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Chasing the Light in Upper Antelope Canyon

‘As the sun moved across the sky, beams of light would shine through the cracks in the earth high above us. Our time in Antelope Canyon was limited, and I had to get this right, this would be my one and only chance. I set up my camera equipment as best I could, an amateur masquerading as something more; I fumbled with my camera’s settings… would I be able to capture the wonder of this ancient place?

I pressed myself as close to the wall as I could, but there was nowhere else to go. It was so hot I could feel the sweat dripping down my back, and my knees ached from squatting in the dirt. In places the walls were so close together I had to squeeze to get through, and as the rush of people pushed past the dust swirled around me like a lightly falling snow.

The Antelope Slot Canyons Upper and Lower

Formed by the passage of water over the course of thousands of years the Antelope Canyons are an incredible natural wonder. The two slot canyons at this site are referred to as Upper and Lower Canyons.

A visit to the Upper Canyon requires no hiking or climbing, which makes it a more family friendly option. Additionally, Upper Canyon has access from both ends while Lower Canyon has one-way in and one-way out. *Flash flooding is a real possibility in both locations..

A Photographers Dream

Maybe you’re thinking what was this self described indoor girl doing crammed into a crack 120 feet below the surface, with the very real possibility of flash flooding? Funny, I had the exact same thought!

It was the light that brought me to this magical place and I wasn’t alone! Photographers from around the world come to chase the light beams through the narrow passages and unique rock formations of Upper Antelope Canyon.

When the midday sun breaks into the canyon and shines upon the smooth sandstone walls it brings to life the brilliant reds, oranges and yellows, which would otherwise be hidden from view. This natural phenomenon only takes place March through October.

Tour Options – Antelope Canyon can only be viewed via guided tour.

Over the past few years I’ve come to realize the value of a guided tour, however in the case of Antelope Canyon a guided tour is the only option. While there are multiple companies offering tours, not all of them are equal. We lucked out when we chose the fabulous Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours!

A tour group waiting to enter Upper Antelope Canyon

Depending on your group’s interests there are different tours available. Wanting the chance to both take photos and to enjoy this special place I opted to take two different tours.  I took a photograhy tour early in the day and came back in the late afternoon with my family for a sightseer’s tour.

I loved my morning guide, Richardson, so much I requested he be our guide during our afternoon tour.

Photography Tour

This tour is aimed at more serious photographers, or at least those serious enough to have invested in a fancy camera and tripod. Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours limits the number of participants on photo expeditions, so it was just Richardson, myself and one other fellow, Chris from Luxembourg.

We took photos for two straight hours all the while chasing the light based on the position of the sun. Richardson knew where to go within the canyon at any given time to get the best shot. As the sand falls from above it accentuates the beams of light giving them texture and creating a spectacular effect.

Taken with an Iphone 6

This tour is all about photography. There won’t be any explanation of the formations or history.  If, like me, you don’t have a lot of experience photographing dark places, your guide will help you with suggested camera settings.

With so many people getting a clear shot was challenging…

The effect the light beams had were magical

Sightseer’s Tour

Returning later in the day with my family, the beams of light were gone, but the canyons were no less awe inspiring. Focusing less on photography, though cameras are welcome, we learned the names of different formations and enjoyed just being in this wonderous place. At one point we were asked to put our cameras away so we could fully immerse ourselves in the experience.

Taken with an Iphone 6

Need To Know, Tips and Advice:

Keeping busy while waiting on the tour to start

Map provided by Antelope Canyon Tours.

*There was a flash flood in the canyon the day after our tour.

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