Monsoon, Northern Arizona | Mark Lindsay

Photographing monuments, icons, and landmarks is a trap. The big, familiar images just sit there taunting you to photograph them. You can't resist them, nor should you. It seems that it is human nature to want a photograph of oneself in front of a famous sight. "I was here!" the photo shouts triumphantly. It seems like a tiny moment of fame, a validation for all the hard work we've done in life.

I try to get those photos out of my system as early as possible. Today, digital cameras make that easy as we don't need to expose film in order to do this. At Grand Canyon, particularly on the South Rim, all the familiar scenes are there with plenty of tourists finding them. The frenzy is generally more interesting than the South-RIm panorama once you've been to the canyon a dozen times, like I have. I enjoy watching people's reaction to the big hole, wondering how many of them will return to descend into it. Sadly, the Park Service claims that the average visitor spends a couple hours at the rim and then leaves. More than 99% never set foot inside the canyon itself. Most seem to want the familiar snapshots and then feel satiated.

These days I like to find little things to photograph on the way to the canyon, in the canyon and after the big hikes. They always end up being the most compelling images. Today's image was shot during the final drive from Flagstaff to the park. We encountered a ferocious storm along the way and I just made photos from the passenger seat of the rental car. The photos seemed to capture the magnitude of nature and the suspense that the pre-hike drive always has.

This may not be a "canyon shot," but it's one of my favorites of the several thousand images I made. The canyon seems just over the horizon and the rain reminds us that the hike is serious stuff and that nature always has surprises in store for us.

The key is to get the familiar images on film or disk. Search beyond the familiar. Look up and look down. Explore different angles and perspectives. There's nothing wrong with making the cliché image as long as you don't stop there. The viewer wants to see your connection to the place, not some rehash of something seen a million times. Have fun and play.