I have spent most of my summer travels in the cool high altitudes of Colorado or Wyoming. But I kept finding these stunning images of Arizona and Utah and decided we need to go. To sum it up, my first trip to the desert and slot canyons of Arizona was visually overwhelming. I hope you enjoy the photos!
Antelope Canyon was once a rare and quite gem. It has become a tourist magnet drawing heavy visitor crowds from around the world. My trip was in the summer when crowds are worst. In fact, I couldn’t get a tour guide to recommend I go during the day. There would be people all over my photo. So, I went at night.
We drove with our guide into the deep sand of the dry river bed up to a rock cliff wall. The river seemed to end there. A crack from top to bottom allowed water to squeeze through this tiny canyon at high pressure, carving crazy shapes in the soft sandstone walls and ceiling. Our guide brought a car battery and a diffused light bar to help illuminate the canyon at midnight. We were hoping to shoot the milky way and star trails looking up through the crack at the top of the canyon, but clouds were in the way. A shots from our night visit is below.
The next morning, I was up at 5 am to meet the guides by 6. We were headed to Canyon X on private Navajo land. When we got out of the FJ Cruiser, there were lizard tracks everywhere. A short walk led us down in to a tiny dry riverbed of deep sand, surrounded by 50 foot tall steep walls. Canyon X was tiny but stunning, my favorite of the trip.
Later in the afternoon, we took an H2 Hummer deep into the desert with a crazy kid driving our guide, another photographer, and my wife and I. We were headed to Secret Canyon. The H2 was needed for some near vertical walls we had to descend and ascend. To get into the dry riverbed, be were so vertical that we had to hold ourselves in our seats by putting our hands on the front seat backs. The headlights were nearly touching the sandy river bed bottom, and the back rear passenger side wheel was off the ground. We could bounce the H2 back and forth!
After we got onto the deep -deep sand of the river bed, the driver pushed the pedal to the floor and we bounced violently from sandy hole to sandy hill at high speed. As we approached the eventual cliff, he pushed harder and went vertically straight up a high sand wash about 30 feet, until we lost traction and slid backwards down to the river bed. My wife is prone to car sickness and prefers very sedate driving. To her credit, I didn’t hear her say anything until this last stunt. She told the kid, if he didn’t stop showboating, she was going to “hurl” all over him and his H2. Problem solved!
Secret Canyon was very narrow. The afternoon light was my favorite. Less orange and more purple, but also softer shadows.
We later bounced and hopped more sedately over to The Finns. The tilt shift was a great fit for this site. Side lighting at sunset is the perfect time to go…
I was very happy with quality and quantity of photos I was able to capture in this marathon day in the desert. I hope you enjoyed them and get to make the trip yourself. If not, I would be happy to sell you a small or huge print from my trip.
I’ll have more desert trip posts on Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon coming shortly. I already have a post out on Monument Valley. Fantastic few days of photography there. I hope you decide to read it!
Mike Brymer is an American Landscape Photographer from Central Texas. His images of Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, California, and Iowa have been in National Juried Art Exhibits, Art and Gallery exhibits, published, collected internationally, and grace the walls of home owners, businesses, and boardrooms. If you are interested in seeing more of his portfolio, see his website (link below)
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