Abstract Photography Guide to Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona offers some superb  ‘Abstract Photography’ opportunities due to the mesmerizing sandstone rock formations. The scenery there is so spectacular that you might forget to look up, in which case you’ll miss some of the most amazing abstract shapes that nature has carved out ready for you to capture.

Here is the second part of my Antelope Canyon Photo Guide for Abstract Photography. If you missed Part 1 be sure to read my Antelope Canyon Photo Tips on how to get the best ‘Scenic’ shots of Upper Antelope Canyon.

Upper Antelope Canyon - Abstract Photography

Remember to Look Up

I realize I just mentioned this but seriously, try to keep looking above your head as often as possible. Your Navajo guide will probably point out the obvious areas of interest but don’t rely solely on that. Your guide might also advise you not to get any sky in your shot so as to avoid blown out highlights but I’m telling you to IGNORE that advice so you can get shots like the one above.


Top Tips

  • High Dynamic Range – If you plan on including the sky in your shots you’ll need to bracket and shoot many different exposures to capture the huge dynamic range and contrast of the canyon. You can use HDR software or manual exposure blending in Photoshop to fix blown out sky’s and dark black shadow areas. I recommend this technique for ALL of your abstract shots.
  • ISO Settings – Try and keep it at ISO 100. If you read part 1 of my Antelope Canyon Photo Guide you’ll know that ISO 100 will slow you down too much for the scenic shots but for the abstract shots you won’t have to worry about people photo bombing your shots because usually the most fascinating shapes are up above head height.
  • Use a Zoom Lens – These amazing rock formations might be 50 ft above your head, using a zoom allows you to dedicate all of your resolution to your point of interest and also excludes any human heads getting in your shot.
  • Aperture Settings – Unless you are using the Focus Stacking in Photoshop technique you’ll want to choose an aperture setting in your lens’s sweet spot like F/11. This will allow plenty of ‘depth of field’ while still retaining sharpness. If you have a tilt-shift lens you’ll be in your element here.
  • Tripod Challenges – Pack a tripod that works well with a narrow footprint. Cheapo tripods need to go in the trash. If you think you’ll be able to spread those tripods legs like you usually do – think again. Get them as narrow as possible to avoid people kicking the legs and sabotaging your shot.
  • Focusing – With the abstract shots you’ll have more time so use your camera’s ‘Live View’ to focus manually on the most important part of your image.
  • Remove Filters – Unless you absolutely have to use a polarizer for lets say ‘cloud definition’ I’d advise you remove it. Parts of the canyon get pretty dark and filters will slow down your shots.
  • Go Portrait – Don’t forget to switch your camera to the portrait position and maybe even flip it upside down. Some of those abstract canyon shapes come at all angles so if you have a flip viewfinder you’ll be feeling smug.
  • Use the Finger Filter – You’ll be doing lots of bracketing so use your hands and fingers to block out the brighter parts of your image so that you don’t get crazy lens flare.

Antelope Canyon Photo Guide - Abstract

Don’t loose your temper

I had more than one person bang my tripod legs and ruin my shots. If you expect this to happen you’ll be able to cope with it. I knew it would be something of a gong show so I was mentally prepared to deal with it. You’ll be sharing a small canyon with 200-400 photographers over a short period of time so keep cool.  Most people are usually respectful and quite apologetic if they ruin your shot.

Consider Taking Two Trips.

Having been there just the once I’m pretty sure I missed out on lots of other amazing photo ops. Here’s how I would do it a second time. Dedicate one visit entirely to abstract photography and the other to the scenic photography. By doing it like that you can be in the exact OPPOSITE places to the crowds. While everybody is off shooting light rays you’ll be on the other side of the canyon shooting up into the walls and sky to get shots like this.

How to Photograph Upper Antelope Canyon

Recommended Equipment

  • Rain Cover – To protect your camera from dust if not weather sealed.
  • Fast Tripod – You’ll need a small footprint in these close quarters
  • Dust Blower to keep your lens clean
  • Wide Angle Lens
  • Zoom Lens
  • 2nd Camera for hand held shots

Getting There

From Page

You cannot enter the canyon without a Navajo guide. Go into the tourist information centre and book a guide through them. You meet the guide at their place of business and they will drive you to and from Antelope Canyon. We went with ‘Overland’ tours for $80 per person which means you don’t have to pay the additional park entry fee.


Page has lots of choice when it comes to accommodation. As usual we stayed at one of the cheaper places so the Travelodge fit the bill. It’s close to everything and the essential wifi was usable.

The Photographers Guide to Antelope Canyon


There are plenty of dining choices in Page, Arizona. We frequented the ‘Asian Cuisine – Indian and Thai’ which was decent and close to our hotel. Stromboli’s also did decent salads that were good value for money.

While You’re There

When in Page you MUST go to Horseshoe Bend. There are also countless places on Lake Powell that will yield amazing photos but you’ll need to hire your own boat to get anywhere during good light. We paid top dollar to go on the round trip to Rainbow Bridge during mid day light which was not ideal. Next time we’ll rent a little speed boat and get there for early evening light.

Also check out Lower Antelope Canyon and if you’re up for a drive, take a trip to Monument Valley.

Check out ‘Antelope Canyon Photo Guide Part 1 – Scenics

Antelope Canyon Photo Guide

Published by Gavin Hardcastle

Gavin is a professional landscape photographer from Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, BC. He teaches photography workshops all over the world and writes extensively about his experiences on location. You can read his photo guides and tutorials here at Fototripper.com.


  1. […] in Page you MUST go to Antelope Canyon, read my Antelope Canyon Photo Guides 1 and 2 for the full scoop on how to shoot those amazing places. There are also countless places on Lake […]

    • Gavin, thanks for the insightful advice. We recently visited Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend and was able to get great shots. Perhaps I could add some additional insights: a. invest in an “L” bracket for portrait orientation b. book the Photographer’s Tour months in advance as the best time slot sells out quickly. c. use a wide angle of 14mm or less to be assigned a front row by the guide d. we protected our cameras (mirrorless) by using zip lock bags and tape (it was very dusty in the canyons indeed). e. Bring flash lights/headlamps to Horseshoe if you visit during sunset. There are street zero lights on the walk back to the car park

  2. Very helpful. Thanks!

  3. You really do have some incredible shots of this place – congratulations! 🙂

  4. I’m off to Page next month and booked with overland tours to shoot a few canyons. Your shots are amazing and really helpful tips – if I can get anywhere close to what you’ve achieved I’ll be very happy!

  5. Great photos. Heading to Antelope Canyon in September but had nearly discarded the idea due to reviews of not being able to get good shots on the tours i.e. too many people and guides taking cameras out of your hands. Did you take a normal tour or the photographers tour? Can you really get these photos on an ‘ordinary’ tour?

    • We took a ‘Photo Tour’. The guides will be there to switch your white balance and push up your ISO if you don’t know how. I won’t have anyone mess with my camera so it wasn’t an issue for me. If you want to visit a world class scenic destination like this, there is no way to avoid the ‘too many people’ issue.

  6. Great pictures!! I went to both antelope canyon last year and struggled with taking good pictures because of how dark it was in there, the sky being to bright when shoot up and was afraid to boost up ISO due to the noise. I am going again this year but only at the lower canyon. I’m gonna try again, hope the past experience and your tips help!! 🙂

  7. We have just returned from Page. We toured with Adventurous Canyon Tours.
    The guide took us to Rattlesnake Canyon as well as Antelope Canyon.
    This company is the only one touring Rattlesnake. In my opinion, we got better pictures there AND our family group if six were the only ones there. When we got to Antelope Canyon there were a dozen tour groups and we found it very difficult to get a picture without somebody showing up in the pictures.

  8. Hi,

    I am going there in march and of course would like to take the tour, but I have a problem with it. It’s going to be 2 of us (wifey and me) and only me will take photos. Besides, I use micro43 gear (E-P5, which I carry along with no less than 5 lenses, tripod…) and I have seen warnings that mirrorless cameras are not allowed in “fotographer’s tour” whereas tripods are not allowed in std tours so, what to do?

    • Don’t take the standard tour, that’s for iPad warriors. If you want serious shots go with a photographers tour and they’ll time all your best shots and won’t care what camera you use. If you’ve got a tripod, they can tell you’re serious. Wifey might prefer the standard tour though, it would cost less too.

  9. Hi Gavin,

    Thanks for all of the great information! Your site is my “goto” when taking a trip. I was just curious as to which canyon the very very top photo with the title was taken in? Thanks again!

  10. If you were going to only to one canyon , upper or lower ? Best tour group ? Thank you and wonderful pictures .

    • If you want light rays it has to be upper, but only at certain times of year. If you don’t care about light rays do lower any time of year. For upper I’ve only used ‘Overland Tours’ and they were fine.

  11. If I want to go to both upper and lower canyon,what time should I plan?

  12. I’ll be there in mid March

  13. Hi,
    Great set of photographs !! U r good hands down!!
    Am planning to be there in the second week of Sept.
    You mention the wide angle and the zoom lenses…. What are your recommendations? I have 16 35 f2.8 as well as 24 70 f2.8, do u think I will need both?

  14. Hi Gavin
    I intend to be in Page on 15 and 16 February of this year. On 15 no tours are offering any photo tours to Upper Antelope Canyon that I presume are necessary for any meaningful photography. Can you suggest any alternate Slot Canyons nearby that are less crowded but offer good photography experience.


  15. I will be in Page the end of Dec. and the only tours available is either 8am or 3:30, for upper canyon. Which is better? Lower canyon has more opening, what is a good time? No photography tours available.

  16. We’ve booked out Photography tour for the Upper Canyon, and I’m afraid my Canon Powershot SX50 HS wo0n;t be up to the task ahead.

    I’ve set my ISO to 320.

    Will this be adequate?

    Thanks, and you take awesome pics!!!


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