Antelope Canyon may possibly be the most photogenic slot canyon in the world. There are actually two separate sections to this canyon which are referred to as "Upper Antelope Canyon" and "Lower Antelope Canyon". The upper canyon sees more visitors. It is a bit wider and is more photographed. The lower canyon is narrower, has some mandatory staircases to climb up and down and provides a slightly quieter experience.
The canyon is located on Native American land, and requires hiring a local guide or guiding company to accompany you through the canyon. With these guiding companies you have two tour options, you can take the regular tour or the "photographers tour". If you are serious about getting technically sound images using a tripod and taking a little bit of time you really need to take the photographers tour. The canyon is BUSY! In fact it's a bit of a zoo. Even on the photographers tour you will feel rushed during your experience. If you take the regular tour you will be in a group of about 25 people and tripods are not allowed on that tour. Also, you wouldn't have a chance to take a photo with no people in it unless you are shooting straight up. If you take the "photographers tour" you will be in a group of 5 people with a guide. The guide will point out nice areas to photograph, and will hold people back to ensure you are not getting them in your images. Also, tripods are acceptable on this tour.
BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH
Late spring through early fall. May and June are the best, as the monsoon season has not yet arrived which provides predictable cloudless days. (Also light beams exist during these months).
DRIVE TIME FROM ZION
HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH THIS CANYON
What you are looking for in this canyon is "reflected light". This is not "direct light". Reflected light happens when direct sunlight strikes around a corner or bend and bounces that light onto another wall. This light produces a vibrant orange, red or yellow glow. If you are getting some of the deep shadows lower in the canyon in combination with that glow, the colors in the more shaded areas will be rendered as blue or purple, creating a wonderful pallet of colors. As a general rule it is important to not include any direct sunlight or sky in your image. These areas will overexpose. These overexposed areas compete with the beautiful colors and textures of the canyon walls, which is where you want your viewers to be looking at. Also, if you have sky in your image, a haze is produced along the canyon edges and contrast in your image will be effected in a negative way.
- Wide angle or Mid-Range lens (if you have two camera bodies, bring both. One with the wide angle, one with the mid)
- Lens cloth
DISCLAIMER - Changing lenses inside the canyon is not recommended. Due to lots of dust and sand, particles will enter your camera body resulting in dust on your sensor. Some people will tape a plastic bag around their camera body and lens in order to keep sand out of the moving parts of their camera.
As a disclaimer, these settings are boiled down to be safe. There may be better settings to use to make your images more technically sound, but these standard settings will ensure that you get crisp, beautiful images. These settings are designed for those shooting with a tripod.
ISO - 100
Aperture - Between f8 and f16
Shutter speed -
For most images set your ISO and aperture and if you are in aperture priority let it figure out the shutter speed. If you are shooting manually use your light meter and adjust your shutter speed accordingly.
If you are photographing the "light beams" in the canyon you will want to prioritize your shutter speed before ISO and aperture. Set to approximately 2 seconds. This allows time for sand which is thrown into the direct light beam coming into the canyon to capture to sand moving from top of the beam, down to the canyon floor. Your settings will likely be something around f18, 2 seconds, ISO 100 or lower if your camera has that ability.