Antelope Canyon - Page 1 of 2

[Interior of Antelope Canyon.]   [Top of Antelope Canyon.]
The interior of Antelope Canyon, a "slot canyon" of water-sculpted sandstone.   This is what the top of the canyon looks like at ground level. Not much more than a slot.

Antelope Canyon is a "slot canyon" that was formed as water eroded deeply into the local sandstone. It's called a slot canyon because the canyon is extremely narrow – in places, you can touch both sides with your outstretched arms. At its top, the canyon appears as a rather unimpressive sinuous slot in the surface of typical desert terrain. But climbing down to the canyon floor, the visitor is treated to a continuous array of fantastic shapes and undulating surfaces, sculpted into the sandstone by swirling floodwaters. The sandstone itself is made out of petrified sand dunes, and contains beautiful layered patterns. The combination of the sculpted shapes and layered patterns is absolutely breathtaking.

The canyon is located on the reservation of the Navajo Nation near Page, Arizona. There are actually two canyons, upper and lower. We visited the lower canyon, which seems to be the more popular canyon. The lower canyon is about 1/4 mile long, and gets wider and deeper as you proceed towards the mouth. Eventually, the canyon reaches Lake Powell (formerly the Colorado River), although that portion of the canyon is not on the tour. Here and there, small metal ladders assist you in walking through the canyon, although you have to do some occasional rock scrambling. The floor of the canyon was completely dry when we visited. Due to the severity and suddenness of desert runoff, the canyon is closed if there is a threat of thunderstorms (before this policy, some people got killed when they were swept away by floodwaters).

[Terrain around Antelope Canyon.]   [Dinosaur footprint.]
This is a wider view of the terrain around Antelope Canyon.   The canyon's sandstone was formed during the time of the dinosaurs – as proof, here's a dinosaur footprint on the surface of the sandstone.

Being so photogenic, Antelope Canyon is very popular with photographers, both professional and amateur. Amateurs can take snapshots as part of the self-guided tour (which cost $15 when we visited), but professional photographers must make other arrangements and pay a higher price. Since the canyon is so narrow, very little direct sunlight reaches the floor, resulting in a very attractive (though dim) indirect light. Contrary to the conventional wisdom for outdoor photography, the best time for slot canyon photography is at noon. Even so, you'll need a tripod and/or high-speed film.

I took some pictures using 800-speed Fuji print film, and I think they came out rather well. Due to the way film renders highlights and shadows (and, no doubt, due to increased saturation by the photo finisher), the prints show much more color than was visible to the naked eye. However, that's all part of the enjoyment of photographing such a site – sandstone and light turn into an otherworldly and colorful sculpture garden.

I have some of my pictures on the next page. Unlike other pages on my web site, the photo page has thumbnail images on a black background. Click on any thumbnail to see a bigger version; use your browser's "back" command to return to the photo page. Due to the size of the bigger pictures, they're best viewed with Internet Explorer in "full screen" mode (press F11 to toggle mode).

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