I recently traveled with my husband to Page, Arizona in the northern part of the state. My main goal was to see and photograph the Lower or Upper Antelope Canyons and from there, make our way into Utah.
The access to both the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are on Navajo land. You will need to signup for one of the available tours with a Navajo guide. Not only will you have to select a tour company when you schedule yours, but you’ll also have to pay a Navajo Nation entrance fee to be on their land. It’s only $8, but you should know that it is in addition to your tour fee.
Since the tour for Upper Antelope Canyon is more expensive, I decided to take a tour of Lower Antelope Canyon as I was unsure what to expect. I chose Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours because of feedback from a couple other photographers and because of the reviews on TripAdvisor. I highly recommend this tour company and will definitely use them again.
I was so pleased with my tour that I signed up for an additional tour at a different time and day. My second tour had a very different feel to it than the first so I thought I’d share some tips that might help you plan your first trip to see these wonderful slot canyons.
Reserve Online ASAP – These tours are very popular. People visit from all over the world. As soon as you know about when you will be visiting, make a reservation. Dixie Ellis’ Tours don’t take money online when you reserve, so just choose a date and time and you’ll be set. You’ll be able to pay with cash or credit card when you show up for your tour.
Choose a Weekday Tour – If you can sign up during a weekday, you’ll have fewer people on the walking tours going through. My first tour was during the weekday and I liked it so much more than my second tour which was on a Sunday. There were two large tour buses that came in on Sunday and the amount of people in the canyon was more hectic. I will only do weekdays in the future.
Time of Day – I tried searching online to see what time would be best to take my tour. I found a couple of blogs with advice. For the first tour I chose the 2:20 pm tour. I liked that time as the canyon walls were rich with color. Since I wanted a chance to see some light beams, I signed up during a morning tour that started at 8:20 am on another day. I asked another photographer when would be the best time to have a chance to see them and he recommended this time slot. Our tour did see one around 10:00 am, towards the end of our tour. The guides will actually toss some dust up into the light so the photographers can shoot it. Be ready when that happens as it all happens so quick! I put my camera on a very fast shutter speed to be able to catch the light beams.
Choose the Photography Tour – There are two kinds of tours, walking and photography tours. The walking tours are usually larger groups and it will be hard to get some photos you want with all the people. The walking tour is only an hour so they move people along more quickly. If you take the photography tour you’ll have two hours and less people. Also photography tours have priority so they will hold back the walking tours a bit for you to get some shots. The guides seem to be knowledgeable about photography and will point out some interesting features. Of course, you’ll find your own compositions as there are endless possibilities!
Equipment Required – The photography tour requires that you bring a DSLR or Mirrorless camera and a tripod or monopod. They don’t want you to bring a selfie-stick. I guess this equipment will set photographers apart from regular tourists. On my second tour, one of the photographers did not bring a tripod so the tour guide set her up with a loner which required her to give them a credit card as collateral. Even though a tripod/monopod is required, you don’t have to use it. I brought my smaller travel tripod, which worked well when I used it.
Cameras & Lenses – I brought my full-frame Canon 6D with my 24-105mm lens attached. I also brought my Fuji XT-1 mirrorless camera with my 10-24mm lens attached. You don’t want to change lenses in case there is dust flying around in the canyons. It wasn’t dusty during my tours as I planned my visits on sunny, warm days. I ended up using both of my cameras. I kept the DSLR on the tripod the whole time and handheld my Fuji. I found this range of lenses worked really well for me and I came back with several keepers I’m happy with. Make sure your batteries are all charged up and your memory cards are empty so you don’t have to deal with changing those down there.
Shoot High – You’ll mostly be shooting high because of people walking into your frames. Some of the best features are high up in the canyon walls. It’s difficult to shoot the sky through openings in the canyon walls unless you bracket your shots. While you are looking up, look behind you as well. You’ll see so many features you don’t want to miss.
Time flies when you’re having fun! It’s amazing how fast two hours will go when you are down in the canyon enjoying taking photos. The guides seem to be good about keeping you moving along but also giving you some time to get the shots you want. There is so much opportunity for compositions, you’ll definitely want to return again!
I am planning to return in the future. I really enjoyed seeing these amazing slot canyon walls!