Where the Antelope Play …

… ok, they may not be able to play here.


With sand floating, the light beams light up!

Still in Navajo Nation, there’s another spot called Antelope Canyon that I’ve been dying to capture for years – I finally made it, but with the limited time to only do one canyon. The upper canyon is the more travelled and famous one whereas the lesser known lower canyon nearby fights to become a worthy equal. After much pictorial research, I chose the lower canyon (it didn’t help that all of the upper canyon tours were completely full). Both canyons are tightly controlled by the Navajo as you must be part of their tours instead of being able to wander about by your lonesome – this is a recent change over the years.

What so special about these canyons is that both are subterranean. Born as cracks in the Earth and millions of years of erosion as rushing waters underground seek their way on to a spillway leaving behind these deep fissures or crevasse’s. Even today, during the monsoon season, flash floods are the norm which halts tours into the slot canyons for obvious reasons. The wonder and beauty of nature’s made carvings is truly a sight to behold.

From what I’ve been able to gather, the main difference b/n the upper and lower slot canyons is that the upper slot is much more family friendly. Firstly, you must be driven to the canyon (which hikes up the cost). Access into it is much more simpler and once your underground, the slot itself is 2 to 3 times as wide with more light shafts beaming through the surface of the Earth. Contrary, the lower slot is within walking distance from the parking lot, but has a number of fairly steep stairwells to negotiate during your descent to its floor and unlike the upper, this is a narrower canyon.

Having chosen the lower slot canyon, I reserved a 12:20pm time slot specifically for photography. Being that we arrived a couple hours earlier to check-in, they informed us that the 10:20am photo tour was much better this time of year to capture more nightshifts beaming into the canyon – so, we switched to this time slot. You pay better than double the price, but totally worth it as all of the Guides work together in holding back the massive amounts of crowds so you can make images without people in your frame. This said, however, you’re giving 2 minutes to shoot a scene while the regular tour watches and waits. Once time is up, the crowd is released and you wait again. All in all, you have 2 hours (regular tours just walks right through). The colors bouncing off the walls from the openings at the Earth’s surface overhead is a treat to the eyes. You mainly see rust colored walls, but the camera is able to distinguish much more! Oranges, red, yellows, magenta, purple come to mind. The Guides also clue you into best angle locations, camera settings (if needed) and toss sand up into the air to light up the beam of light raining from above.


Details details … what do you see?

I highly recommend to not change lenses once underground b/c it’s dusty down there – which will surely cause havoc with your camera sensor and required a good cleaning afterwards. I shot with 2 cameras, one wide angle lens mounted on a tripod and the other with a zoom range from 24-200mm handheld. Handholding down there isn’t too difficult, just bump your ISO up a bit (I set mine to 400 and had plenty of light with it). You also want to keep your aperture in the mid-range of things. I ranged from f4 – f14 depending on what affect I was going after for the falling sand in the light beams according to my desired shutter speed. Some of the image above have similar scenes – one with and without light beams … which one do you prefer?


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