Catch a few beams at Antelope Canyons

“I count 5 or 6 slot canyon images in the gallery, do they sell well, the customers love them that much?” I ask.
“Ehh well…I think it’s just as much Peter that really loves them!” I am informed by the guy in the gallery.

I am in one of the Peter Lik galleries in Las Vegas and no there is a heavy presence of slot canyons of Arizona images on the walls. I understand Peter’s fascination, they are something special as I was fortunate to discover in May 2010.

Mohawks rule!

He is just incredibly cute as he runs around the park in Page. He is Navajo native American, about 3 years old, sporting black pants, white shirt and an awesome Last of the Mohicans mohawk hairdo! I am in Page, Arizona. I knew little of this town beforehand except that some must-see photography destinations are nearby, Antelope Canyons, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell and The Wave. Typical of the Southwest, you jump in your car and drive 10 minutes outside the town and you are surrounded by stunning landscapes. I love the Southwest and I really liked Page. The weather was great and I liked being in beautiful Navajo country. Liked it so much I visited twice after Utah turned out to be gorgeous but very cold for the nomadic me.

I have taken you to the edge of the nearby Horseshoe Bend so let me lead you into the main attraction, the magic Antelope Canyons. There are two easily accessible, Upper and Lower, both just 10 minutes out of town. Like Peter Lik I could decorate half my gallery with slot canyon images, but have tried to restrain myself and pick only the very best. I shall post two images and then explain how to capture slot canyon images. Let us walk into the magic of the slot canyons:

Ghost Dragon

Ghost Dragon
This image is from the Upper Antelope Canyon which offers the classic light beams. It is captured with the help of my Navajo guide using the old trick of throwing sand in the air so the light beams pick up the dust. I call this Ghost Dragon as I very clearly see a dragon in the dust! Do you?

Lava Waves

Lava Waves
These spectacular colours, shapes and layers are typical of Lower Antelope Canyon. ‘Lower’ allows you to capture more abstract images. I love the waves and colours I captured here.

Capturing the Antelope Canyons

There are two slot canyons very close to Page, Upper and Lower and you must visit both as they offer quite different images. The incredible shapes of the red sandstone were carved out by Mother Nature and water, long exposures pick up the gorgeous reflected sunlight that your eyes struggle to see in reality.

Upper Antelope Canyon

One big zoo of people being herded through like cattle, it is so busy and so cramped. Still, I had a brilliant time thanks to my guide. You must go with a Navajo guide, exploring on your own is not allowed. I recommend the photography tour from Navajo Tours, our guide was brilliant. An avid photographer he was great at helping us get all the light beam shots we wanted, keep the hordes of tourists away while we shot and I highly recommend them. I captured at least a hundred great shots of light beams thanks to my guide. And he was a good sand thrower! Upper is very narrow at the top of the canyon so you get the tiny light beams peaking through for just a few minutes. Wish to start a stampede? Just shout “light beam” loudly in the canyon and watch as people rush through the canyon to catch the beams. The canyon is very narrow so do not bring a bag, bring your widest angle lens, your tripod and cable release and that is all you need. Tripod is essential, you will need exposures of 10 to 30 seconds. Live view is a great help here as you will be setting up in some tight spots. Finally, book a tour around 10.30am to 11.30am to get the best light beams as the sun needs to be about directly overhead. And look up! You get some of the best shots shooting up, you do not need to include the ground.

Lower Antelope Canyon

Quite different to Upper as the Lower canyon is wide at the top so allows a lot more sunshine to hit the canyon giving you a mix of direct and reflected light. Only a few light beams here but some fantastic abstract shapes. Best of all, you can explore on your own. Rock up with your gear and tell them you are a photographer and you have four hours on your own for 27 dollars. Be warned, flash floods in here will kill you as happened a few years ago to some tourists. While Upper is flat you need to descend some steep steps to explore Lower. The risk of death means tours do not visit Lower so it is lovely quiet! In four hours I met perhaps 10 people. Contrary to Upper you should visit Lower when the sun is Lower (heh) or you will get direct sunlight in the canyon ruining your images. You have a lot more space here so you can bring your gear and use a zoom to explore some incredible shapes and colours. Again, look up and Oh, and if you hear the sound of water, run!

Escape in my Antelope Canyon images

Rays of Light I hope this helps you in capturing the magical slot canyons. Fire away any questions you may have. You can view all my Antelope Canyon images here:

Which one is your favourite?


17 Comments on “Catch a few beams at Antelope Canyons”

  1. More! More! Post More!

    Can't have too mant Antelope shots. It's such a magical place.

    I was there in 2003; that seems like so very long ago…

  2. Hi Flemming,

    Great post, great place and great images! I cant wait to go there one day!, not sure when but it will have to be one day.

    I think my favourite is Beaming Slot Canyon, the reflected light in this one is amazing

    I also like the Lava Waves image, my eyes wander around it for ages looking at all the cool shapes, not a fan of the name though to be honest!

    All great images mate!

    1. Hi Matt and thanks! You will love it when you get there, it really is so much creative fun to shoot there. The gorgeous sand stone is simply unreal when hit by reflected sun light and exposed for 30 seconds.

      Oh I agree on the name. I have to name each image when I release them for my new collection and on this day it seems inspiration was a lost city somewhere. Feel free to suggest a better one, might rename the Lava Waves 🙂

  3. hey flemming…

    great post, you say you need long exposures, but how do you get the long exposures with all that light being reflected? solid ND filter? or just shoot at f16 or 22?

    1. Hi Mitchell. There is a lot of reflected light but it is very faint – so you will be shooting at f/11 or f/16 to get enough DOF and to capture anything that will automatically mean you need 10 to sometimes 30 seconds exposures. It is very dark in Upper canyon especially. No need for ND filters at all!

    1. Thanks Thomas! Yes the colours really glow from the long exposures and a warm white balance. Some people prefer a really cold white balance to these shots to bring out the purples but not me, I like the heat the hell out of every image 🙂
      Indeed, the slot canyons have been shot a billion times. Still, I would not miss them if you get a chance!

  4. Ghost Dragon ROCKS. The Force is strong in that image.

    I'm catching up with all your blogging at the moment so don't mind the rubbish comments 🙂

  5. um…. *clears throat*…. where was your nasty spam email notifying me on this post!?

    once again missed it somehow and am mighty disappointed that I did!

    love all 3 man, i can't choose which one more then another to be honest.

    fantastic stuff all round. not much more to say….. except sorry for taking so long to get here lol

    1. Have you signed up for the new nasty spam email from my new blog? You have to re-sign because I moved the blog, use the link on the right bar at the top 🙂

      Late or not, always a pleasure Stephen, thanks for commenting, glad you like it so much, writing is much more fun because of mates like you who comment on my posts!

  6. I too have been to Page, AZ and visited the slot canyons. Unfortunately, I wasn't as much into photography as I am now. Seeing your beautiful photographs reminded me that I need to schedule another trip. Beautiful Captures !

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