Upper Antelope Canyon 2012
Driving home from a great week in Canyon De Chelly, (the spiritual center of the Navajo nation) my daughter and I took a drive through Monument Valley and then stopped in Page, Arizona for the night. That night at dinner, over well done steaks and a beer, we made plans to tour Upper Antelope Canyon the following morning.
Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon are known as slot canyons, rare natural occurances that allow incredible shafts of light and reflective glows to pour through the slots when the sun is in exactly the right position. The best time of year to photograph these canyons are the months of June, July, and August when the sun is high in the sky. The photo at the top of the post shows a small piece of one of these light shafts along with a sand fall.
Visiting Upper Antelope Canyon is only available via organized tours as the canyon is on private land a few minutes outside of town. After checking in for our tour, eight of us
piled into a Chevy Suburban and drove to the entrance of the canyon located at the end of a sand wash. The last time I was there, back in 2004, there were just ten people visiting the canyon for the ninety minute tour. Since then, this area has grown in popularity and on this day, there were well over a hundred people and twenty trucks in the parking lot.
My daughter and I had signed up for the more expensive, longer tour set up especially for photographers. With all those people touring in the canyon at the same time, it was great be in a smaller group with a guide who coordinated with other guides to clear out the specific areas we were in so that people would not be visible in a photograph.
The roof of Upper Antelope canyon is very narrow, only a couple of feet wide, while the floor is ten to fifteen feet wide. With the narrow and curving roof, the mid-day sun creates numerous shafts of light in various places in the canyon at different times. To make the light shafts more interesting, guides will toss sand up into the light and for the next few seconds there are wonderful, swirling patterns of falling sand and dust.
Sometimes it was not possible to clear all the people out of the field of view, so I used the falling sand in the light shaft to hide couple folks who strayed into the shot.
I also bugged our guide a number of times to move a tumble weed to various locations to add visual interest.
One of the most beautiful chambers is known as "The Heart Room" and while waiting ten minutes or so for a light shaft to move off of the canyon wall to the floor, our guide showed us a spot where one can look straight up where the canyon walls form the shape of a heart.
A few minutes later, the sun had moved enough so that another light shaft was visible in the Heart Room.
Photographing anywhere in Upper Antelope Canyon requires a tripod because shutter speeds tend to be rather long. The photographs here are all around a half second in length at f8 or f11(ISO 400) to keep things sharp and correctly exposed.
Location wise, Lower Antelope Canyon is a very different experience from the upper canyon. Access is via a short trail from the parking area just off the road. The floor of this canyon is very narrow and in some places one must turn sideways along the one way trail. This narrowness creates numerous places where the sun illuminates the canyon walls and they glow a magnificent orange color.
If you ever find yourself in the area of Page, Arizona, be sure to visit one of these two magnificent canyons.