Last June I told my husband “Let’s do something special for our 30th wedding anniversary. I’ll plan the trip!” Of course I had already been researching a bucket list trip to Antelope Canyon for weeks because I was dying to photograph the slot canyons there 🙂 But he got to fly us there in his small plane so it was a win, win trip for both of us, right?? I think he had a great time too. At least I didn’t make him get up early for sunrise shoots with me…although personally I think he missed out on the gorgeous sunrises!
I knew from reading lots of articles on the Upper and Lower slot canyons that I should sign up for the extra time “photographers tour”. The light beams are only visible in the Upper Canyon for a short period each day. I knew to get my camera settings ready before I went in and to have it on the tripod already with a remote trigger. I was also aware that there would be LOTS of people on tours in these canyons. They are on tribal land and you cannot go into them without a guide from the various tribal tour companies. At least I thought I was prepared for the number of people and the pace at which they move you through……..I was NOT prepared. Seriously, it…is….INSANE. There were six of us on my tour. Surprisingly only two of us had tripods. You aren’t even supposed to be allowed on that tour without a tripod, but whatever. It worked out in my favor. I was also the lone American with 5 Belgian tourists! Our guide took us in there and you feel like you are in a herd of cattle being shoved through a corral. There are multiple tours going through there at the same time so you watch one group with tripods take their shots, then they move and you move into their spots. Your guide yells “Set up your shot” and he throws sand up into the light beams so they will stand out. There are groups behind you trying to stand over you and take shots and they guides are yelling at each other to “move on” because there is a limited amount of time to shoot the light beams. There are people on other tours that are not photographer tours yelling at you “Hey you are not supposed to have tripods in here!” because they don’t understand we are on a different tour and paid extra money for this privilege. I was literally on the verge of tears for the first half hour!
So have I scared you off of visiting this place yet? Are you wondering if it was worth it for me?? YES…IT…WAS! It was worth all the chaos, and all the yelling and all of the people. It was worth the 30 minute jeep ride on a bumpy road to the Upper Canyon. Because I got the images you will see below. If I can make any suggestions for you it would be:
- Pay the extra coin for the Photographer Tour on the Upper Canyon. That is where the light beams are visible. The Lower Canyon is beautiful too just no light beams. Rob did the Lower Canyon tour with me and it is a little more relaxed and low key. No tripods allowed but a stunning slot canyon as well.
- Set your camera up beforehand. I would suggest a wide angle lens. I set my iso at 400 and aperture at F9 and changed the shutter speed to get a proper exposure. It ranged from .5 seconds to 2 seconds depending on the light. Use a remote trigger or set it up on a 2 second delay to avoid camera shake.
- I would not recommend switching lenses because there is a LOT of dust and sand floating around in there. Bring a second camera body with a zoom lens if you want to do different perspectives. Just be aware that you are shuttled through the key photo spots fairly quickly so not a lot of time to switch out cameras on a tripod. If i had a second body I would just crank up the iso and drop the aperture to F4 so you can shoot handheld.
- Prepare for people….lots of people. I will say that after the first 45 minutes or so of the tour when the light beams were gone the crowds cleared out and we had a good half hour of peace to appreciate the open slot canyons and their beauty.
- It might not feel relaxing when you are in there. But when you get home and load your images with the rich textures and shadows and lines of the canyon you will forget all about the chaos of the day!
- Editing is different for everyone and it is your own interpretation of the experience. I add vibrance and pull out the reds and oranges a little bit to enhance the lines and contrast in the canyon. If you look up Antelope Canyon images on the web you will see a wide variety of editing styles and tones. You make it what YOU want it to be!
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the images of the canyons. I could share so many more but I won’t bombard you. I still have a ton left to edit! Obviously I had to do a little macro there on my morning walks and had to capture sunrises and sunsets too! And Horseshoe Bend is a must see for sunset on your visit to Page, AZ. It is a bit of a walk from the parking lot but you can’t beat that view of the curve in the Colorado River. Bring a wide angle lens for that one….you will need it!
I tried a couple of the images in Black and White too 🙂
Glen Canyon Dam – We did the tour which was pretty interesting
Just us and several hundred of our closest friends shooting sunset at Horseshoe
Sunset and sunrise shots from our hotel on Lake Powell. The Lake Powell Resort is a GREAT place to stay!
And a couple of macro shots 🙂