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Tour Antelope Canyon, Arizona
The photos and video in this hub are published with the permission of the Navajo Nation Film Office - Permit #3638.
Antelope Canyon Dreams
DSLR Photography - Antelope Canyon
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Upper Antelope Canyon
The Photograph That Took 20 Years To Capture
When I was just a kid, living deep in the piney woods of Alabama, my Uncle Claude and Aunt Lacy lived in Tucson, Arizona. They sent the family a gift subscription to Arizona Highways magazine. You can imagine the impact the beautiful photos in that magazine had on my impressionable mind. They might as well have been taken on another planet.
As an adult, I moved to Tucson and lived in southern Arizona for more than twenty years. I was an enthusiastic photographer and traveled extensively all over the state, taking thousands of pictures of that glorious, almost surreal landscape.
Once in a great while I would run across a stunning photo of swirling waves of stone - sculpted by running water through canyons cut into solid sandstone. These 'slot canyons' had names like Paria Canyon and Antelope Canyon. But exact locations and directions were difficult to come by.
I finally managed to get to some of the slot canyons feeding Paria canyon - Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch. The hiking was fantastic, and my photographs sucked. The extreme range of exposure values were totally beyond my ability to capture, even after repeated attempts.
Finally in 2010, with a couple of friends and a Pentax DSLR, I signed up for a photo tour of Upper Antelope Canyon, led by a smart, funny, friendly, and extremely knowledgeable Navajo guide.
It was more than a little humbling for the three of us (who had decades of photo experience) to get schooled by this diminutive Navajo lady. But on that trip, with her help, I finally got the images that I had tried for so long to capture.
Where is Antelope Canyon?
Where is Antelope Canyon?
Antelope Canyon is located on the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona, USA. The nearest town with food and lodging is Page, Arizona. I recommend using Page as your base of operations.
Page is located near the Utah Border and is a major access area to Lake Powell, Monument Valley, and the Grand Canyon.
As of this writing Hiway 89 is closed south of Page. So, if you are traveling North from Phoenix, you will have to detour - get the most up to date info on detours here.
Tour Antelope Canyon - Map
Parking area is close to Hiway 98 on the right
Parking area is close to Hiway 98 on the left
Lower Antelope Canyon Tour
How Do You Get to Antelope Canyon?
Many of the tour companies in Page begin their tours at a location in Page, then Drive you to the the Canyon in their vehicles.
If you want to drive yourself to the entrance to either Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon here are the directions:
From Page, AZ
1. Head northeast on S Navajo Dr toward S Lake Powell Blvd 66 ft
2. Take the 1st right onto S Lake Powell Blvd 0.5 mi
3. Turn left onto Coppermine Rd 1.4 mi
4. Turn left onto AZ-98 E 2.2 mi
5. Turn left toward Indn Route 222 0.5 mi
6. Sharp left onto Indn Route 222 0.3 mi
7. Sharp right to stay on Indn Route 222 190 ft
8. Slight right to stay on Indn Route 222 226 ft
9. Slight right to stay on Indn Route 222
Entrance and parking will be on the left 0.2 mi
Lower Antelope Canyon
Indn Route 222
LeChee, AZ 86046
The turn-off to the Upper Antelope Canyon parking area is about 1 mile past the Indn Route 222 turnoff on AZ-98 E. Entrance and parking will be on the right.
Lower Antelope Canyon Tour
Tour Antelope Canyon
You do not have a choice in the matter, if you want to tour Antelope Canyon, you will have to hire a guide or take a guided tour.
There is a 2-hour Limit inside Upper Antelope Canyon as well as Lower Antelope Canyon.
You can book a tour ahead of time with one of the many commercial tour companies based in Page, Az or just show up at the entrance to either canyon. Park in the parking area and go over to the booth and sign up for an ad hoc tour.
These tours are organized on a first come first served basis and leave at regular intervals.
The downside of this kind of tour is that you will be walking with a dozen or so people. They may or may not be taking the time to get great photos, and keeping them out of your photos will be difficult.
Photo Tours vs Regular Tours
If you want to capture images like the ones in this hub, take a photo tour. It will cost you more, but there are a number of benefits to paying the extra money:
- you will be in a smaller group (inquire when booking)
- you will receive good advice on camera settings for best results
- you will get tips on specific formations that are especially photogenic.
- you will have more time to spend setting up and shooting each location
- your guide will be patient as well as informative - they know why you are there
Iron Stairs in Lower Antelope Canyon
The Challenge of Antelope Tours
You will face a number of challenges besides just finding the place.
- the geography - Both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon is at about 4,000 feet elevation and the canyon walls rise 120 feet above the stream-bed.
- the hike - Upper Antelope Canyon is fairly level, Lower Antelope Canyon has a number of steep iron staircases and at the end, requires you to climb stairs the equivalent of a 3 story building.
- the heat - It gets very hot in the summer - you are, after all, in the middle of the desert.
- the crowds - There are multiple tours in the canyon at any given time. Photos and videos that picture a quiet, empty, lonely landscape are not literally true.
- the lighting - It can be very difficult for photographers to get excellent results.
- the flash floods - 12 Hikers Were Swept Away By Flash Flood in 1997.
Face in the Rock
Lower Antelope Canyon Photographer's Pass
One way to photograph the canyon is to get a photographers pass at the entrace to Lower Antelope Canyon, good for 2 hours, and you will be able to roam freely in the canyon without a guide.
The criterion for a photographers pass seemingly is a mid level to professional grade tripod and an DSLR or better camera - if you have a point-and-shoot or camera phone or a mono-pod instead of a tripod, you won't qualify.
I noted that anyone with a photographers pass was actually a photographer - everyone I saw with a pass had some pretty expensive equipment and were obviously serious about their photography.
All others are required to tour the canyon on the guided tours that the guides at the shed run on the half hour.
To Be in Harmony With Something Greater Than Yourself
When you tour Antelope Canyon, you are a guest on the Navajo Nation. As such, you should be aware that the local laws, customs, and practices may be different than what you are used to. Local laws are enforced by the Navajo Nation Police
In particular, the traditional customs of the Navajos embody a deep reverence for Nature, the Land, and the Landscape. Conduct yourself accordingly. The navajonationparks.org website has this description:
"To older Navajos, entering a place like Antelope Canyon was like entering a cathedral. They would probably pause before going in, to be in the right frame of mind and prepare for protection and respect. This would also allow them to leave with an uplifted feeling of what Mother Nature has to offer, and to be in harmony with something greater than themselves. It was, and is, a spiritual experience."
It was a spiritual experience for me and when you approach it with the right attitude, it can be a spiritual experience for you as well.