I am part of a photography group in London. By pure coincidence, my good friend from that group, Tedz, along with his wife and son, were in San Diego for the wedding of his sister. We couldn’t let the opportunity pass to get together whilst 8,000 miles from home.
Jan and I were in Kanab, Utah and Tedz was in San Diego, California. After us throwing a plan together very quickly and booking a tour of Antelope Canyon, Tedz and family drove their hire car 580 miles to pick me up and they managed to arrive before 0900! From Kanab to Page in Arizona was another 83 miles.
I traveled in the car and Jan followed on the bike – we were all going to stay in Page that night.
We checked into our motels and then piled into the car to the edge for our pre-booked visit to Antelope Canyon. I’ve always wanted to go there and it was so worth it. Unfortunately, the Photographers Tour was fully booked so we had to go with the Sightseer tour which meant we were unable to use tripods in the fairly dark canyon. Nothing for it but to really hike up the ISO on our cameras and hope for the best.
Here’s a few of the photos.
We paid our fee and waited for our guide, Brett, to collect us. Antelope Canyon belongs to the Navajo Nation and tours are very strictly controlled. The Canyon is a popular location for photographers and sightseers alike and provides a source of tourism business for the Navajo Nation. The Canyon has been accessible by tour only since 1997, when the Navajo Tribe made it a Navajo Tribal Park. All visits are through one of several licensed tour operators. It is not possible to visit the Canyon independently.
Photography within the canyons is difficult due to the wide range exposure range (often 10 EV or more) made by light reflecting off the canyon walls.
We piled into a Landrover-type vehicle for a very rough ride of about a mile to the Upper Antelope Canyon; this is called Tsé bighánílíní, ‘the place where water runs through rocks’ by the Navajo. It is the most frequently visited by tourists for two reasons. First, its entrance and entire length are at ground level, requiring no climbing. Second, beams or shafts of direct sunlight radiating down from openings at the top of the canyon are much more common in Upper than in Lower. Beams occur most often in the summer months, as they require the sun to be high in the sky. Winter colours are more muted. Summer months provide two types of lighting. Light beams start to peek into the canyon March 20 and disappear October 7 each year.
Flash flood danger
Antelope Canyon is visited exclusively through guided tours, in part because rains during monsoon season can quickly flood the canyon. Rain does not have to fall on or near the Antelope Canyon slots for flash floods to whip through, as rain falling dozens of miles away upstream of the canyons can funnel into them with little prior notice.
On August 12, 1997, eleven tourists, including seven from France, one from the United Kingdom, one from Sweden and two from the United States, were killed in Lower Antelope Canyon by a flash flood.Very little rain fell at the site that day, but an earlier thunderstorm had dumped a large amount of water into the canyon basin 11 km upstream. The lone survivor of the flood was tour guide Francisco “Pancho” Quintana, who had prior swift-water training. At the time, the ladder system consisted of amateur-built wood ladders that were swept away by the flash flood. Today, ladder systems have been bolted in place, and deployable cargo nets are installed at the top of the canyon. At the fee booth, a NOAA Weather Radio from the National Weather Service and an alarm horn are stationed.Despite improved warning and safety systems, the risks of injuries from flash floods still exist. On July 30, 2010, several tourists were stranded on a ledge when two flash floods occurred at Upper Antelope Canyon. Some of them were rescued and some had to wait for the flood waters to recede.