Do You See What I See?


Or more appropriately, “Do I see what you see?” Probably not. And what your camera sees is something else.

Ishihara Plate 02-38-3
One of the 38 plates in the Ishihara Colour Test. Do you see an 8?

I have a vision problem. In grade 4 as the school nurse was checking my eyesight, my friend Dale was shocked as I struggled to read the letters on the eye chart! But he was in hysterics as I failed each of the Ishihara colour tests.

This leads to an interesting analogy. Do you see what your camera sees? Why not try a slot canyon colour test in Utah or northern Arizona?

If you’re ever close to Page in northwestern Arizona, be sure you visit at least one of the Antelope Canyons, perhaps the most photogenic slot canyons.

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are only a kilometer apart. We booked an early morning photo tour of Lower Antelope because it can be less crowded.

The tops of the Antelope Canyons are very narrow, so sunlight penetrates only partially down, bouncing from wall to wall and diffusing into a warm light. You’ll see scenery that is unbelievably beautiful. If the light is right, your camera will record images that are out of this world.

TrailPix tripod
iPhone photo taken @ 8:55 am with 1/15 second exposure

To take a photo tour, each participant must have a tripod. Days in advance, we arranged to rent one from Ken’s Tours and for rush-delivery of a five-ounce TrailPix tripod that uses your inverted hiking poles for its legs—a brilliant and lightweight solution for hiking and travelling.

The iPhone image of the tripod and canyon is similar to what you see with your naked eye.

But the image taken with a one-second exposure with the Olympus camera on the tripod at the same time is much warmer than the iPhone image.

Magic happened almost an hour and a half later with the sun at a better angle; an Olympus image taken from the same spot explodes with colour including the dramatic touch of yellow in the middle.

In Lower Antelope, the canyon floor is very narrow so you have to work quickly to capture your image, or you’ll be “photo-bombed” by someone in your photo tour or, more likely, from someone in the larger groups of guided tours. But patience can be very rewarding.

Use a minimum ISO setting of 800 for hand-held shots
Use a minimum ISO setting of 800 for hand-held shots

If you’re on a guided (non-photo) tour, you can’t take a tripod because they want to keep the groups moving through quickly to allow more time for those on photo tours to capture longer-exposure images. By putting your camera on a higher ISO setting, you’ll still be able to capture dramatic photos.

And if you have an iPhone, using the built-in chrome filter will dramatize the image with high saturation and a purplish tint to the shadows. Our guide, Brandon, also suggested pushing the light on the iPhone for a bit of overexposure. The first image below is taken with an iPhone; the second with our Olympus camera on a tripod.

I may not be able to interpret the numbers in the Ishihara charts but I can see the dramatic range of colour in Lower Antelope Canyon and a camera sees even more brilliance. We suggest Antelope Canyons be on a jubilados’ must-see list.


Guided tours are mandatory for both the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. We booked Lower Antelope Canyon through Ken’s Photo Tours.

For Ken’s Photo Tour, the required equipment includes a SLR or DSLR camera (or a mirrorless camera if its lens is interchangeable) AND a tripod for each individual. Trip duration is two hours, with a maximum group size of ten. The cost is $42 plus a Navajo Permit Fee of $8.

For the guided tour, cameras are allowed but tripods or monopods are not. Trip duration is one hour and 15 minutes, with a maximum group size of 15. The cost is $20 plus a Navajo Permit Fee of $8.

Here’s what they say about timing: “The Lower Antelope Canyon is photogenic throughout the day. However, if you are looking for more vibrant colors, you would need to book anytime other than noon when the colors are washed out.”

“Conversely, the Upper Antelope Canyon has limited light, so direct sunlight at noon is the best time.” In the Upper Canyon, the iconic photograph is of shafts of light, created when your guide tosses powdery sand into beams of sunlight. It creates beautiful pictures, but take compressed air to clean your equipment.

Check out more photos of Antelope Canyons by our Navajo guide Brandon Dugi.

Also check out the full-sized tripod from TrailPix with palm-sized weight and convenience.

14 Responses

  1. Hey never mind the color blind thing, although you may not see the full spectrum of colors you will be able to see things better than non coloured blind folks. In nature you may be able to things that do not belong, because of the narrowed spectrum, animals in hiding will become more visible, it does work.
    Looks like an awesome place to visit, excelant photos from what I can see ?, I think being color blind is just like photoshop, is it real or is it manipulated. Who knows.

    1. Until told otherwise, I think I see the same thing as everyone else. But I know I wouldn’t last long as a strawberry picker on commission!

    1. In researching our trip to Utah, we had missed Page AZ, just over the Utah border. Just days before leaving we were told about Antelope Canyons and were very lucky to book a tour as they are often sold out weeks in advance.

    1. There was very little post-processing of these RAW images. Mainly a bit of vibrance for colour and detail. You definitely don’t want a colourblind editor playing with tone and saturation curves!

    1. The Lower Antelope Canyon was very beautiful. When our guide was young, he and his friends used to play hide-and-go-seek in it. Now it is a major tourist attraction, providing significant employment for the Navajo Nation.

    1. At the suggestion of our guide, most of the images were shot at ISO 800 in an F-stop range of 14 – 18 to minimize the chance of being photo-bombed. If we were to do it again, we would reduce the ISO range to 100 – 200.

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