Continuing on the natural wonder theme I have developed for Arizona, I wanted to see one of the most photographed places on Earth: Antelope Canyon. One photograph taken in this canyon sold for over a million dollars, and the image of this place can be seen as wallpaper on Mac and Windows machines alike. It was my pleasure and privilege to take a trip through the upper canyon on a warm winter day.
Upper Antelope Canyon
The upper canyon has so much history in its layered walls. I went with a Navajo-run tour group to visit the canyon (You can only visit either canyon through a guided tour) and I’m glad I did. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the canyon: He even pointed out how National Geographic got banned for life from the canyon. I don’t want to steal their thunder, so I’ll let you visit the site and hear the story yourselves! At the start, he even played his Navajo flute for us while we looked around in the first room. Truly a unique experience! It should also be known that this is not a sacred site for the Navajo people. Like our guide said, “If it were sacred, you all wouldn’t be here.”
Tips for Visiting
My tips are simple: It gets more packed as the day goes on and the rays of light start to appear in the canyon. Depending on how badly you want your photos, you might want to pick a photography tour, but know that it is incredibly tight in there and there will be non-photo tours still going on and passing by.
The canyon is one way in, one way out. This means that you have to backtrack to get back to the entrance once you reach the exit on the other side. On your way out, you are strongly encouraged to keep moving, and other tour guides will call you out if you stop and dawdle to take photos while you exit. Focus and snapping quick picks on your way out, but you can take more time on your way in.
My last tip gets an entire section of its own:
Tourism, Tourists, and Losing Sight
One thing I wanted to rant upon that I touched upon in my Horseshoe Bend post is the idea of not being present. I was thrown off by my visit to Horseshoe Bend the day before and I couldn’t put my finger on it until I got to Antelope Canyon with my group. Most of the tourists were so focused on getting their iconic pictures that they didn’t stop to marvel at the natural wonder around them. They went from picture to picture, looking only forward to move before placing their camera or phone in front of their face again to take another picture. When our guide stopped to play his flute for us, I looked around and saw everyone scrambling about to take pictures and it saddened me a bit. They were so obsessed with documenting their visit that, I feel, they didn’t truly visit at all. There was such a lack of focus on the present I found it jarring. I put my camera away and just stood there, looking at the rocks, taking in the sights and smells, listening to the flute as he played.
There was an article that made the round a while back that stated that taking photographs can actually diminish our ability to remember places. While you have the right to take all the photos you want, don’t forget to take a long moment to focus on the details around you with your own eyes. I think that is what will make the canyon truly a breathtaking experience.