How to See the Light Beams in Upper Antelope Canyon

Jason Daniel Shaw

How to See the Light Beams in Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon | Page, AZ

The photos of the abstract rock formations inside of Antelope Canyon are works of art.  Many more people know the place by photo than by name but that doesn’t stop the thousands of people from visiting each day.


Touring Antelope Canyon | Page, AZ

There are two sections to Antelope Canyon, each run by different tour operators.  A tour of Upper Antelope Canyon, the more famous of the two, can be booked through a variety of tour operators.  If you end up doing both sides of the canyon on the same day, you will save one of the $8.00 Navajo permit fees.  Lower Antelope Canyon is a walking tour that requires the use of ladders to transition through the canyon.  With Upper Antelope Canyon, you ride in the back of an open-air truck through a sandy wash to the start of the canyon and then it is a short walk through the approximately 1/4 mile long canyon.  Upper Antelope can be thought of as above ground and Lower Antelope below ground.

Sand Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

I do not want to discourage anyone from going on a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon but the photos don’t always show the chaos that goes on inside of the canyon.  There are many tour operators that are trying to get their groups of approximately 15 people through the canyon at the same time.  You will only have a very short window of time at each location to try and capture the shot that you are looking for.  I find it best to either stay at the front of the group or at the back to make it a little easier.  Some parts of the canyon are only wide enough for one person to get through so you will be in a single-file line most of the time.  To make things more complicated, each tour has to come back through the canyon to get back to the exit.  On the way back through the canyon, you are told to not stop or take photos and to keep to the right side to allow room for the tours that are making their way through.

The guides do a great job of helping you get photos or pointing out certain features that are more popular.  They also have different names for different rock formations – it is a lot like making clouds in the sky into familiar shapes.

Antelope Canyon Light Beams

Light Beams in Upper Antelope Canyon

The light beams in Antelope Canyon are some of the most famous features and something that has always eluded me.  They are best viewed when the sun is high in the sky.  This usually means that you have to be there during the summer and take one of the midday tours.  This last trip was in late March so everything that I had read said that the light beams didn’t start to occur until sometime in April so I didn’t have my hopes up to see them.  We still booked a midday tour (which costs a little more).  After making our way through the canyon, there were no light beams.  However, on the way back through (when you aren’t suppose to stop or take photos), right as we started back, there were two light beams that were in perfect position.  I was at the back of the group with our guide and we were so excited that we just started snapping photos as quickly as possible.  The other group’s guide started yelling at us and our guide to keep moving, that it wasn’t our time to see the canyon.  In the end, I got the shots!

The next time, I will sign up for a photo tour.  This allows you to stay with a small group of photographers and you have priority over all of the other groups.  You also get to move back and forth through the canyon as the light conditions change.  I believe they give you between 90-120 minutes in the canyon as well.  One of the downsides to the tour is that it is expensive.  Finally, all the people on the tour have to have a DSLR (or professional mirrorless camera) and a tripod.

I hope that you enjoy the photos and as always, leave me a comment on here or on Instagram.

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