Category Archives: Antelope Canyon

Sun Beams of Sand

Deep shadows and bursts of overhead sunlight, paired with limited sight lines and cramped spaces, created some interesting photographic challenges in Lower Antelope Canyon. At times I found myself flush with an on-the-edge exhilaration similar to that felt at cliff’s edge on a steep climb. Anchored between sandstone ledge and sandy floor, bent to catch an image that would live only in my own mind until the shutter snapped…it was an intense yet fun way to spend a morning.

More than once, light became the subject, not simply an essential element to creating the photograph. Here, as the sun makes its daily route from east to west, its rays thread sandstone windows at anticipated times. A handful of sand tossed into the light beam highlights its path creating an awed hush amongst observers, broken almost instantly by a flurry of camera shutters.

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Antelope Canyon: A Navajo Treasure

Following my Navajo teen guide across a barren landscape speckled by only the occasional greenish gray sagebrush, I spied no hint of a canyon. From advance reading I knew it would not be a walk into but rather a climb down to stand on the floor of Lower Antelope Canyon.  The red sand yielded no clues.

And then, there it was.  A fissure in the earth, a slender line along which the red sandstone swirled down upon itself like sand falling through a funnel or hourglass. I swung my photographer’s pass and camera over my shoulder to dangle down my back, twisted myself around and began climbing down a metal ladder.

Antelope Canyon in northern Arizona had always been just beyond reach in previous travels.  It’s a destination —not a casual add-on to a southern Utah or Grand Canyon vacation.  Situated in the crook of where Highway 98 bumps into Highway 89, Page, Arizona’s main map-worthy attraction is the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to the north.  Many travelers miss Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons on the Navajo reservation just to its south, but I’d imagined walking amidst the twisting red sandstone walls for too many years to pass them by. And to finally climb down into this ethereal underground world of childhood fantasy was like walking into the landscape of a favorite painting.

For more on Lower Antelope Canyon, click the link below.

More Lower Antelope Canyon photos

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Walk-Through Sand Sculpture

Roaming herds of pronghorn antelope were the inspiration for Antelope Canyon’s English name.  Nothing against the antelope, but the canyon’s Navajo name “Hasdeztwazi” (Spiral Rock Arches) seems a better fit for the whimsical geology that attracts photographers from all over the world.

Standing at the bottom of the first ladder in the Lower canyon, I felt as if I’d landed in the burrow of a manic, gifted sculptor. The swirled sandstone passageway revealed only the immediate, and as I edged through and around the billowing rock, my senses bubbled with a steady anticipation.  What colors and formations would materialize around the next curve, at the end of the upcoming ladder or even just behind me if I turned to look back at where I had just been?

Creeping sunlight advanced across the sculpted walls of sand to create an ever changing canvas of colors and shadows.  It was an enveloping sort of art, resplendent with deep purples, rosy reds and vibrant oranges.  A silent studio where pockets of darkness and shafts of light interplayed in astonishingly lovely ways.  And yet, the twisting walls of Lower Antelope Canyon are forever an unfinished work. Water and wind will continue to carve at the slot canyon, softening its edges while inscribing their definitive patterned trails into the walls themselves.

No one is allowed entry into Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon without a purchased pass.  It’s safer that way.  As with any slot canyon, Antelope Canyon is susceptible to flash flooding from distant storms.  My photographer’s pass allowed me to wander at will, without the time restrictions and crowding of a group tour, but with access to the helpful suggestions of floating Navajo guides.  Their timetable of the sun’s passage was better than a bus schedule for this photographer hoping to catch the moving rays of daylight.



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