Antelope Canyon, Arizona (II)

SEPTEMBER 2003 – Tourists watch a tour guide propelling dust into the air with his cowboy hat to improve the visibility of the sunbeams in the Antelope Canyon in Arizona. Photo © by Mark Zanzig/

The story behind the image

Antelope Canyon is situated east of Page, Arizona. It is a so-called “slot canyon” that feels and looks like a cave but has a narrow split (or slot) in the ceiling that is clearly visible on Google Maps. It’s just a very short hike, and you may wonder what’s the big fuzz about it, really. Sure, the canyon presents itself in rich, deep colours that change their color almost by the minute. That’s nice.

But make no mistake: From April to September, every day around noon a miracle takes place. Bright beams of sunlight enter the canyon from the ceiling, just out of nowhere, illuminating floors and walls (and visitors). It’s a feast for photographers.

And here’s the secret behind the beams: The light itself is invisible until it hits an object, typically the floor or a wall. The beams may also hit small dust particles and may thus become visible while “in the air”. But it depends on the density of the dust in the air.

However, our excellent tour guide, Jesse Allen, knew we were looking for spectacular images. He told us to wait for a few seconds and smiled brightly. He took off his cowboy hat, held it straight out with his right arm and quickly circled it around and around and around, getting ever closer to the dusty floor. This propelled the dust high up into the air and – voilá – the previously thin and weak beam was suddenly strong and powerful. Wow.

The high resolution image

Capture Date14-SEP-2003
LocationAntelope Canyon, Arizona
CameraCanon AE-1 Program
LensCanon FD 28mm f/2.8
Image SourceFuji Slide Film
Digital Image SourceMinolta Dimage Scan Elite II
Digital Image Source FormatTIFF, 48 bits/pixel, Adobe RGB
Edited Image FormatJPEG, 24 bits/pixel, sRGB
Edited Image Size2512 x 3847 Pixels
Copyright© by Mark Zanzig/

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