Lower Antelope Canyon was the first photography destination on my Southwestern USA trip. A slot canyon, it is located on Navajo Nations land and is known locally as “Hasdestwazi”. I fell in love with images of Hasdestwazi a few months prior to my trip when I was stalking various photographers websites (have a look at Peter Lik). I saw these beautiful abstract images of color and texture and just had to know where they were from. Once I figured it out, I arranged a trip in to meet Hasdestwazi and see if I could capture her vibrancy.
Before I left I did some research on what to expect at my destination. I read and read and read but was very careful not to look at any more images. Why? Because I had some ridiculous high-falutin' elitist photography snob idea that I didn't want my vision influenced by other photographers perspectives......pffffftttt....silly girl. So off I went to the Navajo Nation knowing what I thought I needed to know, but never having seen any images other than the few on photographer galleries. What difference could seeing pictures make on how I end up photographing anyway? I already knew all the stuff that was critically important!
What critically important stuff you say? FLASH FLOODS; I learned that local and distant rain storms could cause flash floods in the slot canyon. In fact, in 1997, 11 tourists had passed away in the Lower Antelope Canyon when a rain storm 7 miles away had started a series of events that resulted in a flash flood. So on the morning I was to go to Lower Antelope Canyon I woke up and made for damn sure there were no rain storms pending locally or in adjacent areas. I patted myself on the back proudly, checked off the “safety” box in my head and off I went to take pictures.
I don't know what I imagined I would find when I got to Lower Antelope Canyon. Maybe I thought you got out of the car you just walked into the slot canyon....nothing too strenuous. But no, the universe has a sense of humor and had a special treat for me.
So my guide Ian Whitehead walked up to the entrance to Lower Antelope Canyon and gestured as if to say “Come on then. Go on in”. And I literally thought...”HE MUST BE JOKING!”. It was unbelievable to me. Nobody told me that the entrance was a crack in the ground half as wide as my arse. I thought Ian had a sense of humor and he was going to laugh and say “Just kidding! The entrance that can accommodate your giant back pack full of unnecessary camera gear, and your oh so generously proportioned person is over here”. Yeeaaaaaahhhh...no such luck. The man was serious. You think I'm messing with you don't you. Go ahead then...see if I'm full of BS...Google “Lower Antelope Canyon Entrance Image” and see what you get. Done it yet? Yup....its a crack in the ground!
Not one to admit defeat, I took off my pack and passed it down into the “crack”, said a prayer, exhaled (as if that was gonna make my bottom shrink) and wedged myself into the crack climbing downward and onward. So there I am at the bottom of the slot canyon all proud of myself, clambering around uneven floors, cramming myself through the narrow sections. My camera snapping away, proud of how my big bottom was managing to wiggle its way through. I figured the worst was over, figuring if I jammed myself in I could get myself out; even if I had to slather myself with Crisco to do it (perish the thought of a flash flood while I awaited the Crisco).
But it doesn't end there. I get to the end of the canyon and realize....yeahhhhh...with all that climbing downward and onward I can now only exit the canyon after climbing up miles and miles of steep skinny metal stairs. Ok, I exaggerate, it isn't miles but it is flights and flights...with all that extra unnecessary equipment and all my awesomeness! Trust and believe the whole time I climbed the stairs I was mentally kicking myself because if I hadn't indulged my temperamental snob of an artist self I would have seen images of the entrance and exit to Lower Antelope Canyon and been suitably prepared...with a smaller pack, more suitable clothing and maybe a jar or two of Crisco.
IMAGE: The image above was taken towards the tail end of my time in the slot canyons. If you squit your eyes and turn your head just right you can imagine how tight it was in there. And if that isn't enough for you click here and have a look at this image.
As an aside....I love my big bottom.
It makes life interesting and has been
the cause of many photography
adventures. Wait until I tell you about
what happened in Cuba and Cambodia ......