Antelope Canyon - June 2016
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Antelope Canyon, a narrow slot canyon located on Navajo land near Page, AZ, has been well known to photographers for many years. It's quite common on the "must visit list" of many people. It had been on my list for a while, and in June I got the chance to visit and photograph this amazing place.
There are many reason why people are drawn here, both as photographers and sightseers. The soft undulating curves of the weather carved Navajo Sandstone. The way the color of the smooth walls seems to change with the light of the day, showing pale shades of pink, yellow and orange. And the light shafts, those amazing beams of light that cut through the canyon air at the height of day during the summer months.
There are two main sections of Antelope Canyon. Lower Antelope, which is less visited, narrower and does not get those famous light beams. And Upper Antelope, the far more famous one, with larger passage ways, the light beams, and a ton more people! The only way to visit either of these sections is with a Navajo guide, there are two companies that operate tours in Lower and several for Upper. I was able to schedule "photography" tours for each canyon, therefore I was able to use a tripod, and I also secured a special use permit from the Navajo Nation so that I am able to use these photographs commercially (publication, print sales, this blog....etc.)
There are a lot of images of Antelope Canyon. It's one of the most visited slot canyons anywhere in the world. It's fairly easy to access, close to town, requires no canyoneering skills, and of course is heavily promoted as a tourist attraction. It came into even more note a few years ago when Peter Lik reported selling his photograph "Phantom" for a record setting amount of $6.5 million. This sale has come under some scrutiny, but regardless it made headlines and made Upper Antelope Canyon even more famous.
When I visited I approached it with a mix of wanting to get that classic, quintessential Antelope Canyon shot and also to try and do something a little different. Going too much in a different direction is hard there, as you are often rushed, and crowded in with so many people. As part of a photography tour they do help hold back the crowd for short moments to get those unobstructed images that makes it look empty. I did end up getting some of those unmistakable shots, especially with the light beams of Upper Antelope. But I tried some different techniques as well, in Lower I used a fisheye lens to really push the perspective. At Upper Antelope I also shot some black and white film with my Mamiya M645 to give a different feel to the images and having to really focus on composition. With so many photographs of this place out there I wanted something a bit different, I'm not sure I accomplished anything drastically original, but I was happy with the work I got out of it nonetheless.
Here are some of my favorites from both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon: