This adventure actually started back in August of 2018. While in Las Vegas for the Star Trek convention, I decided to drag Tony, a very close friend of mine to Page, Arizona to see the dream like colors and shapes of Antelope Canyon. And after about a four- and half-hour drive through the desert, we were finally at Antelope Canyon. And to my surprise, all the tours for that day were sold out. In fact, they were sold out up to October, if I remember correctly. I learned the valuable lesson of what happens when you don’t do any research on where your going. The trip wasn’t a total waste, we got to see Glen Canyon dam as well as Horseshoe bend. I had my camera with me, but I wasn’t happy with my images I took. Since then, Antelope Canyon has been on my bucket list and wanted to return and capture better images of Horseshoe Bend.
So, as a birthday gift to myself, I was going to see Antelope Canyon along with revisiting Horseshoe Bend. When I made my reservations, I was going to fly into Flagstaff, Arizona on Friday, drive up to Page where Antelope Canyon is, do two tours at the canyon on Saturday and then fly back to Detroit on Sunday. The week leading up to my trip, I had been checking the weather for Page. And this is how I know Mother Nature is a Bitch. The one and only day I was going to go to the desert, it was going to rain. Really?! And to top it off, Sunday’s weather looks great. Kens Tours is the organization that runs the tours at Antelope Canyon. According to their website, tours could be canceled due to rain. Come Tuesday, I checked the forecast again. Being that the weekend was still far away, I was hoping that the forecast would change for the better. Nope! Was I going to fly all the way there just to watch the rain from my hotel room? I decided to wait and check again come Wednesday.
Unfortunately, the forecast hadn’t changed by Wednesday afternoon. And I felt it would be a real shame to travel all the way there and not get to see the reason for the trip in the first place. So, I jumped on to Orbitz and changed my flight back to Detroit to Monday; along with car rental and hotel stay. I then booked two tours for Sunday.
The adventure started at 5 in the morning with some last-minute packing, a quick shower, got dressed, loaded up the car and off to Detroit metro airport. The normal routine of checking in, getting through the TSA, finding my gate and board the aircraft, went smoothly. And the Airbus A320 I was flying on seem tiny compared to its larger sibling, the A350. Which I flew on during my trip to Japan. As we taxied out to the runway to take off, guess what’s on final approach on the runway next to us? A Delta A350. Such a magnificent aircraft.
There is something about flying and staring out the window I find it increases my mental wellness. All of the everyday emotional and mental baggage falls away and things of real important are brought back to focus. Making memories with love ones, being thankful for having caring family and friends, and being able to travel and experiencing new adventures.
The night before my trip, I was checking to see if everything was in order, flights, car rental along with hotel. Got a stop in Denver for about an hour before switching planes and then off to Flagstaff, Arizona. From There, I’m going to drive north to Page. While looking at the route from Flagstaff to Page, I’m going to go by the south rim of the Grand Canyon. So, the plan is the stop by the Canyon for a while before traveling on to Page. I don’t want to stay to long because there is a chance to see the sun set at Horseshoe bend. As well as I don’t want to try to find my way around at night if I don’t have to.
Switch planes in Denver and made it down to Flagstaff. The airport there is so small compared to Detroit and Denver. It has just one runway. The plane taxis up to the terminal and you get off the aircraft via gangway and walk inside the little but cozy terminal. One side is departures, the other is arrivals and one luggage carousel nestled in the corner. Got my luggage and car rental at the same time. I got out my cord for my phone and started up the “Road bitch” and was off to visit the Grand Canyon.
After a brief hour and half trip there, park the car, geared up my 5DSR and made my way over to the rim. The site of the Grand Canyon cannot be captured on camera alone. The massive sense of scale along with the quietness. It’s beautiful, breathtaking, epic…and totally eroded. Lol. But image wise, I not only tried to find interesting images but yet try to get something unique. I did a lot of people watching and shot they’re interactions around the canyon. I also played around with a few HDR images.
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Being mindful of the time, it was time to leave this colorful natural wonder of the world and head up to Page. Hopefully I’ll be there just in time to see the sun set at Horseshoe bend. However, two things stopped that from happening. The first one Is embarrassing to mention, but…I forgot where I parked the car! So, I wasted what seems like hours walking around hitting the panic button on the key fob looking for the god damn car. You would think that would work right?! Hit the button, hear the alarm and walk in that direction. Well, I hit the button and heard nothing. Silence in the parking lot along with my growing frustration. Life lesson number 148, remember where you park the car. The key fob only works for a certain range and after 30 minutes of site seeing the Grand Canyon parking lot, I found the car.
The second delay was not my fault. In the car, sitting up the “Road Bitch”, google could not get a signal to start the navigation from the canyon up to Page. So, I figured, let’s go out in the way I came in and hopefully reacquire a stronger signal. And after about a half hour, the “Road Bitch” wanted me to make a u turn and head back where I came from. I could have kept going in that direction, but it was going to add another 52 minutes to an already two-hour trip. So, I whipped a shitty and headed back into the weak signal area. Thankfully, it didn’t lose its signal. But now, there was no way to make it up to Horseshoe bend in time to see the sunset. I did see it from the road, and it was a pretty one.
Halfway to Page, I remember that today is my mom’s birthday and I told her I was going to call and wish her a happy birthday. I didn’t want to call with google navigating. And by the time I would be at to the hotel and able to call, it would be close to 8 pm here but would be 10 pm her time. Thankfully, she was still up, and I was able to wish her a happy birthday along with stories of my travels. After her birthday call, I realize that I hadn’t eaten anything since switching planes in Denver airport well over 8 hours ago. I remember the last time I was here, there was a barbecue joint nearby, Big John’s Texas style barbecue. If you’re ever in the Page area and want BBQ, definitely hit them up. Good people and some tasty barbecue.
Saturday’s forecast held true with overcast skies in the morning, then rain showers to steady rain for most of the afternoon. It was also my birthday. My only plans were to talk to family and friends, watch YouTube and Netflix, and just chill and do nothing. Heck, it is my vacation. Rest and relaxation, right?! But about 12 o’clock, I was getting antsy about doing nothing and not being out shooting. I know from all my years of photography; I’ve always told myself “Shoot the Light and not the Subjects”. Rainy days don’t offer much light. And if there is no light, there’s no subjects to shoot.
So, I grab my gear and go out, knowing that the light is going to be shit. And as soon as I walked outside…. It starts raining. I did some scouting around and found a great scenic view of Glen Canyon dam that was close by. I made my way over to the local Walmart, grabbed some snacks and a new charger cord for my iPad. And after about an hour or so of playing in the rain, I went back to the hotel. Later that night, I did venture out and found myself back at Big John’s BBQ for dinner.
After dinner, I rechecked the forecast for Sunday and it was looking very promising. My tours at Antelope Canyon was at 11:30 am and 3 pm. According to the forecast, it would be mostly cloudy from 10 to 12 and sunny for the rest of the afternoon. Which means the sky could be very dramatic with a mix of dark and light clouds on a blue background. I love taking pictures as a storm clears out. I figured the 11:30 tour would be 50/50 for good light, but the 3 pm tour was for sure looking like the best time for light. And the light is what is needed to show off the color and shapes of Antelope Canyon. So, it was off to bed with hopes that Mother Nature was going to play nice tomorrow.
Am sure most photographers can relate to this. As soon as I awake, it was straight to the window to see what’s it doing out there. It was about 6:30 and it was light enough to see the clouds were clearing out and there was some blue-sky peeking through as well. I quickly got dressed, grabbed the camera bag and headed over the scenic spot to shoot Glen Canyon dam with a moody sky behind it. As soon as I got to the spot, I knew it was going to be a great weather day for Photography. The early light along with the moody sky really showed the colors and details of the rusty brown and earth tone rocks of the desert southwest.
Since Mother Nature was being so generous this morning, let’s pop on over to Horseshoe bend and see if I could take advantage of the morning light and sky. As I was driving over to the bend, the sun was covered up a bit with a low hanging clouds. But with the speed in which the clouds were moving, it would soon be flooding horseshoe bend and it was a race for me to get there. Doing the speed limit, I made my way there and paid for parking. I geared up again and speed walked my way to the rim of the bend. All the while glancing behind me to see if the sun was going to pop out before I got there. And in a matter of a few steps, Horseshoe bend lit up and I was there, speechless.
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The first time I was at Horseshoe bend, it was late afternoon and cloudy. Made the scene flat and lifeless. The images were OK, but I knew there was a much better shot in the morning. I stayed there enjoying the incredible view for about an hour. I took a few more images as I walked up the trail to the parking lot. Along with this one, just look at that sky!
I had some time to kill before my first tour at Antelope. It was back to the hotel for some breakfast. After eating, I headed back to the scenic lookout by Glen Canyon dam. My time there was limited but I still enjoyed the view and tried some different angles. From there, I made my way to the lower Antelope Canyon for my 11:30 tour. Check in time is 30 minutes before the tour. Once there and checked in, I spend the half hour browsing the gift shop and double checking everything to make sure I didn’t forget anything.
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Come 11:30, it was announced the tour was going to start and for us to go to our assigned tour guides . And after going over the rules, we walked to the canyon entrance. To get to the canyon floor, there are 4 flights of stairs that takes you down 85 feet. Once there, the colors, the shapes and the light are simply magical. I knew it was going to be beautiful but oh my. Like everything in the desert southwest, the sense of scale is monumental. And trying to capture it properly was challenging. Due to the high contrast of strong light and dark shadows of the canyon walls along with the pace of the tour. There is a group both in front and behind you. You have limited time to see, compose and capture an image. So, I kept my head on a swivel and shot the light, colors and forms. It’s times like this, it’s so beneficial to know how to quickly switch camera functions without having to stop and see what you are doing.
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Climbing out of the canyon after our tour was over, left me energized and charged. The intensity of the tour is so hard to put into words. It’s so beautiful and amazing. There were no sad faces leaving the canyon walking back to the gift shop. And I get to do it again at 3 o’clock! I found some swag in the gift shop that I couldn’t live without. And once again, I headed back to the hotel. Page is a small town, and everything is about 5 minutes away. Back at the hotel, it gave me time to get some water, swap out batteries and do some chipping. I did pretty good and now I know what to expect come Round 2.
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During my second tour, talking with the tour guide, “And you get to see this every day?!” She replied, “Yeah and it doesn’t get old.” I told her if I lived around here, that they would get sick of me always showing up. The Tour guides and staff at Kens Tours are an amazing group of people. Stupefying and amazingly stunning landscape. Still all charged up over the amazing shooting opportunities. Oh my God, what a day!
I woke up early and double checked the room before checking out. During the drive up to Page from the Grand Canyon on Friday, I pass by Little Colorado River Gorge Overlook. I pulled into a small parking area to take a few images. Unfortunately, the sun had set, and the gorge fell into shadow. It looked different from the Grand Canyon and would have made for some interesting photos.
I checked on google maps, the gorge is supposed to open at 8 am. Which would give me about an hour of shooting in the morning before heading up to Flagstaff for my return flight to Detroit. After an hour and half trip there with the sun slowly rising the whole way, to find it closed. What the hell? And to the right there is a sign stating, “Winter hours opens at 9 am”. Which was no bueno. I had to be in Flagstaff at 10 for check in. Thanks, google maps. So, I continued to the little airport in Flagstaff.
Again, checking in, going through the TSA was routine but boarding was more enjoyable then normal. After your boarding group was called, you scan your ticket, walk out to the aircraft and walk up the gangway. With everyone on-board, we blasted out of Flagstaff and we soon landed in Phoenix after a brief 25-minute flight. I then switch planes for the 3-hour flight back to Detroit. With this done, I can now scratch off Antelope Canyon from my Bucket list.
Until next Adventure,
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7 thoughts on “February’s Adventure: Antelope Canyon 2.0”
Awesome photos! How was the food at Big John’s BBQ?
Thanks! I went twice in one weekend 😋
Amazing photos cuz !! Its a must I shoot there one day!!