Sunday, March 1, 2009

Antelope Slots

Last fall while driving from the Grand Canyon towards the Arches National Park, I passed by the town of Page, Arizona. Coming into town, I saw a sign pointing towards the Antelope Slots and another in the opposite direction pointing towards the Horseshoe Bend. I continued down the road to visit Lake Powell and then stopped at the town for lunch. Much to my surprise found lots of shops selling tours to the Upper and Lower Slots. I have no idea of what these were until I went to one of the tour offices and saw the picture of the slots. These images are very unique to anyone in the photo world. I got a ticket and to the Upper Antelope I found myself going in an open truck with two benches facing back to back. Upon arrival, I was unloaded in the company of about 9 other adventurers and taken to the entrance of the slot, where we were given a lecture as to how to behave and related safety concerns. The entrance to the slot is just like walking into a cave. In the summer of 1997, eleven tourists were drowned when caught by a flash flood inside the slots. You are given about 2 hours to go through the Upper Slot in the company of a guide. Being my interest photographing the Slot, I stayed behind and photographed them to my delight. This type of photography requires the use of wide angle lenses, a full frame SLR, and tripod is a must due to the low light. Using the tripod was cumbersome due to the narrow passages inside slot and the curvature of the walls. The results were incredible; two images are to the left. You have probably seen images of the slots in which there is a ray of sunshine coming down from the top creating a unique effect. Most of these images are created by the photographers. While there, there was a British photographer with his assistant creating the "sun beam" effect. This was done by the assistant throwing handfuls of sand into the air so that the dust will be hit by the light creating the beautiful effect. That was nice for them but no for me; it destroyed the clean air within the slot creating a dusty atmosphere. After visiting the Upper Slot, there was no option but to stay one more day to photograph the Lower Slot. The next day, I arrived at the Lower Slot about 9 AM and stayed till about 2 PM. Here there are no guides and you go on your own; photographers get to pay an extra fee that it was worth it. To enter this slot you must go down a set of narrow stairs that were difficult to negotiate carrying a tripod, the exit is just like walking out of a cave just like in the Upper Slot. After returning home from this trip I read about other photographers tips as to when to photograph these slots who recommended that noon time is the best time when the sun is overhead and one gets the best light. I would say that anytime between 9 AM and 3 PM are great time to get the light play within the slots. I will also say that the best time to go would be in the late fall and winter to avoid the summer heat and the tourist season. When leaving the Lower Slots I noticed two large smoke stacks; these belong to a large coal power plant. I wondered why locate such a facility here when there is so much electric power being generated by the hydroelectric generators at the Lake Powell Dam.

Upon departing the Upper Slot the day before, I took a short drive to Horseshoe Bend located in the Colorado River down from Lake Powell. This was an amazing geological formation create by the meandering river creating oxbows as it eroded the sandstone. I arrived there late in the afternoon and the light was against me so I decided to come the next morning. I arrived about 5 AM in darkness which revealed a starry sky. While waiting for sunrise I proceeded to photograph some the constellations and in particular my favorite one, Orion. When the sun began to break I set my tripod and camera at the "edge" and hoped for it not to tip over and held to it by the cable release. I did not move the camera until I left about 9 AM. Early at sunrise is the best time since as the sun rises, the illumination pattern change. I did take hundreds of images of the formation and took series of photos to experiment with High Dynamic Range (HDR) images. The image above is the result of HDR. It is time consuming but the results are worthwhile. Page, Arizona is a well worth stop full of wonderful sights. They even have Balloon Festival every year. Highly recommended.


Ken Conger Photography said...

Intriguing post with excellent text and images Don Jose! Blue Skies.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

A most informative and interesting post Jose. Love those colors!!

The time of day can be so important when taking photographs and the natural light can change on them so quickly, one has to be ready for that right moment. Thank goodness for digital, where a person can take as many as you like.

I have been in the area but somehow missed this. Probably becase the name of the place what not mean much to me so I did not know what it was. I have seen large areas of the USA in my travels though and loved the Painted Desert. It was amazing.

Other photographers can be a pain sometimes, so I tend to like going very early morning to places before most people are about.

Salty said...

Thanks for all of the tips. This post is pure eye candy! Awesome images!!

Atanasio Fernández García said...

Hello Jose, spectacular images of this magical place! The soft colors and the shapes of the rocks are really impressive, a marvel of nature. The composition HDR just great, everyone can enjoy the beauty of this place thanks to your master ... and you know being in the right place at the right time! Greetings!

Lots for sale in Costa Rica said...

The photos are amazing, thanks for the interesting information.