We’ve been enjoying northern Arizona with friends for the past couple days, and one of the things we explored is Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona on Navajo Nation. Otherwise known as the “slot canyons”, this place has been on my bucket list for about 20 years now. Considering its only 2 hours north of Flagstaff, I’m not sure why I’ve never made the trip up before, but its a pretty easy drive up from there, so I’m so happy we finally got this on the books.
The canyons are made from sandstone and have been carved over time by flash floods and wind. There are two different areas you can go: The Upper Canyon and the Lower Canyon. We scheduled our tour for Upper Antelope because it is where the light beams pour in from the sunshine in the middle part of the day. We did pay extra for this “Prime Time” tour, but it was definitely cool to see the sun beams, and photograph them. The canyons are supposed to be amazing at any time of the day, with the colors inside changing at all times, and even the structure of them constantly changing from wind and floods, so I’ve read there is not a bad time at any point in the day to view them.
I don’t think its possible to take bad photos from in here, and you don’t necessarily need a good camera, (our iPhones all took great shots), but I did take all of these with my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 24mm f/1.4L. I had to constantly adjust my ISO and settings since every turn is different lighting, and there are lots of deep shadows and bright highlights, so my ISO was anywhere from 800-6400 depending on the part, and I think I shot about 75% of them wide open at 1.4.
There are about 4-5 different tour companies that do tours ALL day long, 365 days a year, unless its storming, and you must have a guide take you in, but ours was great and really helped us all find some cool areas to shoot, and they work the groups through in ways that allow for you to get clean photos with no people. The companies all also offer “Photographer Tours” (we just did a regular one) where they take in smaller groups of adults only, but you also have to have a tripod, and I think I would have hated being limited to one. I’ve always been a handheld shooter, so this worked well for me to move around more quickly to get the different angles.
Its VERY very dusty and sandy in there too, so I knew I did not want to risk changing lenses and getting dust and sand particles in my sensor area. (I once dropped a 70-200mm lens off a body due to a single sand particle and that was an expensive lesson!) Here are several of my tops favs. I think I exported 125 shots from our 45 minute time, but tried limit this to the top 30 or so.