Antelope Canyon and Horse Shoe Bend (obscurred by fog and snow)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It was a cold grey day and threatened snow. That didn’t matter for the morning because I had booked a tour with a small group and a Navajo guide for a photography trip to Upper Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon carved by water over the years into the desert sandstone. Its swirls and shapes have impressed many photographers, who make it a destination, as do many tourists. 

Our guide was good, and quickly led us to the far end of the canyon to work backwards, and sometimes managed to hold back crowds when we photographed. But it was simply too crowded to do serious photography. I dread to think how much worse it would be in peak season. As the canyon is quite dark you need to take very long exposures using a tripod. For each shot, I took either five or seven separate exposures because the range from light to dark was so huge I knew that the only way to capture all the detail would be by combining separate images on a computer afterwards (HDR or high-dynamic range photography). Unfortunately taking that many long shots meant the odds of being disturbed were huge. Tourists often walked by, sometimes accidentally kicking the tripod. Sometimes their guides shone laser pointers onto the rocks leaving red squiggles on my images. For certain scenes, photographers lined up taking turns moving their tripods into place, sometimes lining up the tripods in a row with the legs woven in and out of each other. 

That doesn’t take away from the beauty of the canyon, but it did make it hard to photograph it. In hindsight, I think I should’ve gone to one of the lesser-known slot canyons in the area, including perhaps even Lower Antelope Canyon across the road, which apparently is just as beautiful but much less crowded. 

Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona - © Richard McGuire


I wanted to photograph Horse Shoe Bend, a dramatic river bend below a steep cliff south of Page. It was now foggy and starting to snow, but as I didn’t have many alternative destinations, I set out anyway. It’s a walk of about a half a mile from the parking area on a trail through the desert to the edge of the cliff. In what must have been the understatement of the year, one Chinese tourist told me: “The visibility is not very high.” That didn’t stop a number of tour groups from making the walk anyway. Only occasionally did the fog lift just enough that you could see the faint outline of the river more than 1000 feet below. At other times it was just old white of fog and falling snow. Some of the tourists went right to the edge of the cliff and took pictures of the fog. I took a picture of one Chinese tourist woman standing about 2 feet from the edge of the precipice and snapping a picture of the fog. 

Horse Shoe Bend in the fog

Horse Shoe Bend in the fog - © Richard McGuire

About Richard McGuire
Richard McGuire is a part-time photographer and photography enthusiast based on Ottawa, Canada.

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