I had an opportunity to do a multi stop photo vacation in Utah and Arizona (this past April) which included both the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons (Page, Ariz). For many years, I’ve enjoyed wonderful images from this area and figured I’d check it out on route from Zion to the Grand Canyon.
Very very worth it!!! Below is offer some advice for photo-bugs looking to enjoy the wonderful scenery and come back with some spectacular shots:
Where to start (about 10:15am): Lower Antelope Canyon offers the unique ability for “serious photographers” to take self guided tours. A serious photographer means you show up with a tripod and and SLR (not kidding you need both). That gives you the right to pay about $20 more for admission and tour the canyon by yourself! For two vs. one hours (with a group).
Not kidding folks. I was walking around the canyon, enjoying the solitude and taking my time grabbing tremendous photos, while two groups of tourists (each with about 16 people) were tripping over each other to get a good view of the site. All I had to do was go someplace, where the groups weren’t and enjoy myself!!
On to equipment/how to: To get great photos, you’ll need to shoot long exposures (for sufficient depth of field) which will allow you to use smaller apertures (f8-f11/16). Remember to bring a manual shutter release. As for lens selection (wider is better). Most of my shots were taken with a 16-40mm Canon L series lens (with a warming polarizer) and a full frame SLR (Canon 6d). Don’t think about changing lenses in the canyon…there is a fine dust in the area that will get into your SLR if you open.
I had a private guide assigned to me that would stop by ever 20 minutes or so and see how I was doing. How cool is that! I had the guide throw some fine sand into the air about 30 ft from me, directly below where a ray of light was coming into the opening from above. Makes for a great pic.
Moving on: Once I completed touring the lower canyon I immediately hoofed it across the street where the entrance to Upper Canyon is located. You can book with a variety of tour guides to see the upper canyon, but there’s only one located right at the entrance (the others drive in from about 15 mins away). I went with Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours…they did a great job.
What’s different? Upper Canyon is a tourist trap. You’ll be enjoying the sites with about 16 of your closets friends (that is in your group) plus your group will be exploring the canyon along with another 10 or so groups of enthusiasts. Just think of returning home from work at rush hour.
So is it worth it? Yes…the upper canyon is very different than lower. Not better just different. Wider expanses…different rock formations. Yes it’s crowded but its very very cool. Quit complaining…suck it up and enjoy the magic. Just forget your enjoying the magic with the rest of humanity.
For you HDR photography fans. Most photography done in the canyon is done without looking up at the sky (it’s cropped out of the photo). For those of you familiar with HDR photography, suggest you try a few shots using 5 bracketed photos (2 stops apart). You’ll need that many to capture the wide dynamic range.
PS. Your a stones throw from Horseshoe Bend. Make sure to check it out!