Chasing the Light in Upper Antelope Canyon

October 3, 2017
October 3, 2017 Hilary

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?

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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.

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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.

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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..

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

Photography Tour

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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.

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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.

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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.

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With so many people getting a clear shot was challenging…

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The effect the light beams had were magical

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Sightseer’s Tour

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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.

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Taken with an Iphone 6

Need To Know, Tips and Advice:

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  • Antelope Canyon is located just 10 minutes east of Page, Arizona and a two hour drive from Monument Valley.
  • Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours is located at Indian Route 222 HWY 98 between milepost 299 & 300
  • Plan ahead! Tours sell out months in advance, especially midday tours March – October.
  • Photography Tours are $120. Sightseer’s Tours are $48 for adults and children are $28. Parking is free.
  • In addition to your payment, which is collected upon your arrival, the Navajo Nation Parks & Recreation will collect an $8 permit fee. This fee must be paid in cash, however credit cards & traveler’s checks are accepted for tours.
  • Arrive 60 minutes before your scheduled departure. If you have not checked in 30 minutes prior to your scheduled tour, your reservation will be canceled.
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Keeping busy while waiting on the tour to start

  • ONLY cameras and water are permitted on the tour.
  • NO BAGS of any kind are permitted on the Sightseer’s tour.This includes purses. Tripods aren’t premitted either.
  • A DSLR or SLR camera and a tripod are required for the photographer’s tour. A camera bag is permitted on this tour.
  • In the event of bad weather, flash flood warnings, rainout, or high wind advisories, the canyon will be closed. These warnings are taken very seriously.
  • You’ll be driven via an open air 4×4 vehicle to the Canyons.
  • The road is rough, bouncy, hot, DUSTY and dry. Make sure to shield your camera from the dust. I wrapped mine in a disposable plastic baggie.

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  • Dust will cover everything and get everywhere. A bandana or other face covering will come in handy.

Map provided by Antelope Canyon Tours.

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

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I love to travel & explore the world both near and far! I do my best to make the most out of life each and everyday! I have two boys and they are, at the ages of 13 and 18, world travelers and all around go along guys. There isnt anywhere I cant take them. It is my hope this blog will be a way to share the fun things Ive learned while on our many adventures together!

Comments (66)

      • It was! We had our two kids with us (12 and 15 back then) and they still speak from that adventure (5 years ago). We visited also Owl Canyon where my big girl nearly stepped on a snake. Great memories to cherish forever! Marcus

      • Ooh! Not sure about the snake part! We did see a lizard, but he was harmless… I think. I’ve not heard of Owl Canyon, I’ll look it up! Thanks!

  1. You really got the best of both worlds here Hilary with the two different tours. A great idea to do them both. The photos are stunning and quite surreal. The flash flooding though, that would have been on my mind!!!

    • I figured this might be my one and only chance to visit this place, so thought I’d better get it all in! It was on my mind, but thankfully they have a great early warning system.

    • It was amazing, and I was so glad I went two ways, so I could really enjoy it, but also bring home a photo memory as well.

  2. Clare Thomson

    This is extraordinarily beautiful, Hilary. You must feel so proud of yourself to have taken so many wonderful photos – they’re really amazing. I love these so much and would really like to show my children the immense beauty of this part of America. Thanks for inspiring me.

    • Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I admit I’m more surprised than anything! Grateful too… it was such a lovely experience and I hoped to get at least one great picture while I was there. Taking photos here was challenging and at one point my guide reminded me that I was supposed to be having fun… I guess I had quite a serious look on my face! ha ha!

    • Thank you! You’re welcome! Its the only way to see this amazing place, so I thought some details would be prudent!

  3. The ethereal quality of your Antelope Canyon shots is amazing. That photography tour was obviously well worth it! I’ve been off social media / blogs for the last few days because everything that’s been happening around the world is just too heartbreaking, but looking at your photos was very comforting for some reason. Perhaps it’s the reminder that there is, still, some beauty in this broken world of ours. So thank you very much, more than ever, for these beautiful photos.

    • Oh my gosh! Thank you so much. I know how you feel about everything going on, I feel the same. There are times when I question whether it is appropriate for me to keep posting happy things when there is so much heartbreak in the world right now, but then I remind myself that we all need some happiness or inspiration too. Thank you so much for letting my know that I’ve given you some comfort, that means everything to me. xx

    • Thank you! That was the first time I’d ever done two tours of the same place in one day! It definitely worked out!

  4. The photography tour sounds like a dream come true for you! Some of those rays of light are so incredible they don’t look real. I would love to visit Antelope Canyon some day – I just don’t know that I’d be able to do the canyon where you have to enter one way and exit another! #farawayfiles

    • It was amazing! You enter and exit in the same place, but there is an exit in the back, which makes it safer! The Lower Canyon is one way in and one way out with ladders and climning involved, so somewhat less safe… xxo

  5. juliemtms

    These are great tips- bucket list item for me! My brother and his wife have been and they said it was incredible too!

  6. Anisa

    Gorgeous shots! Another place I really want to go to. Thanks for all those tips about the tours. I wonder how many people miss them because they don’t arrive 30 minutes early! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  7. Toimas

    I love Antelope Canyon. We did a photography tour in upper canyon in May this year, Unfortunately, we came to Page bit late so we didn’t say the light beams. Your pictures are great. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  8. Sensational photos Hilary! How many did you take? I’m guessing hundreds. I just love the way you captured the falling sand and the refracting light. I’d love to experience this one day. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • You might be surprised to know that I didn’t take hundreds. There really isn’t time to do so… by the time you get in place, set up your shot and wait for the long exposure it’s time to move… I’m so pleased I actually got a few goods ones! Xx

  9. It’s my dream to photograph Antelope Valley too, Hilary. It’s not so far from me, but still didn’t make it there. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  10. Lyn

    Wow, this is stunning. You captured some amazing photos.I’d love to test my new camera out in a location like this.

  11. Ah finally I get to read this beautiful post! I was wondering how the canyon was made, and of course, by water! How strange to think at one time, there was once so much water there you probably couldn’t have stood there! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  12. Fantastic photos! This place is high on my wish list of places to visit. You’ve given me so many helpful tips since I want to take photos but will also have my family with me. Two tours is a great idea!

    • Ooh! I’m so glad my experience will help you! Two tours was definitely the way to go, especially since photo tours don’t allow any companions to tag along.

  13. Amazing photos!! Thanks for providing the details on lining up the tours. I’ve found often with natural phenomenons like this slot canyon, the photos abound but the how-to is confusing or hard to find. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Exactly! I was told I would need a tour, but had no idea how far in advance you had to book. It was definitely worth the trouble, but I hope this will help others have an easier time of it!

  14. Clare Thomson

    Wonderful re-reading this for #FarawayFiles. I love how you describe how you’re feeling at the beginning of the post. It really captures the atmosphere.

  15. wow, Hilary your photo’s are absolutely amazing – what an inspiring place! And it makes me happy that the tours are so organised and strict, it means the magic can be savoured properly and not spoilt by others. What a fab place – I would love to go!! #farawayflies

  16. Great shots, Hilary! I’ve always loved Antelope Canyon – both for the great hiking and for the amazing light and formations. Pretty scary that there was a flash flood the day after your visit though! Thanks for sharing your adventure and photos on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

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