USA Road Trip Part II: Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend / by Mark Greenfield

Well it's only been three months since the first part of my USA blogs and I hope the wait has been worth it. It wasn't meant to be this long between them but I've always had something else that needed doing or just simply forgot!

The photography tour of Upper Antelope Canyon was something I could not miss out when visiting the US and the tour was booked several months in advance just to ensure I wasn't going to miss out.

We arrived in Page, Arizona late afternoon on the Friday and after dropping the suitcases off headed out with the camera to Horseshoe Bend for sunset and I was not to be disappointed. I'd read beforehand that the place can be crowded especially with photographers hogging the edge but on this particular evening it was relatively quiet and I had no trouble setting up and waiting for the sun to descend. We did return on the Saturday evening and what a difference a day makes, it was that busy we had to leave the car on the side of the road along with several others already parked as the car park was that rammed and in the end the sunset was non-existent! 

Still what an experience it is to stand on the edge and look down at the Colorado river 1,000 feet (300 metres) below you, it truly is breath taking, no wonder this location ends up on photographers bucket lists!



Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona 16mm Focal Length, 1/8 sec, F11, Iso 100


Saturday arrives and it's Canyon Tour day :) In the morning its Upper Antelope Canyon for the photography tour and then in the afternoon it's Lower Antelope Canyon for a general tour as there are no photography tours in the lower canyon. Now I'd read and been told about all the horror stories when photographing the canyon from dust/ sand getting into the camera (not the place you want to be changing your lenses but some people have done it) and the canyon being crowded and cramped. So having done the research on the internet for photographing in the canyon and not wanting to ruin the camera (hey I still had Yosemite and Monument Valley to come yet!) I equipped the camera with a couple of shower caps which I then taped down and used a UV filter with a lens hood on the front which worked a treat (any adjustments I made to the camera settings I did through the shower caps as they were loose enough to move dials etc). I'd also purchased a dust blower as well from Walmart in Page just in case any dust did manage to make it through the protective layers and did give the camera a few blasts just to be on the safe side.



Sands of Time, Upper Antelope Canyon Focal Length 22mm, F8, 10 second exposure, Iso 100


Now when you see photo's of the canyon it would appear that there is no one else about but the entire tour is treated almost like a military operation. When you're in their shooting there are the general tours happening at the same time and there's about 70 people on those tours and there are sections of the canyon that are tight and you do have to get past the folks on the general tour to get to your next location which often involves carrying the camera on the tripod and pushing through on occasion.



Focal Length 16mm, F8, 1/2 second exposure, Iso 100


But being on the photography tour affords you certain privileges hence why you see no people in any of these shots. Once you reach your location you set up in two banks (sometimes it could be more but unbelievably not everyone turned up for the tour I was on) with those with wide angle lenses on the bottom and those with zoom lenses having the luxury of standing up and not getting covered in sand and then you have 2 to 3 minutes to set up the camera so you really need to know the camera. It's at this point that the guides stop those on the general tour whilst you shoot and they stop them from getting in your shot for a few minutes and anyone who tries to walk through is shouted back... it works! 


Focal Length 22mm, 1/2 second exposure, F8, Iso 100

For those who think the Canyon is just disorganised chaos, it's far from it. The guides certainly know what they are doing, constantly communicating to one another and also assisting in the shot for example throwing the sand up on the ledge in the "Sands of Time" shot so that you can capture the falling sand...The guides during the 20 minute drive to the canyon go through what camera you have and what settings would work best and if you are struggling like the guy next to me was they did help him out a couple of times when the opportunity afforded so he could get some shots he could take home. 


Focal Length 17mm, F9, 1/4 second exposure, Iso 100

Overall then Upper Antelope Canyon is one heck of an experience and unlike anything else I've experienced and is highly recommended after all I'd do it again :) and below is my favourite shot of the experience


Focal Length 16mm, 3 second exposure, F8, Iso 100

And after you've finished at Upper Antelope Canyon there is always Lower Antelope Canyon but leave the tripod behind as there are no photography tours here due to the narrow nature of this canyon and the walking up the ladders. Still it is worth a visit but is a completely different experience to the Upper Canyon yet you can still get some beautiful photos :) 

Focal Length 35mm, 1/60 exposure, F8, Iso 400

Focal Length 35mm, 1/80 exposure, F8, Iso 100

All shots taken with Canon 5d Mk III and 16 - 35 F4 lens

Upper Antelope Canyon: Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tours

Lower Antelope Canyon: Ken's tours

Hotel: La Quinta Inn & Suites, Page at Lake Powell