Tips for Photographing Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is not only the most visited canyon in the world but also it is also the most photographed. The combination of colors and unique lighting brings professional and amateur photographers from all over the world to capture “the perfect image.” Because of the unique surroundings it is wise to prepare beforehand to ensure that you get the shots that you want.

In 10 Quick tips for Photographing Antelope Canyon, Amar Ramesh, emerging photographer from Washington, provides sound advice for taking great pictures in Antelope Canyon.

  1. Plan Ahead
    Like for any travel, do your homework and get to know the place. There are two canyons – Upper and Lower – both located in Page, AZ. Mid-day (11am-1pm) between the months of March and October is the best time to photograph these slots, with the shafts of light shining down from the openings above. There are photography tours available in both upper and lower canyons. Even though it’s a little expensive than the ordinary tour, it’s totally worth it. The guides who take you along the photography tour generally do a wonderful job helping you ‘chase’ the light. I highly recommend it.
  2. Gear
    Use the widest-angle lens from your arsenal. You have to capture a wider area with light streaks and you absolutely need a wide-angle lens to do this. If you don’t own one, try renting it. Tripod is a must and make sure you turn off image stabilization. A remote trigger would help remove the vibration caused by pressing the shutter button.
  3. Try not to Change the Lens
    An important note to remember if you are shooting with a DSLR is that you should not change your lenses inside these canyons because of the amount of dust in the air. Trust me you wouldn’t want to change your lenses inside the canyons. If you have a second camera, by all means, take it along with a different lens on it. You will get a different perspective. And yes, carry a cloth to clean the lenses frequently.
  4. Make use of your Live view
    The canyons are generally crowded. People keep streaming in and out, in large groups. So expect people both in front and behind you. With so much going around it’s easy to be engrossed into the viewfinder. So advice would be try using the live view, as well as an articulating screen (some of the newest cameras have them). When you are ready to take the shot, you can quickly check the viewfinder and make sure everything is good and press the shutter. This will help you be aware of things happening around you.
  5. Go Manual Mode and Shoot in Raw
    Set the camera in manual mode, shoot RAW. f11 to f18 is the sweet spot for aperture and open the shutter anywhere between 2 and 6 seconds depending on the variation in light to get the best shots. Frequently check your histogram to see how you are doing.
  6. Look Up
    There will be times when you have to wait for a group of people to move before you can take a picture. So try to use that time to come up with different compositions. Look up and try to compose shots. Also remember including people in the picture is not always a bad thing to do.
  7. Look for Hidden Slots
    These canyons are spiritual to the Navajo tribes. They talk about the forms and shapes carved into the rock by water that flows through the canyons. One of the greatest pleasure in shooting these canyons is to see the unseen, find what is hidden, and put them in the center stage and show it in pictures. The stone in the picture below has taken a form of an eagle with open wings.
  8. Try to put People in the Picture
    Bring some life to the pictures by placing a human subject. Here in this picture I requested a traveler from South America dressed in contrasting colors to be photographed, which made the picture interesting.
  9. High Contrast
    Look for frames with the most contrast to make it all that more interesting. You can find so many frames with high contrast between the darkest and brightest regions because of the shafts of light that penetrate from above make the center areas of the canyons brighter and the sides darker.
  10. Carry a Water bottle
    Last but not least food is not allowed inside, so if you are planning to spend a good time in these canyons, have your food before entering the canyons and make sure to carry a water bottle with you.

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