If you have been to a business office, seen a motivational poster, or surfed the internet you have seen a photograph of Antelope Canyon. You may not even know you have seen a photo from there or recall when you have, but when you see one, you instantly know you have seen it before. It’s usually a mystical light beam piercing a canyon illuminating it in a warm orange glow, or maybe you have seen the one of blurry streams of sand cascading down the ledges of the canyon walls, or maybe you have seen the eerie black and white one called “Phantom” by Peter Lik that sold for over $6.5 million USD. Regardless, you have seen it, and many others, as it is one of the most photographed and visited places in the world.
Upon stepping inside Upper Antelope Canyon, I could see firsthand why it has been the muse of so many photographers. I could see why the Navajo hold it as a sacred place. I could see it’s breathtaking and awe-inspiring architecture, despite the massive hoards of tourists around me. I could feel the serenity that it used to bask in, despite having to smush past people through the narrow parts. I could see its majesty and feel emotions it evoked out of me, despite the hundreds of footsteps in the sand being created and the agglomeration of heads and cameras filling the space.
Even though it borders cliche, it’s on the beaten path, it comes with hundreds of other tourists just like me, and the tour is slightly rushed, seeing and experiencing Antelope Canyon is an adventure that proved well worth it all. These inconveniences only slightly diminished my experience. After all, there is a reason why it is so popular, and that reason is enough to overcome the other inconveniences.
I took the pricey photography tour, and was thankful I did, because the sheer amount of tourists would have made getting any worthwhile photo near impossible. On the photography tour they do their best to shoo away any tourist from your shots. While I was on the ground, laying in sand, curled up amongst other tripods, and shooting away, my guide was holding groups of tourists behind me and in front of me from entering the space.
There is also a constant swirl of sand in the air, as it pours into the canyon from the top. On windy days, it could feel like you are standing in an hourglass. I left the canyon that day with sand grit in my mouth and eyes, sand in the crevasses of my camera, even despite my self-sacrificing attempts to cover it with my body, and an inch layer of sand that covered my skin and hair.
Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon can only be accessed by a guided tour, and these tours are packed, pricey, and happen all day long, everyday, and all throughout the year. The guides I saw were all incredibly nice and friendly, and, even though the crowds were large, they did a good job of keeping the flow of tours moving while also maintaining quality of experience.
The canyons occasionally show pockets of the sky, and have large sections and narrow sections that you can barely walk through straight. The walls are made out of Navajo sandstone. The Upper Canyon is the most photographed, well-known, and known for it’s light beams, while the Lower Canyon is less popular, but also very beautiful. The small pockets that let the sun in cast different rich colors all throughout the day.
Even though I was rushed through, had to scramble to get photographs, was crammed with other tourists, and was rained on by considerable amounts of sand, I was moved and felt at peace. Always seek out the beauty this world and its people have to offer, it’s what makes life worth living.
- I would recommend a bandanna, hat, and something to protect your camera from the sand that rains from the top all throughout the canyon. Sometimes the downpours are quite significant.
- If you are planning on taking photographs, prepare your camera settings ahead of time. I used a tripod, set my camera to a 2 second delay, set my aperture to 5.6, set my ISO to 100, set my white balance to cloudy, and my shutter speed was a varied long exposure to accommodate under-exposure one stop down.
- Consider taking a photography tour if you have a DSLR and are planning on taking professional photos. Also realize that photography tours are the only ones permitted to have tripods.
- Book your tour ahead of time, because it gets sold out quickly.
- For Upper Antelope Canyon, the best tour time is between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm, because that is the only time you will have a chance of seeing the light beams. That being said, afternoon tours tend to have more rich lighting.
- These tours are weather dependent, so make sure you check weather conditions.
- See other sights near Page, AZ, like Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and Rainbow Bridge.
“A camera is a save button for the mind’s eye.” – Roger Kingston