Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Antelope Canyon

Wow, was our hotel weird. When you get out this far into the Arizona desert, you start wondering whether folks charming idiosyncrasies or if they just have been mentally baked by the sun. Don't get me wrong...they're nice people. And it is fun to see a little quirky character in their local flavor...but some people here are a bit eccentric in that "Ive been abducted by aliens twice before" New Mexico way.

But their local eccentricities pair nicely with the natural elegance that defines their geography. These...are the slot canyons.

I can't believe it either.

This place isn't the easiest to get to. You have to drive out through the desert to a town called Page, Arizona. A charming place, but you'd have no idea of the remarkable physical beauty in and around it unless you were carrying a tourist book, or in the case of my iPhone, the internet. You can only visit the canyons by hiring a Navajo guide, who off-roads you in through a brutal sand path. Ours broke our four-wheeler. We were only about 250 yards from the canyons, but it was so blindingly hot that we couldn't hike it directly exposed to the midday sun. Our truck had an overly stiff suspension and no air condition (our guide affectionately called it "Shake and Bake") so we were already in pretty bad shape when we had no choice but to sit out in the middle of the sand road at nearly high noon waiting for backup. We could literally see the entrance to the cool canyon interior, but we just simply couldn't make it. There might as well have been sharks patrolling the entrance.

What was great about this place was that its unique geography gives the dedicated photographer a chance to get some rare and much needed sleep. Proper landscape photography means you're going to stay up late into the night catching the twilight known as "magic hour" before making your way home and fixing a late dinner. You then must get up in the dark of late night/early morning to get to your next location before the next magic hour that comes at sunrise. I have been repeating this cycle unabated for the last five straight weeks.

With the slot canyons, you want to be there at the time surrounding high noon so that you can catch the slim beams of sunlight shining through narrow openings like lasers. This is usually te exact worst time for site photography. The sun is at its worst, there is no contrast, and the few shadows that exist are straight down and harsh. The chance to sleep in and then come out at this poor time of day for ideal conditions was welcome respite from my hectic schedule of limited sleep.

Most people take a walking tour and snap a few pictures as they go, but I had specifically joined a photography expedition which departs at the ideal time of day and gives you multiple hours in the canyon rather than less than one. The canyons are small and they are crowded, so face time with them is a precious commodity. To be able to grab extended time was expensive, but this was a life-list activity, and I'm beyond satisfied with the results.

I haven't even had a chance to properly edit these photos yet, so I can only imagine what they'll look like when I prep them and print them through laserjet on one-meter length paper for framing.


Mario Aguila said...

Awesome, Buddy!
I'd never even heard of this place before. I'll have to admit, I also half thought I would see a dude carrying a long staff with a jewel-embedded medallion on top, trying to find "the map room" and muttering something about an arc, a covenant, and some other jibberish about the Hoosier State. ;-)


Anonymous said...

I agree - great place. Looks this that place should be on many people's lists.