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Joshua | profile | all galleries >> Images from Southwestern United States >> Lower and Upper Antelope Slot Canyons - 2007 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Lower and Upper Antelope Slot Canyons - 2007

Without any doubt, Antelope Canyon is the most-visited and most-photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest. It is located on Navajo land near Page, Arizona. Antelope Canyon includes two separate slot canyon sections, referred to individually as the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. They are separated from each other by approximately 4 miles. Slot canyons or in this case both the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons were formed by erosion of the Navajo Sandstone, which was deposited between Triassic and Jurassic Periods (approximately 180 to 140 Mi years ago). This formation is really thick and it occurs over an expansive area covering parts of several Southwestern States like Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado.

Since the sandstone doesn't absorb water that well, rainwater, especially during monsoon seasons, collected from the surrounding area above the slot canyon sections starts flowing downstream. The run-off picks up speed and carries sand particles, even pebbles and other debris as it rushes into the narrow passageways downstream. Over time, the passageways are eroded away, making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges in such a way as to form characteristic ‘flowing’ or ‘swirling’ shapes in the sandstone. The hardness of the sandstone varies from layer to layer; harder layers are more resistant to erosion and therefore they are raised above softer layers. In addition to horizontal layering, cross-bedding occurs frequently in the sandstone. In some areas, evidence of trickling water from the “crack” or slot above is noted, creating vertical to radiating streaks. Due to its iron-rich composition, the Navajo Sandstone color is reddish of color; light reflected off the sandstone in the upper part takes on gold-reddish color. The reflected light intensifies the colors of the formation further down. All these characteristics create very photogenic slot canyons like nowhere else in the world.

The Upper Antelope Canyon with its fairly wide floor and practically ground level elevation is easily accessible. Therefore, most visitors go to the Upper Canyon. The access to the Lower Canyon is significantly more difficult and the passageway is narrow. Plus elevation changes of the canyon floor require you to go up and down steep ladders. Definitely, the Lower Canyon is not for everyone to enjoy but it is highly rewarding to photographers. In 1997, eleven tourists/photographers were surprised by a flash flood in the Lower Canyon and they perished..... Yes, it could be that bad and supposedly, it didn't even rain that much that day, just a short cloud burst.

This is my third time to the Upper Canyon but the first time to the Lower Canyon. We spent almost 4 hours in the Lower Canyon and we enjoyed every minute of it. The number of people/tourists visiting the Upper Canyon is really high, especially during the peak summer months. Don’t let the images of a seemingly empty canyon here fool you; there are tons of people waiting behind me and tons of people waiting around the corner behind the rocks while I was taking the pictures. Somehow, the Navajo Indian guides manage the flow just enough to enable picture taking without any people being visible.

Photographic tidbits: The lighting conditions are generally low and the dynamic range is really wide. The inclusion of the sky will induce flare on film or sensor bloom on digital, while certain areas near the valley floor can be really dark. One or two shots were taken using 3-4 bracketed exposures to bridge the wide latitude exposure ranges. A tripod is absolutely neccessary; besides that keep your equipment to a minimum, especially in the Lower Canyon. Between May and September the sun can shine through the crack and reach the canyon floor. The light beam is made visible by throwing sand/dust into the air and the light beam will magically appear. The lit sand/dust can reflect so much light that they create overexposure. Literally, it is better to wait until the dust has settled somewhat to obtain a more balance exposure. The focal length of lenses used to capture images on this gallery ranged from 16-45mm on a full frame Canon camera.

I hope you enjoy the gallery and please feel free to post some comments. Thank you for visiting!

Lower Canyon - Just A Crack in the Ground
Lower Canyon - Just A Crack in the Ground
Lower Canyon - Carved Carnival Mask
Lower Canyon - Carved "Carnival" Mask
Lower Canyon - Carved Opening
Lower Canyon - Carved Opening
Lower Canyon - Carved Sandstone
Lower Canyon - Carved Sandstone
Lower Canyon - Smoothly Sculpted Flow
Lower Canyon - Smoothly Sculpted Flow
Curved Sandstone Swirl
Curved Sandstone Swirl
Lower Canyon - Jason, a Navajo Guide
Lower Canyon - Jason, a Navajo Guide
Lower Canyon - Well Lit Canyon Walls
Lower Canyon - Well Lit Canyon Walls
Lower Canyon - Arch Inside the Canyon
Lower Canyon - Arch Inside the Canyon
Lower Canyon - Layering with Sandstone Finger, Another Favorite
Lower Canyon - Layering with Sandstone "Finger", Another Favorite
Lower Canyon - Photographer in Action
Lower Canyon - Photographer in Action
Lower Canyon - Various Shape and Form
Lower Canyon - Various Shape and Form
Lower Canyon - Suspended Tree Branch
Lower Canyon - Suspended Tree Branch
Lower Canyon - Swirling Shape, Another Favorite
Lower Canyon - Swirling Shape, Another Favorite
Lower Canyon - Tough Access
Lower Canyon - Tough Access
Upper Canyon - Entrance at Dusk
Upper Canyon - Entrance at Dusk
Devine Light Beam
"Devine" Light Beam
Upper Canyon - Cork Screw, Another Favorite
Upper Canyon - Cork Screw, Another Favorite
Upper Canyon - Near the Entrance
Upper Canyon - Near the Entrance
Upper Canyon - Passage Way and Wall of Carved Sandstone, Another Favorite
Upper Canyon - Passage Way and Wall of Carved Sandstone, Another Favorite
Upper Canyon - Semi-Detail of Wall Carving
Upper Canyon - Semi-Detail of Wall Carving
Upper Canyon - Just Like an Abstract Painting
Upper Canyon - Just Like an Abstract Painting
Upper Canyon - Riding the Waves
Upper Canyon - Riding the Waves
Upper Canyon - Weed Growth
Upper Canyon - Weed Growth