Purple Silk, Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Needless to say, exploring the Antelope Canyon was a “must” on the list of sights to see and photograph on our Grand Circle “tour de force,” which took us approximately 1700 miles in a mere 10 days.

After arriving in Page, Arizona the previous evening and capturing the Horseshoe Bend, we awoke to the sound of rain tapping on the windows, sighed deeply, and  went to have breakfast. Clearly, exploring the Lower Antelope Canyon was not an option. Amazingly, as by God’s grace, the clouds cleared by its conclusion and we were lucky enough to make it to the Upper Antelope Canyon by 11 AM, just in time for the best light. As we pushed through the hundreds of people in the canyon, we saw a spectacle unlike anything we have ever witnessed before. Radiating beams of light were transforming the Navajo sandstone, sculpted by thousands of years of wind and water, into a palette of flowing silk! Funny enough, as we were leaving the parking lot on our way to the Grand Canyon, it started raining!

Location: For the Lower Antelope canyon, the light is best between 8-10 AM during spring and summer. Requires descent via a ladder, less crowded. For the more visited Upper Antelope Canyon, the light is best between 10 AM-1 PM during spring and summer. Although no descent is required, it is usually extremely crowded. Slightly more interesting rock formations and usually better light. Perfect itinerary: see the lower and then upper canyons!

"Purple Silk"


Technique: Must bring a tripod, remote shutter trigger, rocket air blower/brush (use after every shot!) and wide angle lens (avoid changing lens in the canyon at all costs!). I recommend an ultra wide angle for the Upper Antelope Canyon and a wide to medium range zoom lens for the Lower Antelope Canyon, which is deeper in parts. This is a challenging location to shoot, especially in the Upper Antelope Canyon, which is extremely crowded. There may be a difference of up to 10 exposure stops between the darkest and lightest areas of the image. Although your light meter will be right on the spot, I recommend capturing at least two exposures, with one underexposed by at least one (and preferably two) stops. For this image, the natural golden glow of the canyon walls illuminated by the light beam necessitated underexposure while the purples and pinks were more in the shade and needed to be slightly overexposed with a different white balance setting to bring those colors out.

Caution: Beware of visiting slot canyons during monsoon season as there is a real risk of flash floods in both Upper and Lower Canyons. Eleven tourists died during a flash flood in the Lower Antelope Canyon in 1997 and several were injured in the Upper Antelope Canyon in 2010. If you do choose to go, listen to your guide and check the weather forecast.


All images are ©2011 Alexander Filatov Photography. All rights reserved.

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