Antelope Canyon

AntelopeCanyon-42Upper Antelope Canyon in Utah has been on Hector’s “photographer’s bucket list” for a while. This slot canyon is in the Antelope washbasin within the Navajo Nation. We have seen many iconic photographs of the dreamy red curved rock and moody shafts of light and we wanted to see it for ourselves.AntelopeCanyon-48

But this place takes some effort to get to. Access to the canyon is via guided tours only, and there are three Navajo owned operators that run the tours.AntelopeCanyon-49

There are two kinds of tours. The regular guided photo tour where tripods and monopods are prohibited. And each company runs one photographers’ tour each day which gives more access and time in the canyon.AntelopeCanyon-37

AntelopeCanyon-2AntelopeCanyon-1AntelopeCanyon-3AntelopeCanyon-4The best time for photos is around noon, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky and provides the most light into the canyon. That is also when the famous “light shafts” occur in the upper canyon during spring and summer. The photographers’ tours go during this best time of day.

But both kinds of the mid day tours book up months in advance and our plan to visit this place was kind of last minute, so all the mid day tours were all booked when we checked online.

We did not give up, however, and when we arrived in Page we decided to visit each tour company personally. And we found a couple of mid-day tours slots available. But what we really wanted was the photographers’ tour.

The third try was the charm. The third tour operator, Adventurous, is located a bit of a drive outside of town. They had room on the day that had the clearest weather forecast of the week! For this photographers’ tour the only requirements are that each person have a tripod and an SLR. So we both signed up.

The lady at Adventurous also informed Hector that if he planned to show or sell any of the photography from the area, he needed to get a permit from Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation department. Although normally they prefer photographers to apply by mail in advance, Hector and I made it happen in two days. But it took some persuasion.test-1

The day of our tour was just one week after Hector sprained his ankle. And we were so lucky because it was the first day he was able to get a closed shoe on his foot. A good omen.AntelopeCanyon-5

AntelopeCanyon-8When the tours begin various tour groups are boarded onto a bunch of 4WD vehicles and drive a few miles down a really soft sandy wash to the entrance of the canyon. It is quite an operation.

Then each group enters the canyon with their guide. Although this is not an experience of solitude and reflection, it is a beautiful and awe-inspiring place. The canyon is narrow and winds a quarter mile or so. The tours take you through to the other end and then back. And although lots of people are walking through the canyon, the guides manage the groups fairly well. However, we were not there at the peak time of year, which is the summer.

AntelopeCanyon-13AntelopeCanyon-7AntelopeCanyon-6AntelopeCanyon-9The photographers’ groups get special handling (they are also more expensive). They are given a bit more time in the most photogenic spots, while the guide blocks traffic in both directions to allow just a couple of minutes to get a clear shot. It is a bit frantic and all the photographers are shoulder to shoulder, but it worked really quite well.



AntelopeCanyon-30AntelopeCanyon-27I had a bit of a tough time, as I was not very familiar with the equipment I was using (one of Hector’s older cameras), and this is not really a place for beginners.  At one point I accidentaly unscrewed my tripod top. It was a challenging experience but it motivated me to learn to use all of Hector’s equipment.

AntelopeCanyon-31Hector also had one issue, he was unable to bend down to shoot up from a low angle, because it was too painful for his ankle. But none of our challenges had to do with the tour, in fact, I would highly recommend Roman, our guide. He was great. He worked hard to manage the people and arrange our clear access, had expert advice on camera settings and really made sure his group got the best shots possible.AntelopeCanyon-25AntelopeCanyon-28AntelopeCanyon-41



AntelopeCanyon-14The two hours in the canyon really did make a difference, they allowed us to return to places at crucial times, for example when the light shafts occurred, or when there were no groups walking through. The downside is that in this fast moving group there is no chance of getting any posed people photos, everyone is so focused on getting the best shots of the canyon in the small time windows given for each setup.AntelopeCanyon-33AntelopeCanyon-35AntelopeCanyon-44AntelopeCanyon-43AntelopeCanyon-47AntelopeCanyon-16AntelopeCanyon-36AntelopeCanyon-12

AntelopeCanyon-19Hector and I really enjoyed the experience, the canyon is truly an amazing place, and I think he captured it beautifully (click on any photo to see a larger image). I wound up focusing on photographing the photographers and other people and managed to get a couple of nice shots.

And we learned a lot about how to enjoy and photograph this beautiful place. Check out our tips in the next post.

~ BrendaAntelopeCanyon-38

49 thoughts on “Antelope Canyon

  1. It’s a wow! It seems most of Hector’s photographer bucket list has been ticked off. So glad you guys made it to the canyon, it truly was an amazing place.
    I agree with you those guide seem to know how to handle the camera for they looked at mine and showed me which camera settings to use.

  2. Spectacular and maybe surreal!
    synonyms: unreal, bizarre, unusual, weird, strange, freakish, unearthly, uncanny, dreamlike, phantasmagorical
    “a backdrop of surreal images”
    That’s the word. Color and B&W have a great contrast!
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for the adjectives! I actually am loving the black and white photography and he is doing more of it.
      Hugs to you and Sharon!

    • These are great adjectives for this place. I love the black and white photography and he is doing more of it lately.

  3. Imagine going through all of that to book the tour, get there, get in position in the canyon, and turn on your Nikon, only to see “No Memory Card” on the read-out. LOL! I learned a lot that day about being a “photographer imposter,” and also made a friend. 😉

    Phenomenal shots of the light shafts!

    • OMG, so sorry that happened. We’ll be sure to include in our “Tips” post next. Glad you made the best of it.

  4. Great that you were able to finagle the ‘pros’ tour. With Hector’s ability to capture the scene it’s almost like stepping right into canyon. We felt fortunate to get on a ‘cattle’ tour with my little Canon pocket camera. We have our memories, but your photos really pop!

  5. Loved this post, especially the purple shades and the light shafts – at first I thought it was a waterfall. The blurry people shot rather conveys the crowd and probable adrenalin of everyone trying to make max use of a short time.

    • Thanks, I love the different shades that the rocks take on, it would be cool to visit at different times of day.

  6. Hector – truly awesome photos.
    Brenda – my wife enjoyed how you shared the process of getting on a tour and the challenges of managing everyone’s time in the canyon. Thanks for the details.

    I look forward to your posts every time they show up in my inbox as I know the photos will be spectacular.

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. What an amazing photography shoot. I really can’t think of any adjectives that describe what I saw through his lens…nothing like I have ever seen before. The colors are magnificent and the rays of sunlight stunning.

    It was great to meet you, Hector and Angel at MonaLisa’s. Gay

  8. Wow, those colors, and the beams of light! Just spectacular. So glad you got into the tour that you wanted. Now I’m bummed that we no longer have SLR’s. We’ve gotten lazy. :-))

    • That’s ok, the place is so beautiful you can capture some great shots without an SLR. I understand about not wanting to carry one around – that’s why I haven’t done more with Hector’s equipment.

  9. Well, Hector, you did again! I am running out of adjectives for the photographs you create. This sure is a spectacular place and you grasped all its glory. The sand in the light shafts really creates a beautiful effect. The colors are amazing. I am surprised by how much I enjoyed the B&W photos. It give us a chance to concentrate on the lines and symmetry of the slot. One definitely gets the idea that you were alone most of the time. Brenda, that was a great idea to concentrate on a few shots with other people. Good job:) Thanks for sharing so many of these gorgeous photos. One never tires of the beauty:)

  10. Great photos Hector, this place is a photographer’s dream. This was one of the must do’s on our first US trips in 2012. I got the last spot on a photography tour. It makes it a lot easier as the guides move people out of the way for you. I had trouble manipulating my tripod, gave up and took hand held shots so they aren’t as sharp as I would have liked – so I need to go back!

    • Thank you, it sure is! I understand about the tripod, I had problems as well. I would definitely go back as well.

  11. Thanks for the detailed description on how to actually see the canyon. We spent the last two weeks in southern Utah and thought we would just ‘drive up’ with mo plan. Now I know I need to think ahead.

    • Check out our tips post next, hopefully will help you a bit with planning. But. you know, sometimes those last minute things come together as well.

  12. Wow! I can’t say which shot I liked best and I’m sure you had a hard time trying to decide which fantastic shot to show us! Its hard to believe that something so otherworldly is right below our feet….

    Hector, you did a great job of making us feel you were the only ones to discover this wonder, and Brenda you gave illustration to Hector’s funny story of what goes on behind the scenes.

    It was great meeting you this past week – safe and happy travels as you move toward your new chapter. We’ll be watching.

    • It was great to meet you and Dave also. I do plan to write a lot more about our transition for sure. And we hope to cross paths again.

  13. Every shot…breathtaking! I have not seen many shots by other professionals that I enjoyed as much as this series. Love those B&W images! You outdid yourselves this time!

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