Back into the Canyon


Ed recently wrote about his experience photographing Antelope Canyon in Arizona (post here).  He noted:

At different times of the year, the light falls in different ways.  During the summer months, thanks to the alignment of the earth, sun and slots, it is possible to witness a beam of light passing straight down into the canyon.  At other times of the year, there is no beam but the colors are brilliant, so any time of year is a good time to visit.

Fortunately, my son and I had an opportunity to visit the slot canyons during the summer of 2009 and precisely at the time of day when the light beams were most visible.


Ed is exactly right about the fact that these narrow stone corridors are quite crowded and that it’s important to rely on your guide to clear them out so that image-making is possible.  As morning wore on and these beams were become increasingly visible, photographers jockeyed for prime tripod space and their desired angle of view.  I found it helpful to allow the more casual point and shooters to grab their pics and then go, allowing the more seriously inclined to properly set up and shoot.  The guides, needing to move the hordes through, allowed only a minute or two per stop on the roundtrip through the canyon.

Given my prior research, I had expected longer exposures than required.  Shooting at ISO 200 in both of these photos, I only needed 1.3 seconds for the above shot and 4 seconds for this one.  Longer exposures resulted in blurry and imprecise appearing beams.


Also, in contrast to Ed’s experience, I found my ultrawide zoom to be invaluable here.  The top shot was taken at 10mm and the lower one at 20mm.

And here’s something they don’t tell you in the guide books.  The beams of light are easily visible… but far less intense than these photos suggest.  Guides clear out the space, call out for potential intruders entering from behind them to stop, and then throw a handful of sand up into the air, right toward the upper source of light.  As it and the resulting dust falls to the earth, photographers click away, capturing what appears to only be beams of light.  The second photo above makes the dust streaks more visible.

Posted by Rey


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1 Response to Back into the Canyon

  1. Nice place to visit but I really don’t see the point, if somebody walks you to a spot and says “Take a picture of this, this is going to be good.” What is the point? I would rather try to figure it out myself, screw it up a couple of dozen times until I get the right time and place.

    This is a shot I had to work for and take a bit of risk for, it may not be the best shot ever taken, but it is a treasured shot for me because I figured it out.

    Guess I am an adventure snob, sanitized “wilderness” is no wilderness to me.


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