Today we experienced Antelope Canyon. This is one of the most popular photo destinations in all the west. Not only photo popular, but plain tourist popular. There are a couple of problems with this. First, the canyon is narrow – it is difficult to move through the passage more than single file. If someone sets up with a tripod, the way is blocked for a while. And a tripod in necessary. It is very dim inside. Typical exposure times are 30 seconds or more – then you have to wait another 30 seconds for the image to process so you can see what you got. There are people everywhere. If you had hoped for a “commune with Nature” sort of experience, forget it. It is an intense no nonsense period of time. You must set-up a shot, try to focus in dim light, guess an exposure for the contrasty situations, make your exposure while you protect your tripod from getting kicked by yourself or another visitor while hoping someone doesn’t walk in front of the camera during the exposure, check your image after it processes, adjust your exposure and repeat the process. But even with all that, it is worth it.
Having a guide is not only helpful, but required. The canyon is regulated by the Navajo Nation. They do a pretty good job considering how many people want to visit. Mary and I signed up for an extended photo tour that was limited to 12 people. We only had 10 in our group. I had hoped this would mean a relatively relaxed visit to the canyon. We got in the truck and took the short drive to entrance. Upon arrival, I saw there were at least 6 other trucks already there – and we left at 9:30 a.m. But having the guide on the photo tour was very helpful. He was sensitive to our needs by moving us to less populated portions of the canyon, and pointing out potential set-ups. He also was able to hold off people from walking through during exposures. There simply is not time to stand around and consider your surroundings. If you do, you will be over-run with the next group coming through.
Our guide, Paul, took us immediately to the end of the canyon where we could work in relative calm for a short time. As the next group approached, he moved us to another unoccupied area and held others off as long as he could before moving us along again. We had 2 hours in the slot – another advantage to the extended photo tour. Most other tours are 1 hour and little consideration for photography is made. Mary and I did manage a number of really nice shots – something we were not sure of till we had time to download and review later.
After resting up for a few hours, we headed out to Horsehoe Bend for sunset. This is a place where the Colorado River makes and extreme bend around a butte. The view alone across the canyon is spectacular. The viewpoint is somewhat unusual in terms of park overviews. There are no guardrails and the drop off is severe. At least 1000 ft. straight down. It was fun to watch people approach the edge. Some would just walk up, but most would gingery slip-step up to it, other would literally crawl. Wives and girlfriends would grip their mens’ hands as the guys would try to look over the edge. I myself did a sort of crawl slip till I was on the very edge. I is a scary in a fun kind of way. Next morning we went out again for sunrise for a slightly different view. The cloudy skies both times we visited made the shots a little less than hoped for, but still really nice.
Now, a few days in the Flagstaff area before going to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and Sedona afterwards.