Thursday, June 23, 2016

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is probably one of the premier destinations in North America.  The slot canyons of Arizona and Utah all unique in their own right, but the colors of Antelope Canyon really set it apart from the rest.

Planning your visit
There are some important things to keep in mind when planning your visit to Antelope Canyon.  The first thing to remember is that you are entering an Indian reservation and you will be charged a fee just to enter the land of the Canyon.  This was $8 when I went recently, but it rose from earlier periods, so maybe it will go up again.  I think this is just $8/car, but I am not positive about that.

Keep in mind that there are peak times for both upper and lower canyon and better times of day to arrive as well.  The best times for lower are usually in the morning around 8:30-10, and late afternoon from 4-5:30.  On the other hand, the best time to visit upper is around noon.  That being said, you will have packed crowds almost any time of day going to upper and many will mistakenly think that lower is better based on a couple high profile tourist articles that you can find online, so if you visit lower at noon, you are likely to find large crowds as well.

Antelope Canyon line
The Line into the Canyon
You can go online and book tours beforehand, or you can book them at the window.  For the upper canyon it is doubtful that you will find anything very quickly if you do a walk in, and reservations online go pretty quickly as well for peak times.  During the summer you are not likely to find empty times in the canyon, but it still does happen, but gone are the days when lower canyon would be almost completely empty.  Now both canyons are packed with tours throughout the summer.

Antelope Canyon exit
The tight exit to the Lower Canyon
You must go down into the Canyon with a guide, and the going will be rather slow as there are multiple companies offering tours at all times of day.  This leads to a lot of backed up traffic getting down into the canyons.  So keep in mind that you are likely to stand for a long period of time in the sun before you get down into the canyon, and if you do a walk in, you are likely to spend at least an hour waiting for your tour to start, once again this will be in your car since it is just a parking lot where you wait, so bring water and be prepared to hang out in your car for an hour or more depending on which canyon you want to visit.  The tours will also usually last about an hour to an hour and a half, so that's also something to keep in mind and to plan for with extra water.

You can bring an umbrella as well

Finally, there is a price per person to getting down into the Canyon.  It is $20/person to enter Lower Canyon and tack on an additional $20/person to visit Upper.  These prices are not for premium tours either.  If you want a premium photography tour with extra time and the ability to use tripods, you need to spend around $80/person.

Upper or Lower Canyon
A lot of people will get all worked up about the contest between upper and lower canyon.  Quite frankly there are some big differences, but maybe not so great compared to what you want out of the canyon.  If you are looking for the beautiful sun rays coming through a tight-lipped opening, upper is the canyon for you.  If you want a little more color and a really nice tight canyon, lower is the one for you.  Both have sun rays, but they come at different times of day, and quite honestly if you really want those light rays in a photo, you should probably spend extra for the photo tours of upper.  If money is a problem, however, then go with lower, you won't be disappointed in either canyon, and lower can save a family a lot of money.  It's also a little less crowded, although it is still anything but ever empty.

Antelope Canyon sun rays, lower canyon

Photographing the Canyon
Photographers will complain about photographing the canyon all day long, and there are a lot of reasons for this.  First and foremost, it is almost impossible to get a clear shot if you are part of a normal tour.  Second, you aren't allowed the use of a tripod if you aren't part of a photography tour (thank goodness for this, however, since otherwise say goodbye to somewhat quick tours).  This creates quite a problem in the dark canyons and especially in upper canyon, which can be extremely dark in some places.

Antelope Canyon crowd
The ever moving throng
Your guides, and some other blogs will give you some bad photography advice on taking pictures in the Canyon.  First and foremost the big no no is to ramp up your iso past 800 (I would try to keep it under 400).  Even on nice cameras this is hardly ever a good idea, struggle with shake long before you give up and push up your iso.  The second bad piece of advice is to use your camera's built in HDR as a first resort.  The reason why this can be bad is that on the long exposures you're going to shake more and if the camera is set to automate the hdr, this could show up in your pictures as well.  A much better idea is to just shoot in raw and make use of bracketing to fix it later.  Another trick is to lean against the wall when you take your shots, this will help diminish shake and help you get the shot you want.  Another good option is to shoot with your camera's preset night mode as this will take a bunch of shots at a low exposure and automatically brighten them.  This shouldn't be your go to option, but if you find yourself on a normal tour in the bottom of the darkness of Upper Canyon, this could save you.

Antelope Canyon colors

Antelope Canyon wave

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon shark

Antelope Canyon sunrise

Additional places to visit in the area
Once you finish, you will be near Lake Powell, the Grand Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend.

Horseshoe Bend

There are many great after destinations if you hit the Grand Canyon along the road.  Heading north you come to Kanab, where you can find Arches National Park, Canyonlands, and the vaunted Wave.  A little north of there you find Capital Reef and a little farther west is Zion and north of there Bryce.

If you are nearer the South Rim, you will be right next to Havasu Falls (takes a lot of planning to visit) or close to Sedona if you head south.

If you have any suggestions or would like to contribute click here to send me an email.  If you would like to sponsor my trip somewhere to showcase your business or to work with me please send me an email as well.

Additionally, follow me on InstagramFacebook, or check out my photography website at A River Runs Through It Photography.

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