Antelope Canyon Tips and Tricks

After visiting the canyon multiple times I learned some lessons and would like to pass those lessons on to my readers. I am calling it Antelope Canyon Tips and Tricks. You can find a previous article I published a couple years ago on Antelope Canyon found here. When I first visited Antelope Canyon in Page Arizona several years ago, I was still learning photography. I was really excited to get some fantastic images, but when I returned home I was left wanting more detail shots of the canyon. When I had the opportunity to visit the canyon again I had a plan, or so I thought. I had my 5DIII and recently picked up the Canon 16-35mm f4 IS. I really wanted to use this lens to test it out, but I kept reminding myself I wanted to get those detail shots I missed on my previous trip. I decided to go with a 24-70mm.

June was way more crowded than the crowds in May a couple years ago. It was hard to get an image without having people in the frame. The wider the angle, the better chance of having people in your image. For someone that has never visited Antelope Canyon, imagine black friday at walmart right when the doors open. It's that crazy! Im not kidding! It's somewhat sad and discouraging but depending on the time of year, it's better or worse. Our guide said March is the best time to visit Antelope Canyon due to the low crowd numbers. In any case I was happy to be using the 24-70mm. At least I could zoom in and avoid people photobombing my images.

I was content for a while and then I began seeing (in my minds eye) images in wide angle. Eventually this feeling got the better of me and I changed my lens. This is a big no no in the Canyon. The dust and sand is very fine and can very easily get on your sensor making post processing very tedious, Not to mention you now need to have your sensor cleaned along with all the nooks and crannies of your camera and lens. I was lucky for the most part and I am glad I made the change. All that being said, I would recommend the 16-35mm on a full frame body. 2 camera bodies with 2 different lenses would be good, but then again with it being so crowded, it would be hard fumbling around with the camera bodies. It's seriously shoulder to shoulder in there. So depending on your style I would say a 16-35mm or a 24-70mm. Anything over 70mm in my opinion would be a waste. You could get some good images, but I think you would miss more than you would make.

For photographers, do yourself a favor and book a photo tour with a guide of your choice. Most guides offer this service and in my opinion the guides have very little difference in terms of service. In fact they all know and work with each other, guiding their groups through the canyon. With the photo tour there's more time in the canyon, while the regular tour is guided in and out a photo tour will wait at each attraction for the light to be right and for people to be out of the way. If you want quality images a photo tour is a must, along with a tripod.

Antelope canyon is an awesome sight! If you haven't been I would highly recommend it. Don't say I didn't' warn you about the crowds. It's a major flaw for this location. You can make some great images but often the stories that go along with said images aren't ones of peace and serenity. It quite the opposite. I think for this reason alone it's a turn off to many nature photographers.



One of the many photographic opportunities in the canyon.  The tumbleweed, flowing sand, and a light beam to compliment the walls of Antelope Canyon.

Monument Valley

On my most recent trip to the desert southwest, I knew I had to visit Monument Valley. It's been photographed many times before but for me this isn't a deterrent. I feel like I see images of these places, I just want to go and see them for myself. I was in the region photographing other locations, so this was a no brainer. I stayed at the View Hotel which is perfect for photographers. You can literally wake up just before sunrise, open your slider door, and step out on the balcony to photograph. Depending on how you like to sleep, you don't even need to get dressed. Honestly I would save yourself some money and stay on the 1st floor. Your view isn't much different, and you can always walk out from your patio. The hotel is close to a scenic drive where you can go into the valley. It doesn't get more convenient than that for a photographer. Part of me thinks it's neat to be able to do this and another part thinks it takes away from the experience. In any case it is what it is.

It was a great location to test out the 16-35mm f4 IS. The image below was shot with the 16-35mm at 35mm. I am loving this lens by the way! Overall I am glad I went to Monument Valley. For me it's one of those locations I had to see for myself. I don't see myself going back there, and honestly if the weather is in your favor, one night is enough. It's in the middle of nowhere and you could do some day hiking and whatnot, but the most iconic view can be seen from your hotel room.

Monument Valley at sunrise. Image was made using 5D III and the 16-35mm f4 IS lens

Proxy Falls

Proxy Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have seen. It's a veil type waterfall that cascades over the side of the rocks and ledges below, and what makes it extra cool for me is all the mosses that grow around the creek and waterfall. Proxy Falls is located in central Oregon about 65 miles east of Eugene. There is a large pullout that is well labeled for the falls, even some restrooms. For a map to Proxy Falls click this link. The trail to Proxy Falls is an easy hike. The trail goes to the right and loops back around to an overlook lasting about a mile. It's not a bad view from the overlook but it's worth every bit of trouble to take one of the scatter trails that lead down to the creek for a view of the falls from below. It's far more impressive! Take some waterproof boots, or something you don't mind getting wet, you may have to walk through some of the creek to get the best vantage point. A wide angle lens is highly recommended, but also a telephoto to capture the ledges and cascades, and other details of the falls.

Photographing the falls is a bit tricky. There is a lot of mist so make sure you take a towel or two to keep your glass clean and dry. Most often when shooting waterfalls I like to get a longer exposure but you may have to compromise in this area due to the amount of mist that can build up in just a few moments. The best time to view the falls is in the summer. The roads during the winter may not be passable, but the falls do run year round. Morning is the best for viewing the falls, but Proxy Falls is pretty well guarded from the sun up until the early afternoon.

I first saw an image of these falls in a magazine, and I have been wanting to go for several years. I am always glad to be able to check another place off my list. Proxy Falls is one of my all time favorite waterfalls thus far! I will defiantly try to make it back again someday and I recommend it to anyone looking for an awesome waterfall experience.

Proxy Falls

5D III 16-35mm at 16mm f22 @ 4 sec ISO 100

How to Plan Photography Trips

I try to travel as much as I can. I love exploring places and making images of said places. There's a lot of planning that goes into travel these days, we need to be up to date with a lot of things. With that said I want to share how I plan photography trips. Photographs inspire us! We see a beautiful image in a kitchen magazine and we want our kitchen to look that way. I recently got married and my beautiful wife spent hours in wedding magazines and pinterest clipping out things she wanted for our wedding. Well this basically is how I figure out where I want to travel.

Usually the first thing that gets me to a place is seeing an image of a location. I see an image of lets say, a mountain range, I say to myself, I want to go there! Little else is a determining factor. Of all the images I see that inspire me, I make a list of all those places. My list is rather long and I will be very surprised if I ever get to all of them, but nonetheless I write them down. From there I start planning my photography trips.

First thing to look at is weather and season. Some parks and places are closed in the winter, and are impassable. Some have a great spring, and the rest of the year is a bit dull. As an example, the smoky mountains are on my list, but I probably won't visit unless it's in the fall. Mt. Rainer is great, but to get the wildflowers you have to go in summer. You get the idea. To get the most out of your photography trips, the time of year is one of, if not the most important factor.

Second, I look at the images that inspired me in the first place. Where, when, and how the image made. I look for other images of the same location using flickr, google, or an app made by travel photographer Trey Ratcliff called "stuck on earth". You can find his app by clicking here. This step helps me plan my "attack" if you will. What looks good in what light. If its a clear day, I want to go here. If it's cloudy I will go here, sunrise, sunset, and so on and so forth. I plan this stuff out knowing I must be as flexible as possible. One thing you can't really plan on is mother nature. I compile a list of images I want to make and when I want to make them. I then work with mother nature, on a day by day basis,  to get those shots.

Then comes my actual trip. Which airport to fly into? How far do I have to drive to get to the location? Campsite, hotel, or sleep in the rental car? Are there stores nearby I can buy food, or do I need to pack it? What apparel do I need to pack? Bear spray, chains for the vehicle tires. Camera stuff. It's very beneficial to make a checklist of all the needed items. It's nearly impossible to remember everything you need, so a checklist is highly recommended. It's never fun forgetting an important element, which could be the difference between success or failure when trying to reach your goal for the trip. It's also important to decide how much are you willing to put up with. If you stay at a certain campsite or hotel, it might be a hour to get to the trailhead, and an hour hike into the wilderness. Maybe you want to backcountry camp. You will need a backcountry permit. Both have pros and cons, but must be taken into consideration when planning your trip.

I also recommend using some of the rewards membership programs. Airline miles, hotel points, rental car points, and other perks. Even a punch card at your favorite food chain is helpful. Most often these are free and easy to set up and in the end, they can have some pretty significant benefits which will reduce the cost of travel.

One last thing I strongly recommend is that you keep your most important photo gear with you at all times. I travel with my photo backpack and my tripod. My clothes and misc. items get checked. My backpack will fit under the seat in front of me on the smaller planes, its tight but it fits, and I put my pack overhead on the bigger planes. I am never more than an arms length away from my photo gear. This assures me that nothing should get lost, stolen, or damaged.

I hope this article provides some resources and tips when planning your next photography trip. If you have some that I missed, share them in the comments below!

Big Sur & Hwy 1

It's in the middle of winter here in Michigan and although it's been mild and comfortable I still miss Hwy 1 and Big Sur in California. I have been to Big Sur several times and each time it's great. Well everything except the drive. I am all for curvy roads. I don't even mind that there's a shear cliff on the side of your car. It's the constant curves and turning. It really does wear you down after a couple hours. Yahoo once ranked Hwy 1 the scariest road in the country. It's not really scary unless you consider hairpin turns alongside a cliff frightening. In any event take it slow and easy, and if you find someone tailgating it's best just to pull over and let them pass.

This weeks post picture is Hwy 1 and the California coast near Big Sur. There are many pullouts along 1 with vistas around every corner. There is no real bad time of year to visit, but spring and summer would be my favorite. One thing you should do is check the road conditions. Sometimes there have been times when the road has been closed do to mudslides.

The water is cold and the wind usually high, so you may want to have a jacket with you if you decided to step out for a photo opportunity. You could spend all day driving the coast, stopping by a few small towns including Big Sur which hosts a couple eateries, gift shops, and general stores. Make sure you start with a full tank of gas, stations are scarcely scattered. Also beware of pedal bikers, they seem to be around each and every corner.

Big Sur and Hwy 1 is a photographers paradise. A wide angle is typically the weapon of choice. I shot this image handheld during the afternoon. A tripod is a must for a sunset. Also make sure to check out some of the state parks that call Hwy 1 home including Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

If you are in the area, take a day or two. Explore the coastal towns and scenery, and make sure to catch a sunset, they are some of the best in the world.