Photographing Cardiac Canyon
The American Southwest is home to some amazing landscapes, from wide-open desert vistas to the more intimate vignettes found across the canyon-country of the Colorado Plateau of the Four Corners region. There are a few places on the plateau where slot canyons have formed, with perhaps the best-known slot canyon being Antelope Canyon near the town of Page, Arizona.
I've photographed both Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope slot canyons many times, and I used to run photography workshops and tours in Lower Antelope. I have fond memories of my first trip into Lower Antelope Canyon many years ago when the Navajo guide led our small group into the canyon, gave us a brief tour during which he pointed out some of his favorite features, and then he allowed us to explore and photograph the canyon on our own for about four hours. Unfortunately, both Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope are very crowded nowadays, and photography passes are no longer available. Still, I understand why so many people want to experience this place as it's stunningly beautiful.
Thanks to a friend, I recently had the opportunity to photograph a lesser-visited slot canyon near Page, Arizona, known as Cardiac Canyon. This canyon is restricted to no more than six visitors a day, and it requires more physical effort to get into the canyon with a 200-foot descent down a steep and sandy slope and about 2.5 miles of hiking. Once you're in the canyon, there are obstacles to overcome requiring using ropes that have been pre-set by the Navajo guides. And then of course, you must climb up and out of the canyon using that same 200-foot sandy slope at the end of the day. The experience and beauty of Cardiac Canyon makes all of the effort worth it.
I owe a big thanks to my friend Scott Thomsen for the invitation to join him on the trip into Cardiac Canyon. Scott has taken several workshops with me, and he has gone down the Colorado River with me on a raft trip (he will be joining me again in 2023), but more importantly, he has become a friend in recent years. Scott is also a good photographer, and I encourage you to check out his work on his website at thomsenimages.com and follow him on Instagram.
I'd also like to thank Josh and Kendrick, our guides from Taadidiin Tours, who were kindly willing to answer all of our questions about life on the Navajo Reservation. They also were a wealth of knowledge about Cardiac Canyon and its history. I had considered mentioning more about that history here, but it's their story to share, and I will leave it to them.
The photographs on this page were all made with my Fujifilm GFX 100S, a 102-megapixel medium format mirrorless camera, and Fujifilm lenses. I also used a Really Right Stuff tripod and Acratech Panoramic Head. You can learn more about the equipment I used by clicking on the links below.