Navajo Country and North Rim of the Grand Canyon Workshop

by E.J. Peiker | September 11, 2012

© E.J. PeikerIn the last week of August 2012, long time Arizona resident E.J. Peiker led the Navajo Country and North Rim of the Grand Canyon Workshop presented by Certified Workshops.

The group met at the spectacular View Hotel and immediately took a drive around the self guided Monument Valley Loop in the late afternoon and evening. This gives a great overview of what Monument Valley is all about and offers a number of excellent photographic opportunities. The next morning, Fred Cly, our Navajo Guide met us shortly after 5:00AM to take us into the heart of Monument Valley. These areas are only accessible with an experienced Navajo Guide. The 400 foot high Totem Pole formation, its surrounding sand-dunes and an excellent sunrise with fantastic clouds did not disappoint. One of the workshop participants who is a very experienced landscape photographer described it as being one of his top ten photographic experiences ever. This was followed by several other stops including a huge rock wall that had ancient Indian Petroglyphs. After lunch we visited the famous Teardrop Arch where you can photograph parts of the valley through an arch followed by the pancake rock formations of Mystery Valley. We came back in hopes of some sunset color on the famous Mittens and Merrick Butte. Luck was on our side as the sun snuck under a low layer of clouds and lit up the Mittens in bright red just before sundown. Our final morning in Monument Valley was spent photographing the Mittens at sunrise. More great clouds made it another great shoot.

After breakfast and checking out of the View Hotel, we drove about 120 miles to Lower Antelope Canyon. This is a narrow slot canyon that you climb into made of red sandstone. The photographic possibilities are literally infinite as you record the light play between the sun’s rays trying to get into the canyon and the many shapes and curves of the rock formations. Slot canyons are great icons to photograph in the middle of the day when other landscape photography is hampered by harsh light and flat contrast. The two hour time limit for photography in the canyon came and went in what seemed like 30 minutes, but there were big smiles all around.

Lower Antelope Canyon © E.J. Peiker

After checking into our hotel in Page and a brief rest period, we went to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook. Horseshoe bend is an area of the Colorado River where it makes a sharp turn of over 200 degrees in a 1000 foot deep gorge. The hike to get to it climbs over a hilltop and back down for about 3/4 mile and then you come to the incredible gorge. We photographed this area from many angles until well after sunset and again were treated to some beautiful color on the horizon.

Our third morning, before moving on to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we stopped at several overlooks of Lake Powell where we photographed a spectacular sunrise over the lake and Navajo Mountain. After breakfast we started making our way towards the Grand Canyon. Along the way we stopped at the Marble Canyon overlook where one of the participants was successful at spotting a California Condor. As we moved on, the terrain changed dramatically from the high desert terrain that we had spent the first half of the workshop in to the lush and much wetter Kaibab plateau and National Forest. Wild flowers were everywhere due to the wet summer that this region has been experiencing. The meadows were a beautiful green and the temperatures dropped from near 100 degrees in the earlier places to a very comfortable 70 degrees due to our elevation change to nearly 9000 feet above sea level. Upon arriving at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we immediately set out to photograph Bright Angel Point while we were waiting for our rooms to become ready at the North Rim Lodge. The north rim receives a mere 1% of the visitors that the South Rim does due to it’s remoteness but it is in many ways much more rewarding and beautiful due to it’s lush forest setting and closer rock formations. We photographed the area of the canyon around Bright Angel point until it was pitch black outside.

North Rim of Grand Canyon © E.J. Peiker

The next morning we got up very early so that we could make the 45 minute winding mountain road drive to Cape Royal in time to capture pre-sunrise color and sunrise. We had another spectacular shoot with great colors in the sky and the canyon. On our way back we stopped in a large field of wildflowers of all colors shapes and sizes. There were big smiles all around and the entire morning we did not see another person. In the afternoon we went to Point Imperial. It took patience to get nice light on this awesome rock spire but we were rewarded. This was the only evening where we did not have a spectacular sunset but we went back the next morning for our final shoot of the workshop and were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise, great color and fantastic photographic opportunities.

The workshop size was limited to five participants to provide ample personal attention and plenty of shooting room in some of the tighter areas such as Lower Antelope Canyon. Everyone came away with some outstanding photographs and experiences while learning a lot about the southwest and it’s geology. The workshop was a great success. We will be offering a similar Workshop in 2013. I hope to see you there!


About the Author

E.J. was born in 1960 in Augsburg, Germany and moved to Ohio in 1969. He attended Purdue University and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering and completed graduate studies in Microelectronics and Semiconductor Physics. After working for the Intel Corporation for 27 years, he is now retired from the electronics industry and is a professional freelance photographer. E.J. and has formally studied photography at the University of New Mexico and completed courses from The Rocky Mountain School of Photography. E.J. has two sons, and has lived in Chandler, Arizona since 1994. A photographic specialty is artistic images of ducks and E.J. has published the book Ducks of North America - The Photographer's Guide. E.J. is also prolific in landscape photography, his first photographic love. E.J.'s photographs have been published worldwide in books, advertising, magazines, billboards, murals and more. Some of his publishers and clients include The National Geographic Society, World Wildlife Fund, The United States National Parks Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Navy, State Parks Arizona, Barrons, and Dorling Kindersley. New Zealand Post honored E.J. by making one of his penguin images the primary image for their 2014 Commemorative Antarctica Ross Dependency Stamp set. He has also been named one of the top 100 Wildlife Photographers in the world by Eastern Europe's Digital Photographer Magazine. Visit his website at:

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