Antelope Canyon ~ A Photo Tour Experience
I have wanted to see Antelope Canyon (Arizona, USA) for a long time already, even before I went studying in the Netherlands. Who knew that eventually, I live in the United States. Living in the United States had never been my intention nor even a dream. It’s just a path of life that took me closer to my long-time dream destination, the Antelope Canyon.
The Antelope Canyon is easy to access from a small town in Arizona, Page. We drove from Las Vegas (Nevada, USA) to Page for around four hours. We visited Zion National Park (Utah, USA) on our way reaching Page. Then we visited Grand Canyon and followed the famous Route 66 on our way back to Las Vegas. The complete story of our road trip will be available in the future post.
The Antelope Canyon is part of the Navajo Tribal Park. It’s owned and managed by the Navajo people. I don’t think the U.S. Federal government even has authority on the land’s use nor management, maybe if there were crimes then they can get involved but other than that, the park belongs to the Navajos. They have been living in the continent long before the Caucasians arrived in the America continent.
The Antelope Canyon has two separate canyons: the upper canyon and the lower canyon. The upper canyon is called by Navajo tribe as Tsé bighánílíní (“the place where water runs through rocks”); meanwhile, the lower canyon is called as Hazdistazí (“spiral rock arches”). The visit to these two canyons is strictly ruled that be accompanied by regulated appointed Navajos tour guides. I can see the reason why having a local guide and an organized tour is important especially after the flash flood accident in 1997 that swept away 12 hikers (only one person who survived). Flash flood in the canyon is unpredictable, however, it always can happen, especially in the summer.
There are several tour companies that appointed by the Navajos. You will find them easily through the internet search. They usually have limited number of people to bring with specific tour hours. The tours are divided into sightseeing tours and photography tour. The sightseeing tour is a regular tour accompanied by Navajo guides, however, tripod, monopod and selfie stick are not allowed. The photography tour allows photographers to bring one tripod and DSLR/MFT camera. We had to be in a meeting point on time then we drove together to the canyon. We were not allowed to bring a lot of stuff, even a backpack! But the trip to reach the canyon was pretty easy, we traveled by car and stop right in front of the canyon.
I took the photography tour and totally enjoyed it. Dutchie and I had a friendly and knowledgeable Navajo guide, Kurt, for the two of us (we were lucky 😉 ). He helped me to set up the camera, tripod and also gave me tips on which area to capture. For instance, the following upside down heart shape formation…
Thanks to Kurt 😉
The main reason I chose the photography tour because I did not want to miss the opportunity to capture the beauty of the canyon. I may not return to Antelope Canyon again, well, who knows, of course. But on that day, I knew for sure, that’s my chance and it can be my last chance. It’s more expensive than the sightseeing tour, and even Dutchie, who is not a photographer, had to pay the same price as a photographer. He used his cellphone to capture the canyon and actually the images were pretty good. Followings are the sample of images taken using Samsung Galaxy S9.
The advantages of the photography tour were: a smaller number of people in the group and the guides who understand a photographer’s needs. Kurt did not just help me in adjusting my tripod etc., but also he also helped me to secure the area where I was about to take pictures were ‘free from humans’. He was not just a tour guide but also a photography assistant. While we had a sort of a private tour guide, we still had to share the canyon with a large number of visitors. I think there were 50 to 40 visitors allowed to be inside the canyon at the same time. It was madness and busy. Bear in mind, the canyon is smaller than what it looks like on the images.
Wide angle lens and Fisheye lens. My photography equipment are listed in Photo Gear (btw, I am a big fan of MFT cameras).