Antelope Canyon

NIK_6399I wasn’t going to post this week to A Word In Your Ear’s A Word A Week Photo Challenge: Weather.  I simply don’t have a lot of great weather type pictures and nothing but sunshine and clear skies in the good ol’ SoCal weather forcast this week.  (Though it is on my list this year to do a shoot in the rain.)  I’ve also posted the last two weeks in a row and I figured the world might need a break from me.  Then, I actually read her whole post and saw the word “weathering”.  Weathering is something I couldn’t resist…

Two summers ago I ditched the kids.  We were on our vacation which covered Zion and Lake Powell.  As it turns out, near Lake Powell is a stretch of Navajo Lands.  Within these lands is Antelope Canyon.  Antelope Canyon is a series of slot canyons shaped by a millennia of flash flooding.  The monsoon season occurs every year in the American Southwest leaving behind these spectacular canyons.


So back to ditching the kids.  To enter the canyons you must be with a Navajo guide.  There are very large groups that are rather inexpensive and they will take you through both the popular Upper and Lower Canyons.


I opted for a slightly more expensive full day small group tour, which I have not regretted.  In addition to the two popular canyons, our guide took us to three completely exclusive canyons.  He also ran interference and somehow managed to get us “front row access” in the overcrowded sections.  As an added bonus, the others in my party only purchased a half day, so by the end of the day it was just the guide and me.


I have done very little with these photos and I hadn’t started shooting raw yet.  The truth is, if you have a tripod and a camera with manual settings and a timer or remote, you can get these shots.  The canyons are a target rich environment…you seriously can’t go wrong.  The other thing you should know is the image you get with the camera is way different that what you see with the naked eye.  This photo is a really good representation of what your eye sees:

NIK_6248Mostly homogenous color, right?  As you get deeper into the slots and lengthen you exposure times, the camera will catch all this light bouncing around off the curves of the canyon and that is where the magic is.  But you can only see it with those long exposures.  I can’t imagine the first person who shot in these canyons without a digital preview, got back to their darkroom, and saw what they had.  It must have been a great moment.NIK_6447

A Word About the Light Shafts

The Upper Canyon is known for it’s light shafts.  There are certain times of the day, when the sun is overhead, that you can capture these shafts.  The guides have it down to a science.  The shafts only last for a few minutes then they disappear and you have to find a new one.


…and a few more from the Upper Canyon

The Lower Canyon

I spent two hours in the Lower Canyon.  The color and light was amazing down there.  Most people prefer the Upper canyon, but I loved that Lower Canyon.  The Lower Canyon is home to two pretty frequently photographed formations:  “The Woman In The Wind” & “The Chief”.


NIK_6286They are definitely striking to see, but is was all the nooks and crannies that I loved best.

The Other  Canyons

It was nice to be in the other canyons simply because no one else was there.  I didn’t feel rushed and my guide was able to tell me Navajo stories while I worked.



NIK_6436This experience was one of the most spectacular of my life.  If you love photography and are ever in the American Southwest, put this on your list.

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86 thoughts on “Antelope Canyon

  1. I’ll be going here this summer, thanks for sharing your thoughts on how to shoot there. I’ll have them in mind :)

  2. Gorgeous photos! I was in Zion natl park last year and wanted to get some shots like these, but wasn’t able to get up the river to where those canyons are there. You make me regret I didn’t try harder. I’m glad you liked some of my photos. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  3. These beautiful photos have confirmed my desire to visit the canyon. I need to do my research to find the best time of year to make my visit. Any suggestions you have will be welcome.

    • Hi John. Thanks for stopping in.

      I was there in June and it was great. There is more daylight/longer period of time with sun overhead, allowing for more opportunity to capture the light shafts in the upper canyon. I don’t know if it makes a difference for the lower canyon. The monsoon season starts in mid-July and you don’t want to be in the canyons during a storm making late July through September hit or miss. My guide told me May-June was best, but you will have to deal with the crowds.

  4. Pingback: Antelope Canyon Peak | Shmamaland

    • If you have a winter home in Arizona, you might want to call one of the guide company’s and see what they think. It seems like a shame to live in Arizona and then wait to until you are in Fargo to go back to Arizona. This is the group I went with and it looks like they even have a night shoot, now. They also have winter times, so it’s definitely worth checking out. Good luck!

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