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Antelope Canyon Spirits

In August of 1981, I camped out next to the entrance of Antelope Canyon, just east of Page Arizona. It turned out to be one of those magical experiences that happens when the camera is your only companion.

Thinking I’d stay just a couple of days, and anticipating some rare photographic opportunities, I immediately started walking the canyon with my 4X5 camera. Of course, opportunities abounded. However, every time set up the camera, the light would change dramatically. After too many tries, I stopped. I put the camera away and simply sat in the entrance chamber and let the canyon’s spirits wash over me.


Later that day, I climbed to the top of the mesa. There I easily stepped across a mere foot-wide gap in the sandstone surface, the work—no doubt—of a small stream over eons of time. That small stream had carved out the intimate canyon 120 feet below creating thirty foot rooms and two foot passageways. I couldn't help but wonder what powerful energy remained?


The next day I walked up and down the length of the canyon, simply responding to what caught my eye. I made notes and placed corresponding pieces of paper on the sandy floor. Over the next three days, I followed my breadcrumbs and made photographs.


On the last day, having finished photographing from my notes, I returned to the entrance chamber to give thanks to the canyon. Another image enticed me. By the time I set up my camera, the wind started whispering above me. Sand on the plateau above my head began to drift, spilling over into the canyon and onto my equipment.


Clearly, I was being told to leave. I laughed. Then, out of nowhere, two people entered the canyon, startling me. I had been alone for five days, alone with my camera and with spirits. Here was another sign my time was up.


Yet, while driving out the wash back to the highway, I stopped once again when something caught my eye. I began unpacking the camera, and as I did, I felt the big, wet raindrops hit my hat. I looked up to find only a few cotton clouds dotting the otherwise beautiful blue sky.The message couldn’t have been plainer had it been written; NO MORE PHOTOGRAPHS!


Once again, I laughed, packed up, thanked spirits and continued my journey.


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