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Photographing Beautiful Grand Canyon Pictures: Avoid the Crowds

How to Photograph Parks, Museums, and Tourist Sites - Without the Tourists

by Kerry Drager

Sunrise, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Sunrise, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
© Manjesh Lingamurthy
All Rights Reserved

Photographing Beautiful Grand Canyon Pictures Without a Lot of People

Many photographs benefit from a human presence. But in tourist areas and other popular places - from Grand Cayman Island to the Grand Canyon - too many people can create a "busy" picture with too many things vying for the viewer's attention.

Sure, you can zap out unwanted tourists from your scene in Photoshop. Still, there's nothing like saving time in the digital darkroom by doing it right in the first place ... during the actual act of shooting! Here are some avoid-the-crowds tips and tricks:

Arrive early: For outdoor scenes, dawn offers fantastic light and few people. Otherwise, beat the rush by arriving as soon as the doors open at museums, historic sites, festivals, special events, etc.

Marina Sunrise Reflection 2b
Marina Sunrise Reflection 2b
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved

Practice Patience When Photographing Beautiful Grand Canyon Pictures

Whether you're photographing beautiful Grand Canyon pictures or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you may want to wait for those "intruders" to leave the scene. Of course, this doesn't always work ... for instance, when you become the photographic "victim" of a never-ending stream of humanity.

Use a close-up foreground: With your wide-angle lens, try framing your distant scene with a strong foreground object. This involves moving in reeeally tight on a subject. How close? Say, within an arm's length of the nearest point. This technique helps you to spotlight a distant subject and produce a nice three-dimensional-like effect, while also blocking out background bystanders.

Blur out passersby! Turn them into ghostly figures ... or perhaps make them "disappear" entirely! Do it with a verrry slow shutter speed - via any, or all, of the following: low light, low ISO, subjects moving (not standing), a tripod (or other sturdy support), and small aperture (high f/stop number).

Blue Rolls 2a
Blue Rolls 2a
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved
When all else fails, either give up and incorporate those people into your composition, or switch your attention to small scenes and fine details!

Photo Examples

Abandoned Gas Station: I used a battered-but-colorful sign as a close-up foreground subject ... for two very good reasons: 1) as a creative effect (to combine a nearby detail and a distant scene into a single image with lots of depth); and 2) as a practical matter (to "hide" background visitors at this ghost-town attraction).

Marina Sunrise: Dawn brought dynamic colors and clouds, plus this additional benefit: It was too early for pleasure boats to be out, about, and "ruining" my reflection at this usually hectic coastal harbor.

Skiers in Cascades
Skiers in Cascades
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved
Blue Rolls: At a car show, I moved in tight for a close-up ... in order to get a nice angle on this grand old car and to keep all the bystanders out of my composition.

Skiers in Cascades: In this case, I wanted a person or two in my composition - for visual interest and for its storytelling aspect. But, with the cold and overcast conditions, I had to wait well over an hour before skiers finally arrived in my scene ... now that is an example of practicing patience!

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About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Kerry Drager
Photography Instructor: Kerry Drager
The content manager and course advisor for, Kerry Drager is also the co-author of two books: The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography (2011) and The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light (2012). In addition, he teaches photography online at BetterPhoto's digital photography school. See his instructor bio and list of courses...

Be sure to check out Kerry's Pro BetterPholio website -

Also, he is the author of Scenic Photography 101, the photographer of the photo-essay books The Golden Dream: California from Gold Rush to Statehood and California Desert , a contributor to the books BetterPhoto Basics and Daybreak 2000, and a co-photographer of Portrait of California. In addition, Kerry was profiled in the April 1994 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine and in Vik Orenstein's 2010 book The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business, and his website was showcased in the January 2003 issue of Shutterbug magazine. Plus, his work has appeared in magazines, Hallmark cards and Sierra Club calendars, and in advertising campaigns for American Express and Sinar Bron Imaging.

Also see his Visual Creativity photography blog, and follow Kerry on Facebook.

Kerry lives with his wife, Mary, on California's Central Coast, with their three Newfoundland dogs, four cats, and a mixed terrier.

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