Many slot canyons in America’s southwest have been hidden, spiritual gems kept close and private in the Native American cultures where they are frequently found. A sense of spirituality and church are common and understandable as one walks through gazing upward at the architectural design of wind, water and time—just as a tourist in a large cathedral anywhere in the world might experience. Navajo guides recount stories of tribal hunting, celebrations, rituals and using the canyons as retreats during travel, as well as storms of nature and man. The church parallels continue as visitors contemplate the way sunlight filters in against the sandstone walls, coloring and decorating the spaces every bit as much as any stained-glass window. Visitors linger to watch the mood and light change as the places of dark and light move.
I had the pleasure of visiting two slot canyons near Page, Arizona this year. The first was the high profile and well-worn Lower Antelope Canyon and the second, Canyon X, only open to the public since 2016–an amazing fact to me–millions of years in the making and to be among the first, relatively speaking, to see it. Both of these slot canyons are the by-products of the same 18 mile stream known as Antelope Creek near Lake Powell.
Lower Antelope Canyon offered more sultry, sensual shapes at almost every head turn. Some of my shots from Canyon X reminded me of medical micro photography with the abrupt changes in texture and wear.
It’s worth reminding everyone that the forces that continue to forge these grand caverns of red rock can and will gobble up a patron or guide who fails to respect the powers that be. Just as the Mid-Atlantic region is experiencing changing weather patterns, recently this area has experienced a lot of rain and snow. Over the years, many have made the mistake of underestimating the potential power within these canyons, which is simultaneously creative and destructive.
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© Amy Linn Doherty and Pawpro Media 2009-2019.
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