Upper Antelope Canyon - AZ

Exploring Upper Antelope Canyon

Date of visit: Tuesday November 10th, 2015

After leaving the Desert View Watchtower we spent 1.5 hours driving up north towards Page, AZ and soon arrived at Upper Antelope Canyon. The land is owned by Navajo Native Americans and you don’t have many choices as far as selecting a company to take you on a tour. After reading some online reviews we ended up choosing Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours and were not disappointed. Wherever you decide to book, I do advise calling as early as possible to reserve your tour, especially if you’re visiting in the summer months.

Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours
Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours

Our guide took us on a bumpy ride in his 4×4 truck from the check-in booth to the actual slot canyon entrance; the ride took about 15 minutes. We were the last tour of the day which starts at 5:30pm and lasts for an hour. Luckily there was only one or two other small groups there from other companies and we mostly stayed out of each other’s’ ways. I assume it would be near impossible to take any good photographs inside on a busy day unless you book the special photographer tour. The Upper Antelope Canyon tour that is specifically for photographers costs $88 compared to the normal $48, however it may be worth it if you feel you need to use a tripod or visit during a busy time of year. With that said, you are not allowed to set up tripods or monopods unless you book this special tour. The other benefit of forking up the extra cash is that your group basically gets VIP access for 1.5 hours making it a lot more pleasant to photograph the natural wonder without other tourists constantly getting in your shot.

Unfortunately, I was not able to even consider the special photography tour option, or even the “Photographers with Friends & Family” option due to the times that those tours were offered. We knew we wouldn’t be able to arrive at the canyon before 4-5pm meaning we would miss those time slots. Knowing I’ll be on the regular tour did make me worried since I could not set up my tripod (even though I offered to pay more).

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As I had no choice…I played the cards I was dealt. I was using my Nikon D600 and Tokina 11-16 f/2.8. Most of my shots inside the canyon were shot wide open at f/2.8 in the ranges of ISO 2200-6400 and shutter speeds as slow as ⅕ – 1/50 of a second. Luckily it made the most sense to shoot super wide angle at 11mm so that helped with minimizing camera shake. I braced myself against the canyon walls for stability wherever it was possible. With a bit of noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom the images are usable online, but I would not want to print any of them much larger than 8”x12”.

As I mentioned earlier, November is the off season for all the areas we traveled to on this trip. For the most part, this benefited us at nearly every location, and this one was no exception as there weren’t many other people walking through the canyon. On the other hand, this also meant it would be impossible to capture anything resembling the famous image “Phantom” by Peter Lik (which sold for $6.5 million in November of 2014, setting a new world record). The infamous light beams only shine through the slots in the months of June, July, and August and even then they only appear between the hours of 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM. At other times of the year the sun is not high enough to pierce through the cracks of the

Overall it was a great experience and our tour guide was a photography enthusiast himself. He offered tips to everyone as far as what settings to use if you’re not knowledgeable on shooting in manual mode as well as where to stand for the best angles. He knew the history of the canyons very well and shared many interesting facts and stories, such as when National Geographic came in some years ago and damaged parts of the walls with their equipment.

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We got back to the check-in booth just as the sun was setting. Along the way to Best Western View of Lake Powell Hotel, we stopped for a quick look at Glen Canyon Dam. I wouldn’t go very far out your way to see the dam but if you’re passing by you should stop for a few minutes. Best Western was very nice and clean, a big difference compared to Maswik Lodge where we stayed the night before in Grand Canyon Village. This time we got a room with three beds, so no one had to sleep on the floor. I would highly recommend staying here as it only came out to $159 for 6 people for one night (breakfast buffet included!)