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Trip List by DallasKJG

Arizona Photography Tour

14 Sep 2006  My wife and I drove a loop around the north-western portion of Arizona to take photographs.
4.0 of 5 stars based on 9 votes

My wife was interested in a photographic tour of Arizona. We rented an all-wheel drive car in Phoenix and made a loop around the western portion of the state. There can be a lot of miles in between attractions, so plan your drive time!

If you are going for photography, remember best light is sunrise and sunset, so that leaves you the bulk of the day with little or nothing to do, since some of these sites are very remote, and there are few services or other attractions in the area. If you like hiking and camping, it's not an issue. If you're a city person who is just there to take photos (us), then it can become one.

Be prepared for rain if you go in the "monsoon" season (July - September). If it does rain, it usually passes quickly, but it can wipe out a photo session if it's badly timed. We saw people on the shuttle at the Grand Canyon leap off the bus at a stop, run to the rim, snap a photo and run back to the bus in the drizzle. While that was funny, we were trying to use our 35mm SLR and DSLR on tripods, so we just didn't bother taking photos that day. If you want to get photos, make sure you add a couple extra buffer days, just in case.

Be prepared for your cell phone to go dead. Our Sprint phones didn't get a signal north of Flagstaff, and we couldn't even connect on "roam." Sprint, of course, seemed surprised by this. We met one woman with Alltel that could get a signal in Chinle, but she had to go outside to complete the call. The Navajo Nation may not be mobile-phone-friendly.

Be prepared to pay higher prices for almost everything. The restaurants epecially seemed almost excessive in some places. You often will be paying steak prices for hamburger.

If you need computer access, check ahead with your hotel. For example, there is no access except a kiosk at the Grand Canyon. All of the Hampton Inns we visited had free WiFi, as did the Holiday Inn in Chinle.

If you can, rent your car off-airport and save the daily airport fees that are added to your rental bill. We rented off-airport and just took a cab to the rental location.

It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from there!

  • 1. Sample Photographs
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/xriva/sets/72157594263421624

    This is a collection of some of the photos from our trip, from our stops at the Grand Canyon, Canyon De Chelly and Monument Valley.

  • 2. Hampton Inn Suites Phoenix Surprise
    Hampton Inn Suites Phoenix Surprise, Surprise

    This is a very nice, new Hampton Inn in Surprise, just outside of Phoenix. We were here because my wife had friends in the area, but it is also a good starting point for a tour, because it is outside Phoenix and on the way to the Grand Canyon and other points north.

  • 3. Pink Jeep Tours
    Pink Jeep Tours Sedona, Sedona, Arizona

    Pink Jeeps drive you around the Sedona area and provide great views of the red rocks. There are stops for photos, although it's not really a photography tour (my wife and I were always the last back on the jeep.) Erv was a great tour guide.

  • 4. Red Planet Diner
    Red Planet Diner, Sedona, Arizona

    A fairly inexpensive diner with good food, and a fairly good mix of selections. You just have to be prepared to wait for refills, so drink your drinks slowly.

  • 5. Blazin M Ranch Chuckwagon Suppers

    The Blazin' M is actually just a short drive outside Sedona, so we went for dinner. It's not a restaurant, it's cowboy dinner theatre. If you can get your head around that concept, it's a great evening of fun. For about thirty-five dollars a person, you get an all-you-can-eat BBQ (beef or chicken) dinner, followed by an hour of cowboy entertainment - songs, jokes and stories. It sounds hokey, and it probably is, but it is a lot of fun if you can go into it with the proper mindset.

    The food was very good, especially for mass-produced fare. They also serve dinner an hour before the show, so everyone is usually finished before the show starts, which is an improvement over some similar shows. The only issue on our night was that they sold out of pie before we decided if we were going to buy dessert.

    There are also a number of shops on the ranch which are available before or after the show for souvenirs and such. There is also a photography studio if you always wanted to dress like a cowboy and have an "old-time" photo taken. We did, and they came out well.

    In all, this was a very worthwhile evening.

  • 6. Hampton Inn Sedona
    Hampton Inn Sedona, Sedona, Arizona

    A very nice hotel just out of the downtown area of Sedona. Ask for B. J. who seems able to solve any problems!

  • 7. Grand Canyon National Park
    Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

    The Grand Canyon is a place everyone should visit once. However, unless you are in good shape, you will probably remain on the rim. Even then, you're at seven thousand feet, so be prepared to huff and puff a bit while wandering around. This is not mentioned anywhere in the tour guides!

    The Park Service runs free shuttles that can get you to most of the senic overlooks in the canyon. However, from the top, after a while, it starts to look the same. You would probably also need to go into the canyon to get that perspective.

    Be prepared for rain during monsoon season (July-August-September.) ! It rained some every day we were there. If it rains, there is not much to do except visit a couple of historic sites and the plentiful gift shops.

  • 8. El Tovar Restaurant
    El Tovar Lounge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

    This is the nicest (and most expensive) restaurant in the Grand Canyon, attached to the most expensive hotel. It is one of the best restaurants I have visited on vacation, with excellent service and very good food. If you are going to stay in the Canyon for any length of time, I would recommend splurging once. (All of the other hotels have cafeteria-style dining, which is much cheaper, but is cafeteria-style dining.)

  • 9. Maswick and Yavapai Cafeterias
    Yavapai Lodge Restaurant, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

    We ate at the Yavapai Cafeteria since we were staying in the Yavapai Lodge. I would assume the other cafeterias associated with the other lodges would be similar. It was very good for cafeteria-style dining. I have seen complaints from some, but if you enter with the idea that it is cafeteria-style dining, it is very good cafeteria-style dining. For the price and the location, I thought it was fine. (It is not El Tovar, see above.)

  • 10. Yavapai Lodge
    Yavapai Lodge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

    A nice, very basic hotel in the Grand Canyon, but off the rim. The east side has A/C. There is a shuttle stop at the east side in the middle of the buildings so getting around the park from there is easy. There is NO Internet access available except at a twenty-five cent per minute kiosk in the lobby. There are phones in the rooms, so dial-up may be an option. To avoid charges, make sure you have a calling card with 800-number access. We had our family call us back to avoid charges.

  • 11. Monument Valley
    Monument Valley, Utah

    Monument Valley exists because the Gouldings persuaded John Ford and John Wayne to make movies here. Otherwise, it would just be a bunch of very pretty rocks in the middle of nowhere.

    It IS the middle of nowhere, so unless you're going specifically to see Monument Valley, there isn't much else to do.

    The tourbooks we had all mention that you need a guide, but you only need a guide to go into the backwoods portion of the valley. Much of the valley is accessable for a $5 per person fee, if you have a vehicle that can handle non-paved roads. A 4WD would work easily, but we saw people in minivans surviving.

    We paid $180 for a private tour from Gouldings, and specified that we were on a photography tour, but the driver really didn't know much about the photography aspects of the valley. If I went again, I would just rent a 4WD and do the tour myself.

  • 12. Four Corners USA
    Four Corners Monument, Teec Nos Pos, Arizona

    Four Corners is where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet. It is the only place in the USA where four states share a border. You have to go if you are in the area to get a cheesy photo of your feet in four states. Trust me, you have to go!

  • 13. Hampton Inn Kayenta
    Hampton Inn Kayenta, Kayenta, Arizona

    This is a very nice hotel and probably preferable to Gouldings, although it is not in Monument Valley. It has free breakfasts like other Hampton Inns, but it also has a restaurant that serves very good meals in the evenings. The other options in the area are fast food and a Holiday Inn, but I think this was the best option.

  • 14. Canyon de Chelly National Monument
    Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chinle, Arizona

    We used De Chelly Tours and were very pleased. We went out at sunrise and sunset and the guides knew the canyon and understood photographer's needs. It was an excellent tour. Thanks to Don, Eleanor and Ronnie!

    There are views accesable from the north and south rim roads, but be prepared to hike a bit to get to the overlooks. The most interesting views are probably looking up from the canyon floor, but entering the canyon (except at one point) requires a guide approved by the Park Service. If you plan to go in at sunrise, prepare to arrive a day early, so you and your guide can get the permit from the Park Service. It's free and it's easy, but they don't open early enough to do it for a sunrise shoot.

  • 15. De Chelly Tours
    http://www.dechellytours.com/

    Authorized tour guides for the floor of Canyon De Chelly and Canyon Del Muerto. You must have a guide to enter the canyon floor, except for the White House trail. To see the canyon at its best, you should be looking up, not looking down. Don, Eleanor and Ronnie were excellent tour guides and were the only guides on any tour we had that understood the lighting aspects of photography and took us to places appropriate for the time of day. We did a sunrise tour and sunset tour the same day and were very pleased with the service.

  • 16. Holiday Inn Canyon de Chelly
    Holiday Inn Canyon de Chelly, Chinle, Arizona

    A nice hotel, but the service is very sporadic. The restaurant is good, and attracts people from all over town, including the other hotels. The box lunch is a very good deal. Otherwise, it's very expensive, since it is in the middle of nowhere.

  • 17. Sheraton Phoenix Airport Hotel Tempe
    Sheraton Phoenix Airport Hotel Tempe, Tempe

    This is a very nice hotel, a bit off the airport, and easy to miss - if you do, don't get on the highway! We had to do a u-turn to get here when we missed the entrance the first time. The rooms are very comfortable. The only complaint is that they charge for Internet access ($9.99 for 24 hours), after we've had free WiFi for most of the time we were in Arizona.

    We decided to stay here to be close to the airport since we're flying home today. It was a good decision and a comfortable way to end the trip.