Secret Canyon, is one of many slot canyons in the Page area. It is not as well known as it’s popular as cousin, Antelope Canyon. Secret Canyon is, well, more of a secret.
What is a slot canyon? Just as the name implies it is a very narrow canyon or rather a large crack in the rock that has eroded over time. Many of these cracks will go dozens of feet deep and hundreds of yards long. Some are so narrow that one must squeeze through a very winding passage way. (I didn’t need that backpack of gear, did I?)
These characteristics make photographing a slot canyon a little different. First, for those who enjoy their sleep, photographing slot canyons will work for you. The best light for a slot canyon is midday. We want the sunlight directly overhead so the light bounces off the walls, making its way to the depths of the canyon. It is this refracted light on the canyon walls that causes them to glow – sometimes in a range of colors from purple, to orange, to pink and gold.
Second, because not a lot of light makes it to the bottom of the canyon, it can be quite dark where we are positioned with a our cameras. Thus, a long exposure is required. To keep the camera steady, a tripod is key. To capture enough light to illuminate the rocks may be a second or two or even longer. A long exposure of 15 or 20 second is not uncommon. This is also long enough for someone to hear the camera click and thinking the photo capture is complete, walking right into your photo. Oops, that’s how that ghost of Jeff appeared and how I was able to do this self portrait.
Third, the slot canyons are not easy to access. Slot Canyons in the Page area are on Indian Territory which means accessing one requires a permit fee as well as an approved guide. So reservations are necessary. In addition, Secret Canyon is located in a more remote area, making it even harder to access. Envision a long, desert ride across sand and rock in a high clearance 4WD vehicle. Adding to the excitement, our guide drove up steep sand dunes and across mountains of rock so the trek had the feel of a carnival ride. (Motion sickness anyone?)
However, as you may have guessed, these challenges make this a unique photographic opportunity. Looking for light and rock patterns, we captured these photos.
Even in the slot canyon, it is all about the light!