Advice for shooting Antelope Canyon

jollybdap

I'm New Here
Sep 16, 2013
12
0
Hi everyone,

I am going to be visiting Antelope Canyon for the first time in two weeks. I will be visiting both the upper and lower canyon, and would like to get your advice on how to better shoot the beautiful canyon.

Thank you,
Eric

PS. I heard it is very dusty in the canyon and lens change is not recommended. What lens would you recommend for each canyon? I have Canon 16-35 and 24-105mm.
 

Hector1970

EOS 6D MK II
Mar 22, 2012
1,095
273
Congrats on going there. One of my ambitions. Hopefully you get good conditions.
All photographs of it make it look pretty tight so I'd say the wider angle is better.
Seemingly its a bit of a traffic jam of tripods and people. Bring sharp elbows with you.
Watch out for flash floods.
 

sunnyVan

EOS 7D MK II
Apr 12, 2013
573
0
NYC
This is one of my favorite places ever visited.

Bring the widest lens you have. 16-35 on full frame is nice. That's what I had with me at the time. Remember to bring a rain cover to protect your camera from dust. It's not a hype. It's actually dusty. Changing lens is not impossible but not recommended. Be prepared to shoot multiple exposures and do HDR because of the wide dynamic range. I went with my family and my young son so I couldn't do photo tour. If you got the time, you should consider that.
 

Busted Knuckles

Enjoy this breath and the next
Oct 2, 2013
209
0
wider is better. Tripod not likely to be tolerated though a monopod w/ chicken foot might be. (Varizoom)

Yes there is dust and the guide will even through some more in the air, but I have been in worse situations.

Antelope isn't the only slot canyon there are several more near by. If you can stand it, you can either try for the north coyote butte (the wave) at the morning lottery at the BLM in Kanab or stay 30 minutes and be the only one w/ a permit to go to south coyote butte (4 wheel drive required). The lottery is the morning before the permit day and is at 9 am and either 9:30 or 10:00 for south. Don't waste your time a pawstand - cool but not in the same league as N/S CB or whitepockets.

White pocket is pretty cool 4 wheel drive but no permit needed.

There are sooooooo many places to shoot.

Happy clicks
 

sanjosedave

EOS RP
Jan 17, 2012
202
0
I was there in Oct 2014 on a mid-week day.

1. Yes, don't change lenses in the canyon.

2. I have very mixed feelings about my time there - good to very frustrating. Why frustrating? - I went on the "photo" tour that was suppose to supply us with extra time and time enough to set up tripods etc - but, it was a joke to the nth degree. There are multiple Native American businesses that offer tours through the lower canyon, yet, they do not coordinate the time when the visitors arrive at the lower canyon - making the narrow canyon seem like Black Friday with a two foot aisle. There is only one way in and one way out - so, as visitors are arriving from the entrance, others are leaving, moving towards the entrance, now, the exit.

3. I didn't go to the upper canyon
 

Attachments

Hjalmarg1

Photo Hobbyist
Oct 8, 2013
770
3
49
Doha, Qatar
jollybdap said:
Hi everyone,

I am going to be visiting Antelope Canyon for the first time in two weeks. I will be visiting both the upper and lower canyon, and would like to get your advice on how to better shoot the beautiful canyon.

Thank you,
Eric

PS. I heard it is very dusty in the canyon and lens change is not recommended. What lens would you recommend for each canyon? I have Canon 16-35 and 24-105mm.
Canon 16-35/4L IS will get the job done. Take your polarizer and Grad ND filters with you, light-weight tripod and cleaning kit.
Have you considered taking a telephoto lens for image compression?
 

yablonsky

EOS T7i
Nov 14, 2012
50
0
Hi
i visited the upper and the lower canyon in 2012.
unfortunately i could not get the photographers tour which i should have booked 4 weeks in advance.
we felt like being on a catle drive through the canyon.
there was a hurry all the time and it was very crowdy.
no time and space for tripods.
i used my 5d mark ii with the 70-200 4l is most of the time and the 17-40 for only 2 or 3 shots.
the stabilizer of the 70-200 was very important.
together with iso 6400.
it"s really dark down there.
 

dppaskewitz

EOS 80D
Jul 19, 2011
180
3
71
I was there in March. Here is a link to a blog post on shooting Antelope Canyons from one of the leaders of the photo workshop I was attending: http://garyhartblog.com/photo-tips/antelope-canyon/
To summarize:
> 24-105 is probably the best lens choice. I went one direction in the canyon with that lens on my 6D and then returned the other direction with my 70-200 (the f/4 IS version) on my old 5D (the camera I wasn't using was in a plastic bag). The 5D was a mistake (no live view). The 70-200 was really not needed - almost all of the shots with it were at 105 or below anyway. Some of my shots are at 24, but most were in the 50 to 100 range.
> Take a photo tour if you can
> Bring a tripod (I think you must be on a photo tour to bring one). I don't see how you can photograph in the canyon without one. The fastest shutter I used was 1/5th of a second.
> Start with f/11 and 400 ISO. I didn't go off these settings. Vary exposure with shutter speed.
> Focus with live view or manually.
Good luck and have fun! Post some results when you get back.
 

jollybdap

I'm New Here
Sep 16, 2013
12
0
Thanks to all of you for all these good ideas , especially the Gary Hart blog is very informative.

Eric
 

jollybdap

I'm New Here
Sep 16, 2013
12
0
dppaskewitz said:
I was there in March. Here is a link to a blog post on shooting Antelope Canyons from one of the leaders of the photo workshop I was attending: http://garyhartblog.com/photo-tips/antelope-canyon/
To summarize:
> 24-105 is probably the best lens choice. I went one direction in the canyon with that lens on my 6D and then returned the other direction with my 70-200 (the f/4 IS version) on my old 5D (the camera I wasn't using was in a plastic bag). The 5D was a mistake (no live view). The 70-200 was really not needed - almost all of the shots with it were at 105 or below anyway. Some of my shots are at 24, but most were in the 50 to 100 range.
> Take a photo tour if you can
> Bring a tripod (I think you must be on a photo tour to bring one). I don't see how you can photograph in the canyon without one. The fastest shutter I used was 1/5th of a second.
> Start with f/11 and 400 ISO. I didn't go off these settings. Vary exposure with shutter speed.
> Focus with live view or manually.
Good luck and have fun! Post some results when you get back.
How do you like the workshop? I am looking to attend one workshop next year and is gathering candidayes right now.
 

dppaskewitz

EOS 80D
Jul 19, 2011
180
3
71
jollybdap said:
How do you like the workshop? I am looking to attend one workshop next year and is gathering candidayes right now.
I have been on two workshops lead by Gary Hart (one with Don Smith as co-leader) and one workshop lead by Don Smith (with Gary as co-leader). I have enjoyed all of these workshops and found them to have been worthwhile.
 

timmy_650

EOS RP
Dec 20, 2012
278
15
I went there a little less than a year ago with my wife and friends. So I couldnt do the photo tour. If you want good picture that is what you need to do. They don't let you bring a tripod or Monopod unless you are on it. I brought my bag of lens and just used my 17-35. If your not on the photo tour, they take you to the end and let you hang out for a bit. Leave as fast as you can, I was one of the first to leave so I got a lot of photos of open spots which was nice. I was there about noon and the lighting was great.
 

kaihp

I'm not new here
Mar 19, 2012
851
5
jollybdap said:
What lens would you recommend for each canyon? I have Canon 16-35 and 24-105mm.
I visited both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons in October 2012. For the Upper, I brought two bodies (FF + APS-C), but I didn't change around much. Since it's a bit narrow at times, the cameras can get a bit dinged. As such, I would bring only one body next time (FF + 16-35). I didn't try to bring a tripod to upper, but would probably do that next time.

For Lower, I just drove over and talked to the people in the ticket booth. They recommended me to come back the next day and bring a (large) tripod, so I would get the "photo/walk-it-yourself tour". I did, and got exactly what I wanted. Since it's not that crowded in Oct, I have OK opportunity to get "clean" shots without people in it. But then again, that's because Oct isn't the best time for shooting.

Since the Upper is A-shaped while the Lower is V-shaped, the best time to visit the Upper is mid-day, while either morning or afternoon is best for the Lower.
 

Schmave

EOS M50
Feb 17, 2015
43
1
I was just there about a week ago and it was a really cool place to visit. I did a photo tour in the lower canyon by myself and did a regular walking tour in the upper canyon with my wife and our baby (3.5 months old).

If you want to get good shots you NEED to do one of the photo tours. The one I went on requires you to bring a tripod, which you will also need in order to get good pics as it is dark in the canyons. The guides on the photo tours try to control traffic so you can get clear shots which is very helpful. The canyon was fairly crowded while I was there but my guide did a good job of helping us get clear shots. I did the lower tour with Ken's Tours.

I used my widest lens, the 10-18 mm on a 70D and thought it was a good focal length. There were some times, particularly in the upper canyon, where I wished I had a longer lens, but if I had to choose just one lens I would go wide. I liked having LiveView and my tilty flippy screen to help compose shots because some of the angles make it awkward to look through the viewfinder.

I went on the 10:30 AM tour of the lower canyon and the light was pretty good, but there were some hot spots in some areas that were hard to avoid with a wide lens. My guide said she thinks 8:00 AM is the best time for the light in the lower canyon, and based on my experience on the tour I would think she is right. For the upper canyon, I went on the 1:30 tour which was probably a bit late for the best light. They say noon is best in the upper canyon when you can get the light beams. When I went it was a little dark at the bottom, so a longer lens probably would have been better to capture the colors toward the top.

It was much harder to get good shots on the regular walking tour because there are more people in the way and you don't have a tripod. You also don't have as much time. I would also recommend shooting bracketed exposures because there can be really dark and bright areas. I just got home yesterday and started going through my shots and it is nice to have the option to do HDR with 3 shots (especially using the new version of Lightroom). I brought a cable release which was also helpful for doing bracketed exposures.

As an aside, I'm guessing Peter Lik "rented out" the canyons while he was there. I'm sure if you are willing to pay enough money you could go by yourself.
 

Deva

EOS T7i
Sep 12, 2012
70
0
Since I've just come back from doing 5 canyons around Page, thought I'd record my experiences for anyone searching on the Forum in the future for advice about Antelope Canyon. We went in mid-August, so pretty much high seasons. The 5 canyons were:
8am Lower Antelope (with Dixie Ellis)
10am Canyon-X
2.30pm Upper Antelope (with Adventurous Antelope Canyon)
3.30pm Rattlesnake (combined tour with Lower)
4.30pm Owl (combined tour with Lower)

Few general observations: Apart from Canyon-X, no filming was allowed - Canyon-X is privately owned (as opposed to controlled by Navajo Nation). You pay a Navajo Nation daily access fee ($8 per person) - having paid it at Lower Antelope, we didn't have to pay it again for Upper Antelope, because our Lower Antelope receipt specifically mentioned it was included in the price. Both Upper and Lower were guided tours, whilst Canyon-X was wander around by yourself. You can't choose the guide you're given, but the guide will heavily influence your experience (more on this later). Based on other's comments on this forum, we opted to go with Lower Antelope early in the morning, and go in the afternoon for Upper Antelope - missing the light beams, but hopefully (as a result) at a slightly quieter time.

In terms of results, Lower Antelope was the best, followed by Rattlesnake, and then Canyon-X. Upper Antelope was a dark & dusty bun-fight, and Owl was not a slot canyon, but wider, and the owls had flown for the day, leaving little left.

Just two organisations serve Lower - Dixie Ellis and Ken's Tours. Both have substantial buildings near the entrance to the Canyon, Ken's being the closer, and the larger. There's a long covered queuing area at the entrance to the Canyon, which you can only enter one at a time, going down a series of steps. The main difference between the groups I could see was that Dixie handed out bottled water to the queue, whilst Ken's didn't. The bottleneck of the steps at the entrance means the queue can be long (our guide said up to 4 hours), but once you're in, it's a one-way flow dictated by how fast people climb down the steps, so (relatively) unpressured. Go early, as we did, as the queues will be better - busloads of Chinese tourists were arriving by the minute. Our guide was young, educated, and could talk the hind leg off a donkey. As it was, we waited around 30 minutes in the queue (despite arriving on time for our 8.10 group), and she kept us entertained and informed throughout. The canyon itself is reasonably light, and you couldn't really go wrong - point your camera in any direction, and there was a great shot to be had. There are a series of steps and ladders throughout, and we emerged close to the buildings, where more water was provided.

Canyon-X is an example of a local family seeing the Antelope gold mine, realising that they have a canyon on their land, and taking the opportunity of charging people to walk through it - or in this case, them - two much shorter canyons about 200m apart. The welcome desk is a picnic table, and then there's a shuttle pick-up service to the canyon head, and another buggy service to get down to the canyons proper. The main advantage of Canyon-X is that you're unescorted, and so can film and take pictures at your leisure. The downside is there's less to photograph, due to the shortness of the canyons. A lot of people had entertained themselves by creating delicately balanced piles of rock on the walk between the two canyons. Unless you want to film, I'd suggest going to one of the other canyons first, especially if time is limited.

Upper Antelope was a drive in a pickup along the Highway from the "Adventurous" base. The canyon was a very unpleasant experience. This was partly due to our guide - much older, all he did was dictate the exact picture to be taken in each location. He used the camera phone from one of our party to illustrate the picture in each case, but allowed no time for our own explorations - my daughter said she'd never felt so dictated to in her life. The non-photographing members of our party hung back to listen to the guide behind us, who had much more to say about the canyon itself. However, the bad experience was also due to the canyon itself. It's deeper, and therefore darker, than Lower, so other than a few locations, most of the pictures tend to be upwards, towards the light. Unlike Lower, it's a dead end, so there's a constant flow of people coming out as you're heading in. And it gets seriously dusty (much more so than the other canyons we visited) - all the guides wore bandanas around their faces towards the top end - and it actually affects the light you're shooting though, which becomes hazy. Note we went in the afternoon, hoping it would be quieter - and it was still a hassled bun fight. One twist - it was cloudy all morning (and sunny in the afternoon) - so we wouldn't have seen the light beams even if we had gone in the morning. We passed a couple of groups of people who'd signed up to the photo tours (tripods etc). On the one hand we were hustled past them, on the other they had a constant flow of people going past them (in both directions), and from I saw, there were relatively few places in the whole canyon they could set up tripods in the first place - I was very happy we hadn't signed up to a photo tour.

Rattlesnake continued with the same guide, who now he had no advice about pictures, reverted to moaning about how badly the Navajo were treated. On the plus side, it was only our party of 6 in the whole canyon (only slightly shorter than Upper/Lower), and we had an hour to wander through it (and away from our guide) at our leisure. Rattlesnake is a less deep canyon than Lower Antelope, so there were no issues with light or dust - however, pictures tended to be taken much more along the canyon than up. Despite the height, it's much narrower and twisty in places than Upper/Lower, so required a bit of contortion to get through at times - however than twistiness means it has just as good rock formations as the Antelopes, and in terms of number of great pictures we took, it ranks alongside Lower, including my favourite shot out of all the canyons.

We threw in Owl canyon as a chance to see some desert owls (for an extra $20). As it was, there were no owls, and it's not a canyon you'd visit otherwise.

A final note on equipment - I carried a 5D Mk IV with 16-35mm F4, and a 5Ds with 24-105mm F4. Both served me well - I didn't feel the need for anything wider, nor anything longer. In terms of number of pictures, I took 2:1 using the 16-35 to the 24-105, so if I was to pick one, it'd probably be the 16-35, but either would do. My daughter took over 700 pictures quite happily with a 24-105 on a 6D. Backpacks are not allowed in the Antelopes, however I carried a telephoto in a pocket for Owl Canyon, and that wasn't challenged.

Hope you've found this useful!
 

bholliman

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 6, 2012
1,473
0
USA
www.flickr.com
Deva said:
Since I've just come back from doing 5 canyons around Page, thought I'd record my experiences for anyone searching on the Forum in the future for advice about Antelope Canyon. We went in mid-August, so pretty much high seasons. The 5 canyons were:
8am Upper Antelope (with Dixie Ellis)
10am Canyon-X
2.30pm Lower Antelope (with Adventurous Antelope Canyon)
3.30pm Rattlesnake (combined tour with Lower)
4.30pm Owl (combined tour with Lower)

Few general observations: Apart from Canyon-X, no filming was allowed - Canyon-X is privately owned (as opposed to controlled by Navajo Nation). You pay a Navajo Nation daily access fee ($8 per person) - having paid it at Upper Antelope, we didn't have to pay it again for Lower Antelope, because our Upper Antelope receipt specifically mentioned it was included in the price. Both Upper and Lower were guided tours, whilst Canyon-X was wander around by yourself. You can't choose the guide you're given, but the guide will heavily influence your experience (more on this later). Based on other's comments on this forum, we opted to go with Upper Antelope early in the morning, and go in the afternoon for Lower Antelope - missing the light beams, but hopefully (as a result) at a slightly quieter time.

In terms of results, Upper Antelope was the best, followed by Rattlesnake, and then Canyon-X. Lower Antelope was a dark & dusty bun-fight, and Owl was not a slot canyon, but wider, and the owls had flown for the day, leaving little left.

Just two organisations serve Upper - Dixie Ellis and Ken's Tours. Both have substantial buildings near the entrance to the Canyon, Ken's being the closer, and the larger. There's a long covered queuing area at the entrance to the Canyon, which you can only enter one at a time, going down a series of steps. The main difference between the groups I could see was that Dixie handed out bottled water to the queue, whilst Ken's didn't. The bottleneck of the steps at the entrance means the queue can be long (our guide said up to 4 hours), but once you're in, it's a one-way flow dictated by how fast people climb down the steps, so (relatively) unpressured. Go early, as we did, as the queues will be better - busloads of Chinese tourists were arriving by the minute. Our guide was young, educated, and could talk the hind leg off a donkey. As it was, we waited around 30 minutes in the queue (despite arriving on time for our 8.10 group), and she kept us entertained and informed throughout. The canyon itself is reasonably light, and you couldn't really go wrong - point your camera in any direction, and there was a great shot to be had. There are a series of steps and ladders throughout, and we emerged close to the buildings, where more water was provided.

Canyon-X is an example of a local family seeing the Antelope gold mine, realising that they have a canyon on their land, and taking the opportunity of charging people to walk through it - or in this case, them - two much shorter canyons about 200m apart. The welcome desk is a picnic table, and then there's a shuttle pick-up service to the canyon head, and another buggy service to get down to the canyons proper. The main advantage of Canyon-X is that you're unescorted, and so can film and take pictures at your leisure. The downside is there's less to photograph, due to the shortness of the canyons. A lot of people had entertained themselves by creating delicately balanced piles of rock on the walk between the two canyons. Unless you want to film, I'd suggest going to one of the other canyons first, especially if time is limited.

Lower Antelope was a drive in a pickup along the Highway from the "Adventurous" base. The canyon was a very unpleasant experience. This was partly due to our guide - much older, all he did was dictate the exact picture to be taken in each location. He used the camera phone from one of our party to illustrate the picture in each case, but allowed no time for our own explorations - my daughter said she'd never felt so dictated to in her life. The non-photographing members of our party hung back to listen to the guide behind us, who had much more to say about the canyon itself. However, the bad experience was also due to the canyon itself. It's deeper, and therefore darker, than Upper, so other than a few locations, most of the pictures tend to be upwards, towards the light. Unlike Upper, it's a dead end, so there's a constant flow of people coming out as you're heading in. And it gets seriously dusty (much more so than the other canyons we visited) - all the guides wore bandanas around their faces towards the top end - and it actually affects the light you're shooting though, which becomes hazy. Note we went in the afternoon, hoping it would be quieter - and it was still a hassled bun fight. One twist - it was cloudy all morning (and sunny in the afternoon) - so we wouldn't have seen the light beams even if we had gone in the morning. We passed a couple of groups of people who'd signed up to the photo tours (tripods etc). On the one hand we were hustled past them, on the other they had a constant flow of people going past them (in both directions), and from I saw, there were relatively few places in the whole canyon they could set up tripods in the first place - I was very happy we hadn't signed up to a photo tour.

Rattlesnake continued with the same guide, who now he had no advice about pictures, reverted to moaning about how badly the Navajo were treated. On the plus side, it was only our party of 6 in the whole canyon (only slightly shorter than Upper/Lower), and we had an hour to wander through it (and away from our guide) at our leisure. Rattlesnake is a less deep canyon than Upper Antelope, so there were no issues with light or dust - however, pictures tended to be taken much more along the canyon than up. Despite the height, it's much narrower and twisty in places than Upper/Lower, so required a bit of contortion to get through at times - however than twistiness means it has just as good rock formations as the Antelopes, and in terms of number of great pictures we took, it ranks alongside Upper, including my favourite shot out of all the canyons.

We threw in Owl canyon as a chance to see some desert owls (for an extra $20). As it was, there were no owls, and it's not a canyon you'd visit otherwise.

A final note on equipment - I carried a 5D Mk IV with 16-35mm F4, and a 5Ds with 24-105mm F4. Both served me well - I didn't feel the need for anything wider, nor anything longer. In terms of number of pictures, I took 2:1 using the 16-35 to the 24-105, so if I was to pick one, it'd probably be the 16-35, but either would do. My daughter took over 700 pictures quite happily with a 24-105 on a 6D. Backpacks are not allowed in the Antelopes, however I carried a telephoto in a pocket for Owl Canyon, and that wasn't challenged.

Hope you've found this useful!
Thanks for sharing your experiences, wow 5 canyons! We just had a day to spend in the Page area, so were just able to squeeze in Upper and Lower Antelope tours along with a quick hike to Horse Shoe Bend.

I think you have Upper and Lower references reversed in your description above. Upper Antelope Canyon is on the south side of Arizona highway 96 and Lower Antelope on the north side - closer to the reservoir.

We visited in early May this year. I thought that would be before "tourist season" but that wasn't the case, the canyons were extremely busy. I had read that they were crowded, but all the people and long lines were still a bit of a surprise.

We did a regular tour of Lower Antelope in mid afternoon with Dixie Ellis. The tour guide was a talkative young man in his early 20's. He did a good job of describing the canyon and shepherding the group. We waited around 30 minutes in line before we could enter the canyon. Once down in the canyon, they kept us moving, so we really didn't have much time in one location. I took a photo backpack (not a good idea, it was very tight in some places) I took two cameras, my 5DsR with 16-35 f/4 IS and M5+adaptor with 24-70 f/2.8 II. I took several hundred photos, but only a couple that were decent enough to process and publish. You really need a tripod and more time and space to take good images. If I were to go back, I would just take my M5 and take a limited number of shots on a regular tour. At that time photo tours were not available for the Lower Canyon. I was told that photo tours of the Lower canyon are only available in the non-busy season now.

We had a much better experience on the Upper Canyon tour (your Lower Canyon section). We took at Photo Tour with Adventurous Antelope that started at 10:30am, so we were in the canyon during the optimal times for light beams, around noon. The group was 18 photographers with tripods and higher end cameras. I took the same equipment as on the Lower Canyon tour (5DsR with 16-35 being my primary) + my tripod. The 16-35mm is really the ideal focal range for this canyon in my opinion. I took a few hand held tele shots with my M5 and 24-70 II, but they were 3200+ ISO and nothing I even bothered to process later. The tour guide was very good and knew what is required to take good images in the slot canyons. His advice on locations, angles and camera settings were spot on. The negatives of the Upper Canyon tour were how crowded it was. As Deva pointed out, this canyon is a dead end, so even more crowded than the Lower Canyon since groups are going in and out all the time. I'm somewhat claustrophobic and was pretty uncomfortable at times when jammed into tight areas of the canyon by the press of other people. The crowded conditions also prevented me from getting some of the shots I wanted since everybody in our group had a tripod it was a matter of who got to the ideal locations first. In several locations I had to settle for less than ideal framing or angles since I just didn't have time to get into the best spots before the group had to move on. In some locations I didn't get any good images as other photographers were blocking the shot I was looking for. I did come away with several really good images in the upper canyon however. If we go back, I think I'll take at least 2 photo tours to increase my changes of getting some of the shots I wanted but didn't get.

Another trip there will probably include Canyon X and maybe some of the others. It might be worth considering going in the winter when the crowds are reduced but the light angles less optimal for the Upper Canyon.

A very interesting place and experience.
 

Deva

EOS T7i
Sep 12, 2012
70
0
Ha! How on earth did I get the two exactly the wrong way around! My best guess is because Upper is the deeper (and therefore feels "lower") than Lower (which feels "higher"). Either that, or encroaching senility... I've corrected my original post, anyway.

Thank you for your observations - your experience does demonstrate the truth of what I found - the guide can make a big difference to the experience, but unfortunately there's no way of choosing your guide.