Antelope Canyon Photo Tour

Sunbeams. Antelope Canyon

On July 3 I found myself touring Antelope Canyon with camera and tripod in hand.

The slot canyons of the Southwest provide some remarkable photo opportunities. These canyons are often deep and narrow with red sandstone walls eroded into fantastic shapes by wind and water. Antelope Canyon is one of the more famous canyons and you need to book a tour with one of the tour operators that provide Navajo guides. We booked our tour several months ago through Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tour. The cost for the tour was $195 for a tour of two canyons; well worth the money. You can book a regular tour in which case you are limited to a hand-held camera or you can book a photo tour which requires a camera and tripod. Joann booked a regular tour for herself and a photo tour for me.

My photo tour started at 9:00 AM, and we were instructed to be at the tour headquarters 45 minutes early. For the regular tour no bags or backpacks are allowed, likewise for the photo tour you can take a camera and tripod, again no bags or backpacks. Some of the canyons are quite narrow and having a backpack would hinder movement. There is also a concern of scratching the canyon walls and leaving marks if you are carrying a backpack with a tripod. I arrived at the headquarters with my backpack, Nikon D800, and two lenses, a 14-24 and a 28-300, and a water bottle. I opted to shoot with the 14-24 on the advice that wider is better. I also had my little Sony RX100 in a holster on my belt. At 8:45 we climbed into an Hummer for a 15 minute ride up a sandy wash. A rather bumpy ride. Our first stop was Rattlesnake Canyon. I left my pack and water bottle in the car and grabbed my camera and tripod. Even if I had taken my second lens, changing lenses in the canyon is not advisable. There is a tremendous amount of dust, and the risk of getting dust on the sensor is quite high.

In the canyon the guides were very efficient at helping us get into position, a challenge with multiple photographers in the tight confines of the canyon. They broke us into groups and placed us in different rooms, while making sure we had time to capture a few images while they controlled the visitors on other tours.

It wasn’t far into the first canyon when I dropped my remote cable in the sand, and at that point it stopped working properly. I was able to get it to work off and on, but it was a bit frustrating. With the tour operating as it does, you have a limited time to capture images. Be advised to make sure you know your camera well and that your equipment is in good order with fully charged batteries. You will have little time to fiddle with camera once you are in the canyon.

Once we had traversed Rattlesnake Canyon we hiked over the canyon rim back to the Hummer and headed for Upper Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is a very busy place with many tourists traversing the canyon with their guides. Even so, the tour operators all seem to cooperate to give the photo tour access to some of the more interesting rooms. They will put the photographers in position, halt traffic through a room and give you a couple of minutes to shoot. As noon approached the shafts of light beaming down into the canyon became the focus of the tour. The guides would throw sand in the air to help accentuate the shafts of light. A very dusty experience. Several of the photographers had wrapped their cameras in plastic bags to protect them from dusk. Probably a good idea. Next time I might take my camera raincoat for that purpose. This tour is best done close to the summer solstice when the sun is high in the sky, creating vertical shafts of light deep in the canyon.

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Taliesin West

Our travels took us to Taliesin West today. We had purchased tickets ahead of time since we were planning on being in Phoenix today for a family reunion. We booked the “Details Tour,” which was a two hour tour covering some of the details of the architecture. Photos are permitted on this tour, so it as a treat to capture photos with my little Sony RX100.

Frank Lloyd Wright established Taliesin West in 1937 as his winter home and school in the desert. Today it is the main campus of the School of Architecture at Taliesin. I was surprised to find that the buildings seem to be a bit rough hewn, which seems appropriate since the location was a laboratory for design and experimentation and much of the facilities were built by Frank Lloyd Wright’s students. The location was very remote at the time it was built and the design reflects Wright’s love of nature and philosophy about how design should interact with nature.

For anybody interested in architecture, design and nature this tour is a must.

 

 

Road to Nowhere

White Road. El Malpais National Monument

We were driving down this dirt road on El Malpais National Monument, I was struck by the contrast of the bright white road catching the sun, with the dark clouds overhead. I just had to stop the car, step out into the middle of the road and snap a picture. I saw this in my minds eye as a black and white. Here’s the color version above and the black and white version below. Which to you prefer?

White Road. El Malpais National Monument

 

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

 

Our outing yesterday took us to Kasha-Katuwe Ten Rocks National Monument some 35 miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Part of our motivation to come to Santa Fe was the opportunities to hike. With a high fire danger though the National Forests were closed so we decided to head to the Tent Rocks for a short hike.

After a short hike through the desert Junipers we entered a slot canyon which provided a cool respite from the hot sun. We meandered through the slot canyon and then climbed up to a view point on the rim, hiking through fantastic towers and spires. These spires were formed by erosion of the volcanic ash left behind by local volcanoes millions of years ago.

Our hike covered 3.7 miles and we were happy to be done with our hike before noon, since the temperature was approaching 90 F when we returned to the car.

Island in the Sky

Juniper and sky at Island in the Sky. Canyon Lands National Park.

I captured this image a couple of days ago, close to sunset at the Green River Overlook, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park.

“All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream.”– T. K. Wipple, Study Out the Land

Great Basin National Park

Our camp near Great Basin National Park

Friday evening June 15 found us in Great Basin National Park. The word was that Great Basin National Park is one of the least visited parks in the country, and that said, we were hoping to find camping at one of the campgrounds in the park. We headed first for Wheeler Peak Campground, which was full, then on to Upper Lehman, which looked like a lovely campground, but it was also full. We then decided to try going off the grid, taking a dirt road near the Pole Canyon picnic area. The road took us just outside of the park where we found a quiet spot in some junipers to put the top up.A  very peaceful and pleasant spot. No services other than a fire pit, and we did not bring fire wood. Not a soul in sight, and not a single car on the road.
The next day we drove back up the mountain and we had a lovely hike up into the Bristlecone Pines. I was hoping to make it an early morning trip to catch some soft light, but given the drive and a 1 1/2 mile hike to reach the trees, that seemed unpractical.

 

Camping on the Green River

Camped on the bank of the Green River at Gray Canyon Campground. Woke up to the sound of the Green River roaring by just outside our backdoor. A pleasant kind of white noise following a good nights sleep. We’re camped at Lower Gray Canyon Recreation Area, just a few miles north of the town of Green River in Utah. Today marks day six on a three week road trip. We found this camp through Campendium, one of our favorite apps for locating camp sites. We are headed for Canyon Lands and Dead Horse Point State Park and as we dallied along yesterday, time passed and we decided to look for a lesser known campsite that might have room rather than risk finding the campsites full at some of the more popular locations on our route. This turns out to be a lovely site, shaded with cottonwood trees on the bank of the river. Only a handful of campers with plenty of open spaces. Once we had settled into our site we went for a swim in the river. Weather is very pleasant this morning, 68 degrees F when we got up at 6:30. Felt a bit cool with the gentle breeze. I put a light jacket on. Now as we’re breaking camp to hit the road at 9:00 the temperature is approching 90.