Antelope Canyon | Beebower Productions
Through the Rocks
The Navajo call it Tse’ bighanilini or “the place where water runs through the rocks”. Upper Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona draws thousands of visitors each year. The unusual sandstone rock formations allow shafts of light to stream in illuminating ripples and waves that look like an impressionistic painting.
Thousands of years of flash floods rushing through the canyon sculpted the amazing walls of sandstone. And thousands of people have toured the canyon since the Navajo Nation decided to open the land to the public in 1997. In fact, the only way to see Antelope Canyon, located near the border of Arizona and Utah, is to join a Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation approved tour.
Dad wasted no time getting on a tour truck. Packed like sardines, He, Mom and the other tourists were driven out to the desert. When the truck stopped the only clue they were in the right spot were groups of people who seemingly disappeared into the ground.
Capturing the Cathedral
The entrance to Upper Antelope Canyon is a narrow, winding slit only a few feet wide. From the outside, it looks like an ordinary dry wash in the desert. But once inside, the magical canyon comes to life.
The elder Navajos consider the canyon a cathedral where one should stop and prepare to be in touch spiritually. While Dad was in awe of the slot canyon’s grandeur, it was hard to be in sync with Mother Nature due to the sheer number of tourists running to and fro.
The mass of humanity stretched through the entire quarter mile canyon. Dad realized it was going to be mighty tricky to capture a descent photo without folks stepping into his picture.
One thing was right about this trip, though. Dad visited during summer when the shafts of light that sneak down into the canyon are best seen. Lighting is the key to creating a memorable photo. Other than the shafts of light, the canyon is rather dim. Plus the streaming light also enriches the color of the walls.
All Dad had to do was to navigate through the crowded tour to find a unique angle with a great shaft of light. Then he had keep people out of the photo long enough to get a good exposure and still keep up with his tour guide who was adamant that no one was lingering behind. He was, as Dad likes to say, sweating bullets to get this photo.
Just In Time
During the last 10 minutes of his tour Dad finally found the shot. He quickly turned his tripod into a monopod so no one would trip over it, braced himself against one canyon wall and waited for a break in the steady stream of people.
He managed to snap this one photo before the tour guide hustled everyone out of the canyon. A storm was coming and she was worried about flash floods. People have died in the canyon during flash floods, so it seemed like a reasonable thing to care about in the grand scheme of things.
Dad, however, breathed a sigh of relief. While under the gun, he managed to produce a really nice photo under really bad circumstances. One photo. Sometimes photography is like that. You’re lucky to get one great photo. Maybe he’ll get another one when he returns this fall to visit Lower Antelope Canyon. He’s just hoping to see fewer people and feel less like a sardine.