With a weak short-wave trough and residual monsoon moisture moving across Arizona there were possibilities that this would be a “monsoon transition” event. The vertical wind shear was in place but instability was marginal. The end result was a general lack of supercellsâ€”but that didn’t mean that the convection wasn’t interesting.
Multiple waves of thunderstorms moved across Grand Canyon with the earliest storms appearing before noon. With each wave, there was rain with some lightning followed by clearing and even some rainbows.
The first rainbow occurred while the sun was high overhead resulting in the rainbow appearing almost directly below in the canyon. This rainbow did not have brilliant colors but being able to see a rainbow over the Unkar Delta was interesting.
More showers…more rainbows. That was how the afternoon played out.
Late in the day I relocated to Yavapai Point for sunset colors and hoped for another rainbow. A partial rainbow appeared over the South Rimâ€”but the arch did not continue up and over across the canyon.
The data and models suggested there would be convection from the San Francisco Peaks northward to Grand Canyon and into far northwestern Arizona. At best, however, these would be weak storms and would probably dissipate by late afternoon. With that in mind, I headed to the south rim of Grand Canyon. And the models were right about both the location and weak character of the storms. After shooting for a short time I left well before sunset.
As I was leaving, radar data showed a strong storm well to the southeast of Flagstaff. Leaving Grand Canyon National Park, I was able to see the storm in the distance and hoped I might get a few good photos at sunset. I stopped at Wupatki National Monument to take a few photos just as the sun was dropping behind the hills to the west. A moment later, I saw a flash of lightning. Then another…and another. These flashes were almost 40 miles away but were clearly visible.
I spent the next 90 minutes shooting lightning photos from this spot. The storm was moving towards me and the lightning bolts were getting closer, larger and brighter. There were lots of cloud-to-ground strokes with multiple branches and leaders lighting up the sky. Because these lightning bolts were south of the San Francisco Peaks and the Cinder Hills, there are no photos showing the bolts in contact with the ground.
Above is a plot of 24-hour lightning ending the morning of 10 September 2021. There are two distinct clusters of lightning around the San Francisco Peaks. The cluster to the northwest occurred during the afternoon. Many of these were visible from the South Rim of Grand Canyon. The cluster to the southeast of the San Francisco Peaks occurred during twilight.
And what of the time spent at Grand Canyon? Yeah, this is what I saw.
Antelope Canyon. The name evokes images of a deep and colorful slot canyon with beams of light illuminating the dark interior. It really is an amazing place and many people want to visit it and get a photograph. Years ago, visitors were few; today the number of visitors is so great that restrictions on photography have become necessary. Tripods are no longer allowed and the “photographer tour” is a thing of the past. Stopping for more than a few minutes in any spot is discouraged and your guide will keep you moving.
If only everyone could experience it the way it once was: a leisurely walk through the canyon with time to stop and embrace the beauty of the canyon and take a few unhurried photographs.
I have visited Antelope Canyon several times with the earliest visit in 2000, followed by visits in 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2011. The last two were shot using digital cameras; the others were shot using film.
After reading that the tours had changed a few years ago I took another look at some of the photos that I had taken. Here is a small subset of those photographs of the canyon over the years.
We recently completed a round trip between Arizona and Colorado and had the opportunity to drive along Utah SR-128, a designated Scenic Highway. I was reminded of our first trip down this road and crossing the Dewey Bridge.
That was in November 1983 and we were on our way from Denver, Colorado to the Grand Canyon. I remember stopping and getting out of the car in amazement and wondering if the bridge was safe. Well, there was no turning back at this point so across the bridge we went. The first photo was taken just before we drove across. As I recall, the highway had some unpaved segments at that time.
There was a lot of snow on that trip and the buttes and mesas were gorgeous.
A later visit was in April 1988. The new bridge was in place and the Dewey Bridge was now closed to vehicles but you were welcome to walk across it. We fixed a dinner in the Fisher Towers picnic area (there was no campground at that time) and were treated to this colorful sunset on the towers.
Much has changed since then. The highway has more traffic. The picnic area was replaced by a campground and it is busy. There are additional campgrounds farther downstream where once there were only faint pullouts along the side of the river.
In 2008, the Dewey Bridge burned and it was the end of an era. Jim Stiles wrote about it in High Country News.
All photos were shot on Kodachrome 64 film. Yeah, those were the days!
The late February full Moon presented an opportunity to photograph the Moon rising between the dramatic Wotans Throne and Vishnu TempleÂ in Grand Canyon.
Moonrise was about a half-hour before sunset. This meant that the distant walls of the canyon would still be illuminated by late afternoon Sun. On the other hand, the eastern horizon was still pretty bright as the Moon rose from behind Wotans Throne. So bright, in fact, that it was difficult to see the Moon. As a result, I got better results about 15 minutes later as the Sun moved lower and the Moon moved higher in the sky.
The second shot was taken just a minute or two before sunset and only the uppermost portions of the canyon rim remain illuminated by the sun. In addition, Earth’s shadow can be seen just above the horizon.
Bonus shot: While waiting for the Moon to rise I took photographs of hikers ascending the South Kaibab Trail just below and above Ooh-Aah Point.