©Bert Gildart: Upper Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona may offer opportunities to capture one of the most picturesque series of sandstone formations in the world – and the Navajo who own this land have learned how to capitalize on the opportunity.
Antelope Canyon Tours offers several excursions to the canyon, one for the general public and another tour for those who consider themselves to be professional photographers. If you join the latter, the price doubles from $40 to $80, but then the opportunity is most likely a once-in-a-life-time event.
The photography tour is limited to 12 people though you will at times still be competing with individuals from the other tours for space. Most are considerate, but they are trying to move along, so sometimes it helps to point your camera up rather than along the route others will follow.
Upper Antelope Canyon is only about 100 yards long, and access to the canyon does not insure that you will return with good images. In fact, there are techniques which one should master if one really wants to do justice to the canyon. It also helps if your guide works with you to insure that other visitors don’t walk in front of your camera during the long time exposures that are mandatory.
I lucked out with a good guide, whom I later tipped generously. When others were about to enter the scene I was trying to record he’d ask them to please hold for just a minute. “Photographer at work.”
Contrast in the canyon is intense so most of the images shown here are created from a blend of three separate images, each taken at different exposures from a tripod for about two minutes, and then later merged on my computer using a High Density Resolution (HDR) program known as PhotoMatrix. Images of the people were made quickly cranking up my ISO to about 800, and from previous experience (see images from WEIO in Alaska) I know that Nikon can handle high ISO settings. However, to make images of people work I had to avoid pointing my camera at scenes where contrast was great.
To accentuate the light streaming in from above, guides threw sand into the air. In other words, they’d learned through the years what makes for a good image. My guide also knew some of the best areas to set up.
Summer, meaning about now, starts to see overwhelming numbers, so winter could be a better time if you are bothered by large numbers of people. Regardless, I’d recommend the tour for any simply wishing to see some of the world’s most incredible sandstone formations. Upper Antelope Canyon has got it! But then, so does Lower Antelope, which I described in my last post. In fact, I enjoyed Lower Antelope because the pace was more relaxed and there was time to set up without having to worry about people stepping into your picture. With Janie, we were also able to develop a feeling for these works of natural art, and, again, I described all that in my last post.