Visiting Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona was a must on our American Southwest Road Trip. Antelope Canyon is a unique and beautiful place. The photographs taken in the slot canyons are iconic. (In fact, the most expensive photograph ever sold, Phantom by Peter Lik, was taken in Antelope Canyon.) I’ve seen so many gorgeous photographs taken in Antelope Canyon that I knew I had to experience, and photograph it, for myself.
Visiting Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ
Now, actually visiting Lower Antelope Canyon is a different story. It seems like the magic mostly lives online. I’m the kind of person who hates crowds, so if you are like me, you will probably have a similar experience. Basically, it felt like kind of a scam. But it is also a really beautiful place that feels diluted because of the amount of people there. I still really liked seeing it in person. So, I guess I’m on the fence as to if I would recommend it or not.
Here’s a photo of people waiting to actually climb into Lower Antelope Canyon. Now imagine being in a slot canyon, which is an already narrow and tight space, and having a line of people like this in front of you and behind you.
Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon?
The first thing I had to decide when visiting Antelope Canyon was: Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon? Upper Antelope Canyon is more expensive, but it has the iconic light beams and wider openings. Lower Antelope Canyon is more reasonably priced, but has narrow slot canyons, and steps that you have to climb down to get into the slot canyon. We decided to visit Lower Antelope Canyon.
Normal Tour Or Photography Tour?
The second factor to decide is if you want to take the regular tour or photography tour. You are required to book a tour with a guide to visit the slot canyons. The photography tour costs more (quite a bit more, actually), requires the photographer to have a tripod (you can rent one if you did not bring one with you on your trip), and (which was the kicker for me) everyone on the tour must have a camera and tripod. I really didn’t want to pay that much for both of us to take a photography tour of the canyons and I also didn’t want to pack double the camera gear. So, I opted for the regular tour. However, if I ever decided to go back to Antelope Canyon, I will 100% take the photography tour. I think my experience would have been a lot better that way.
Details Of Our Time Visiting Lower Antelope Canyon
Here are the details that I settled on for our time visiting Lower Antelope Canyon. (After reading lots of advice online!) I reserved our time slot in advance (a few weeks before we left for our trip) through Ken’s Tours. Our time slot was for 11am because I wanted to make sure there would be plenty of light in the slot canyons for photographs. However, looking back, I wish I would have booked an earlier time slot to possibly reduce the amount of people going through the slot canyon at the same time. We paid $25/person for the tour and $7/person for use of the Tribal Land. Ken’s Tours accepts credit cards but the Tribal Land fee must be paid in cash. I also just checked the website and it looks like they are significantly raising the prices for 2018. So, that might influence which tour you decide to take.
A Few Tips For An Enjoyable Visit
Reserve your time slot and watch the weather are my two biggest tips. Reserving your time slot will guarantee your entry into Lower Antelope Canyon. They do allow walk-ins, but the day we visited was so crowded that there was a very long wait for walk-ins.
They will also close the slot canyons if there is a possibility of flooding. This happened the day before our visit so it influenced the amount of people visiting Lower Antelope Canyon on the same day that we visited. (Which is probably why it was so incredibly crowded, but it is also a very popular destination now, too.) It’s best to contact your tour company on the day of your tour to verify that you are still good to go.
Another photo of the sea of people walking through Lower Antelope Canyon.
Photographing Lower Antelope Canyon
If you plan to visit Lower Antelope Canyon, then you HAVE to bring your camera. I took so. many. photographs. And, I’ll be honest, they weren’t all phenomenal. I actually found it a little challenging to get the photos I wanted without a tripod. (They don’t allow you to bring a tripod on a regular tour.) If you are an amateur photographer, then I would suggest learning some tips before your visit to make the most out of your time in the slot canyons.
If you do not have a tripod, then shooting with a high ISO and wide aperture will be your best bet. I photographed in RAW most of the time. I also shot a few with the in camera HDR setting. However, shooting this way and hand holding the camera is not a best practice. I found a few places to steady myself/prop the camera when doing this to make sure the image was in focus.
Here are a few more tips that I can think of… bring your widest zoom lens, DO NOT change your lens in the slot canyon, take photos with people in them, and shoot up to take photos without people in them. It’s also fine to take photos with your phone and to STOP taking photos and just enjoy it! You will only be there for a short amount of time, so make sure that you take it all in.
If you want more detailed information about photographing Antelope Canyon, then I found a good post by Paul Reiffer that you can check out here. He talks about a lot of good technical information for my photo buddies out there.
To Visit Or Not To Visit Antelope Canyon?
Like I said that the beginning on this post, I am on the fence on whether or not to recommend it. On one hand, it is an incredible place that is fun to experience in person and to photograph. On the other hand, it has become so popular and crowded that it sucks some of the joy out of it. (For me, anyway.) If you don’t mind crowds or have an interest in visiting, then I would say go for it.
A Few Other Trip Details:
Where We Stayed: Courtyard Page at Lake Powell.
Where We Ate: State 48 Tavern.
Tour Info: Ken’s Tours. General Tour Price (As of 1/7/18): $40 per person + $8 Tribal Park Fee.