The Antelope Canyons in the Page, Arizona area, are hugely popular with photographers, and for good reason. They offer unique opportunities to capture the colors, shapes and textures of the sandstone walls and overhangs. The colors change as the sunlight, filtering down through the narrow slots, changes in angle and intensity. The canyons have become something of a cliché for outdoor photographers, but there’s no escaping their beauty. If you’re in that area, they are definitely worth your time. However, popularity creates problems. Others had warned me how crowded it could be, and I saw them literally trucking in visitors to the Upper Canyon, even in mid-December in sub-freezing weather, so I decided not to shoot there. However, I did enjoy the Lower Antelope Canyon, which is located nearby but is an entirely separate operation. Go about 11 AM for the best light. A two-hour photographer’s pass is $36 (2013) and well worth it. You must show them your DSLR camera and a tripod; a point-and-shoot condemns you to touring with a guide and perhaps 8-10 others, all of whom are getting into each other’s (and your) way. They are strict about the two-hour limit, but that’s enough time if you keep moving.
I made a long-planned photography trip to Northern Arizona and planned for two days at Monument Valley. Some research convinced me that Tom Phillips’ tour business, Keyah Hozhoni, was ideal for me. (Note: they are also known as Tom Phillips Photography, after the late Tom Phillips, who established the business.) About a month in advance I confirmed with Carlos, one of the owners, that I could do a sunset tour on one day and a sunrise tour the next morning. A couple of days prior to my arrival I emailed and confirmed. (I would have been happy to have paid a deposit, but they did not request one.)
I arrived at the View Hotel at 1:00 PM and met Ray Begaye, Tom Phillips’ nephew and my guide. It was just the two of us and we set out for the sunset tour. (It being December, sunset comes early). Ray drove me around the 17-mile loop, but took me into restricted areas that only Navajo guides and local residents are allowed to enter. Ray knows photography and has guided some well-known photographers, so he not only gets you to places, he makes suggestions about composition and exposure. He’s also very friendly and open and will educate you about the Navajo tribe, Monument Valley, and anything else you ask him. He was a great guide: patient, helpful and good at keeping us on schedule so we could make the most of the tour. The next morning, three others joined us at 5:45 AM for the sunrise tour and he drove us around the park for ideal shots of the sunrise and the morning sun lighting up the buttes and rocks.