Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope entrance
Alexa and her pal Suzanne at the entrance to Lower Antelope

I had heard about Antelope Canyon for years, and had been pulled into the sinuous and sensual photographs I’d been coming across. In the midst of a turbulent year in 2005, I made one of those impetuous decisions: Well, I’d just go. And like the results of most of those decisions of the heart and soul, it paid off. I had myself a magical experience.

Antelope Canyon is a very otherworldly place. There are two canyons, Upper and Lower. The Upper Canyon “tour” proved to be a challenge to endure, both as a soul filling quest and as a photographer. Antelope, unfortunately, has been discovered, and is in fact old news to serious image seekers. Upper was filled with tourists and tripods, and was a bit of a disappointment, and I finally admitted some sort of defeat – or at the least, frustration.

But Lower Antelope… ah, magic indeed. We went there twice in the course of running around the Colorado Plateau in Northern Arizona. You can find Antelope Canyon on Navajo Tribal Land, near Page, just under the Arizona-Utah border. And don’t be dissuaded by the fact of its discovery. It will still deliver the goods. It is a narrow slot canyon, only a quarter of a mile long, and it is entered by literally descending into a gash in the earth. Actually the commercialization of such a place has its benefits, as now you can enter and descend fairly easily, with the addition of some impressive ladders and stairways, rather than with ropes as used to be the case. I hear, however, that even the stairs give way to the floods that come and wreak havoc with the place, and have to be replaced periodically.

Floods are the lifeblood, so to speak, of such places. Indeed it is the roiling waters careening through the sandstone that carve the incredible shapes and passageways into the surrendering soft layers. And they can also bring death, as witnessed by the unforgiving waters that crashed through in August 1997, taking the lives of 11 who were uninformed about such things, or whose leaders had carelessly failed to heed the weather many miles away. Their names are inscribed on a plaque near the entrance. Since then the entering of the canyon is much more regulated, and the far away weather respected.

Should you want to go, Google Antelope Canyon and you’ll find much information. For photography, the best time to capture the incredible light is a couple of hours on either side of high noon, since the sun needs to shine into the narrow slot to illuminate the walls. I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed, for it is a trip into to another world, filled with an aching beauty – a surreal landscape of the imagination – and a living pulse of life, and the fulfillment of dreams.