Beam Me Up!

Every photographer knows that the best light is at the beginning and end of the day.  You never shoot in the mid-day sun….  Unless you’re in a slot canyon.  These amazing shafts of light come down in Upper Antelope Canyon in the middle of the day.  The whole scene is surreal.  The color and materials of the rocks interact with the yellow sun and blue sky to create this amazing rainbow of colors ranging from red, orange, yellow, purple, and blue.  It’s absolutely stunning, and the light and mood is constantly changing.  As the days get shorter, such as September when I took this shot, these beams of light move incredibly fast.  The sun has to be overhead, and that only happens for a few minutes.  I think the sun was hitting the floor here for maybe 15 minutes.  The key to a photo like this is to get some dust in the air.  Some of the guides try to throw by hand, but a small plastic scoop is the best way to really get a lot of dust up quickly to be able to see a complete shaft of light.  It also fills the air with a lot of extremely fine dust.  If you take your lens off in here, you can probably consider your camera ruined – so bring a couple of cameras if you want to have the option to shoot with different lenses.  Unfortunately, this is also a small and easily accessible place, so there are literally hundreds of photographers jammed into this short little slot canyon every day trying to shoot during the peak midday sun.  It’s like a gladiator event!!!  Thankfully my Navajo guide was an absolute hero, and helped coordinate with a few other guides so that everyone in our group got a chance to take a photo.  But you’ve got to be ready, you’ve got about 30 seconds before someone else elbows you out of the way for their shot.  An on top of the bar brawl atmosphere in the canyon, you need to buy a $50 license to take photographs and nearby hotels (in Page, AZ) fill up quickly and are super expensive.  It’s a good place for patient people!  On the flip side, you should take comfort knowing that a large portion of the cost of visiting here is helping to support the Navajo Nation.

Light Shaft in Upper Antelope Canyon

Greg Benz Photography