canyon. For these reasons, the overlook point might not be the ideal place to take the shot. You might want to walk around the edge and try to find some rocks, trees, or flowers to be your foreground objects. When I was at Painted Wall, I set up my camera on an protruding edge of the canyon that is on the right side of the overlook point so I could get some rocks and trees in my photo to extend the sense of depth.
The second challenge I found is how to separate subjects. As you can see from the below photo taken at Sunset View Overlook, the right side of the canyon and the left side of canyon look like they are connected but actually they are separated by the Gunnison River. It becomes hard to define the contour of the cliff. At the Painted Wall, I waited until sunset so the light was angled. Some part of the cliff became brighter than the others. I used the difference in brightness to shape the edges and later in post-processing I emphasized that difference.
Overall, it was a great experience visiting Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. It provides very unique landscape that I don't usually see somewhere else. I would like to visit it another time to find out what can be seen from the north part of the park.