Upper Antelope Canyon – A Photography Bucket List

April 4th, 2017

I bought myself a new camera the day after I returned from Hong Kong.  It’s not that I didn’t love my camera.  I did.  But I also knew I wanted to graduate to the next level camera.  Sure, I wasn’t necessarily ready for that cap and gown, but once I played with Liz’s camera the last time I was down in West Palm Beach, it was only a matter of time before I broke down and bought a new camera.

This trip to Arizona was kind of just a way for me to learn about the new camera.

As I researched tours in Antelope Canyon, I quickly discovered photography tours were abundant.  It makes sense, really.  Antelope Canyon is far enough out of the way that you’re not going end up here on a whim.  You are going here for a reason.  And you want the best pictures you can get to prove you were here.  So why not take a photography tour??

I decided on the Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tour company.  There were a few options for the photography tours with this company.  The first choice to make was if you want to go on a strictly photographer tour or one where non-photographers can tag along.  I ended up deciding on the Friends and Family Tour.  Even though I was alone.  Yes, I understand the hilarity of this choice.  Me doing the solo thing on a Friends and Family tour.  My theory was that being on the Friends and Family Tour would be less of a chance to run into professional photographers.  Or really, people who knew what they were doing with their cameras.

It’s not that I didn’t feel comfortable with the camera.  Though I kind of didn’t.  But I also didn’t want to be a person being silently judged by others on a tour that was supposed to be fun.  Also, I didn’t want to buy a tripod.

Now the price of the photography tour is a bit steep.  The Friends and Family tour I took was $150.  There are tours that cost less.  Especially if you are taking a non-photography tour.  My theory on this was if I was going to do this, I was going to do this right.

Fast forward to today.  The tour started at 230p.  The company kept stating to not pay attention to the time on your phone, but to pay attention to the time in Page.  I had no idea what this meant.  But then my phone kept changing time as I drove around town.  That’s when I understood.  The time in the Navajo Reservation was one hour later than time in Page.  So keep that in mind.

There was plenty of parking at the site, so that was great.  When booking your tour, you will give them your credit card information to hold the reservation, but the expectation is to pay cash on arrival.  There’s a lot of chatter on the website about an extra $8 fee for the Navajo Photography Permit.  The information on the permit (including where to buy it) wasn’t super clear.  Because I was not trying to make money off of my pictures, I didn’t dig too deep into getting the permit.  It worked for me, but you may not want to assume it’ll work for you.

After paying for the tour, I was given a piece of paper with a number listed.  At 230p, the tour guides began divvying up the tourists.  Number 80 and 81 over here.  Number 35, 36, 37, 38 and 39 over there.  Number 71, over here.

I was Number 71.

As soon as I made my way to the guide, they had finished sorting us.  I looked at the guide.  The guide looked at me.  And it was just the two of us on the tour.  I don’t know how it happened, but I was on a solo tour.  SCORE!!

My guide (who I never got her name…that is totally on me) and I jumped in an SUV and started along the way.  She told me that since it was just me, the tour which could take 4-5 hours with a large group might only take 2 hours since it was just me.  That worked for me. 

And so we began the tour.

This tour included three different canyons.  Upper Antelope is the canyon with the biggest crowds.  It’s one that if you are going at the right time has the light beams.  Rattlesnake Canyon was the second canyon, which was much less crowded.  There were maybe two other people there.  The final canyon was Owl Canyon.  This one was named Owl Canyon cause owls live there.  Which is pretty cool.

My guide started off the tour by taking my camera and changing the settings.  Perfect.  I don’t know what settings I needed here.  She did.  So in case anyone cares, the ISO was 1600, the f-stop was 3.5, and the shutter speed was 1/20. 

As we walked through the canyon, the guide would tell me where to stop and shoot.  Lean against this wall.  Turn around right here.  Crouch slightly and face forward.  For every picture she pointed me towards, I took other pictures that looked just as great.

My biggest concern on this tour was the crowd.  I kept reading how the crowds were oppressive and made the whole tour (no matter which tour you took) a disappointing experience.  But apparently I was there just before the crowds really came to play.  And according to my guide, the 230p tour was a perfect time.  And less crazy than had I gone in the morning.  The first canyon was crowded.  But because there were just two of us walking through, we could dodge and weave a bit more than if I was with a larger number of people. 

Rattlesnake Canyon was a bit more cramped than Upper Antelope Canyon was.  The cramped feeling wasn’t because there were people there.  In fact, just the opposite.  The feeling of claustrophobia was because there were some very tight quarters.  It’s a canyon.  What do you expect??

Owl Canyon was a bit more open.  We did see the owl that lives there (I named him Leroy) and he couldn’t have cared less about either of us.  During our walk through the canyon, another guide came up and told us to change the filters in our camera (ISO 200, f/5, 1/60) because the lighting had changed.

We walked and climbed and sucked in the gut during the particularly tight spaces.  And I took hundreds of pictures along the way.  This was the reason I traveled all the way to Arizona.  And it was everything I wanted it to be.


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