This is a trip I have wanted to go on for years! Page Arizona, Horseshoe bend, Antelope canyon, the Grand Canyon, there are so many epic sights to be seen on one road trip. The trip would have been easier if we had of started in Phoenix, like most people, but in order to get there in late summer, so that we don’t have to deal with very cold desert mornings, we had to make the drive to Page from Tucson. Google maps claims this drive will take just short of 6 hours, which i’m sure it could, if you were to only look at the road directly in front of your car and not allow your eyes, or any of your passengers eyes, to stray to the surrounding mountains and forests whizzing by your car. The sights along this drive are almost worth making the drive all on their own! Yes, there are some very, ver, very strait long sections of road, but even they add to the drive, by creating a sense of distance, and really emphasizing the dramatic changes in topography.
We made it to Horseshoe bend just in time for sunset, with a quick stop off at Cathedral rock in Sedona. We joined a full parking lot and walked the ten minute trail over to the edge of Glen canyon to try and find the best spot to setup my tripod before the sun dropped below the horizon behind the canyon. There were approximately 150 people all over the viewing side of the canyon, and because we showed up with only about half an hour to spare before sunset, all of the best “safe” places were taken. So I found the best spot I could and enjoyed the spectacle, knowing that I would be back for sunrise.
I did not want to be in the same kind of situation at sunrise, so I planned to leave our airbnb at 5:15 am, with the sun rising just after 6:15 am. We were the second car to pull into the parking lot that day, and it was still dark as Erebus when I got out of the car with my camera bag and tripod. No one else in our group was ready to face the brisk early morning air, or the gravel path in the darkness, so I was on my own with my headlamp. I was the first person the the edge of Glen canyon that day, which allowed for me to go right to the spot I was eying the night before, but could not get to due to other tourists, and photographers blocking the way.
As the sun rose behind us, the Horseshoe bend was lit evenly in the early morning light, making it hard to take a bad photograph. My friends joined me about half an hour after I had left Them, along with quite a few others who did not want to face the darkness before the sunrise.
After watching the sunrise, we headed back to our van to go grab breakfast, and a coffee in town before going back to our airbnb for an hour or so to rest before we got on with the rest of our day.
I had a tour for Taylor and myself booked to go through Antelope canyon-x, which is a slightly less traveled slot canyon than the traditional Upper and Lower canyons that most people go to see. Because it is less traveled, they are able to offer more variations of tours, one of which being a photography tour. This meant we would have more time allowed in the canyon, and that we could bring tripods in with us, allowing for us to get steady shots, to really show the details in the rocks and to capture the different lighting that happens between the top and bottom of the slot.
This canyon tour suddenly became very stressful to me when I plugged the destination into Google maps on my phone. It was 9:00am Pacific time where I was, sitting in my AirBnb, and our tour began at 10:00 Pacific time. The location was only a half hour drive so we had plenty of time to get there, until Google maps came up and told me that my destination is in a different time zone! For some reason, as you drive along highway 89, your phone thinks that you are switching time zones the whole way, and can never seem to make up its mind as to which one you are in. There were 5 of us in the van as we drove to Page, and there were moments where we had different times showing up on different phones and the clock in the car. So, my first reaction to finding out that we were going to be an hour late for our tour was to call the company and check what time zone they were in, but there was no answer. So Taylor and I grabber our camera bags, hopped in the car and started on our way. As we drove Taylor kept trying the number, and eventually was able to get through. The lady on the other end sounded like she had heard this same panic from others many times before, and was quick to ease our nerves, that we were indeed in the same time zone, and now we were quite early for our tour.
The tour has a limited capacity of 8 people, making it a much more enjoyable experience with the Navajo guide. We we all ushered into two suburbans and driven down a sandy rough road to the opening of the canyon. The walk down to the canyon was about 150 meters, at a relatively steep decline, but they had tents setup for shade along the way, and in the tented areas, they also had benches to rest for those who need it on the way back up. There are also metal grids down in the sand to give added traction and ease of walking. Our guide was amazing with Taadidiin tours, he explained just enough about the canyon, and made some jokes along the way. He was also good at letting us know where we should try setting our tripods and gave us assistance moving sand around if needed to make a level surface. This was one of the most challenging photographic locations I have been to in a very long time, as all of the desired compositions are over head. So while trying to take in the beauty of the location, you will find yourself looking up and all around trying to see the spots that give nice twisting lines with ample light cast from the crack above.
After the tour came to an end, we went and found the "New Wave" which is another rock formation near the Glen Canyon Dam. This is a location I would only recommend if you have some extra time and want to be outside and do a bit more hiking. Once we met back up with our friends we called it a night and all went back to our house with take away food and got some sleep before heading through the Grand Canyon National Park back towards Page the next day.