Last winter (Dec. 2011), a friend and I took a trip to Arizona. I thought I’d take my mom’s old Canonet ql17 gIII and snap some pics, do something different. Little did I know, that the rangefinder would throw me head first into the world of analogue.
The Grand Canyon. Not the first place you would think of to go to when you are deathly, cripplingly afraid of heights. ‘Hey let’s go to a giant mile deep gorge without railings. Won’t that be fun?’ O yeah, I forgot to mention, it gets icy at the Grand Canyon in December.
So here I am, knees knocking at the sight of the place, and I’m expected to have a good time. My buddy is with me who takes every chance he can to make my heart race as he looks over the edge. And although I am scared out of my mind, I soon am able to take in the sheer beauty of this majestic place. And that’s when it hit me. I had to set aside my fears (rational though they may have been) and just enjoy the moment.
We spent the next two days traversing the South Rim of the Canyon (the North Rim gets closed in October due to snow) and it was amazing. We grew to appreciate the fact that we came in winter because although it was 40 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside, there were no lines to stand in either. We didn’t have to worry about kids running around or getting bumped by tourists, we could just enjoy the place. And enjoy we did.
The canyon was sheer perfection. The air was clear enough for us to see all the way to the North Rim and all the way to the bottom. We could even see the Colorado River at some points. There had been a large snowstorm a couple days earlier so all the trees and plants were blanketed in a thick layer of fresh powder. We also were able to get up-close and personal with some of the local wildlife. The mule deer that call the Grand Canyon home were not shy. Nor were the squirrels that would walk right up to you. Crows were omnipresent at the rim and around the village. These weren’t the small, everyday crows we see in the Midwest, these guys were massive.
As time went on at the Grand Canyon, I found myself becoming more confident with my Canonet and found that I used it more than my digital point and shoot. It got to the point where I was getting a shot down the canyon and my buddy called over to me. He said, ‘Do you realize that you are afraid of heights until you think you can get a good shot, then you just walk right out to the edge.’ It hit me like a sack of potatoes. I was able to get over my fears with the help of analogue photography and the friendship of my buddy constantly egging me on to get closer to the edge.
I guess that’s what vacations are all about. Sure, you get to see cool stuff and do things that you wouldn’t normally be able to do, but real growth can come about. For me, I was able to step out of my shell and truly enjoy the experience. It will be something that I will always remember and cherish.
Note: for those of you wishing to go to the Grand Canyon, let me give you some tips.
First, go in winter. It’s cheaper and there are far fewer people. Plus the air is much clearer.
Second, bring lots of film. Everything is more expensive and hard to find up there, even the food, so stock up.
Third, bundle up. Though it might get into the 50’s (again, Fahrenheit) during the day, once the sun sets, it plummets to below freezing very quickly.
Lastly, enjoy the moment, and take lost of pictures.