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Horseshoe Bend and Lower Antelope Canyon

My kids started school last week after a summer vacation filled with epic trips.  Okay, it was more like epic trip for a week and then Netflix and soda for two weeks on repeat from beginning to end.  It was definitely time for them to get back to book learnin’.  One of our awesome trips was to Page, Arizona.  We’ve driven through Page and the Lake Powell area many times, but never stopped to enjoy its beauty.  So I decided that all I wanted for my birthday was to drive to Page and check out two places I’ve been pinning on Pinterest for years: Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon.  They were both amazing!  If you’re planning a visit to either of these locations, I have some wisdom to share.  (I’m older now, so I’m super wise.)

Horseshoe Bend is located about four miles southwest of Page, Arizona.  There’s a large parking lot for you to park and hike to the edge of the cliff overlooking Horseshoe Bend.  I read online that it was 1.2 miles and took approximately 30 minute to hike.  That was not my experience.  It was more like 10 minutes.  However, I referred to this journey as a “short, easy hike” on Instagram and my friend responded: “It is not a short easy hike when it’s 200 degrees outside, you have 3 kids who don’t want to be there and a baby who’s screaming.  It’s the longest hike in the world.”  Ha!  So . . . keep that in mind.  The initial incline is pretty steep and it’s all in loose sand.  Hiking shoes, hats, and water are strongly recommended.  Once you get to the top of the initial hill, this will be your view:

Hike to Horseshoe Bend near Page, AZ.

You will then hike to the edge of a cliff with absolutely no safety features.  The view will be incredible and your mind will be blown.

Horseshoe Bend, ArizonaGirl at Horseshoe Bend, AZ.Photographers at Horseshoe Bend, AZ.

People around us were getting dangerously close to the edge just to get a good picture.  I brought my Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5 super wide angle lens with me, so I didn’t have to risk my life like some of those jaboneys.  Though I was even able to get the whole river in the frame using my phone.

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona

“The Cliffs of Insanity!”Horseshoe Bend near Page, AZ.

If you’re wondering what time of day to visit, I can’t imagine it gets much better than sunset.  (Especially during monsoon season.)

Man with tripod photographing Horseshoe Bend.Woman in white dress at Horseshoe Bend.

This beautiful woman was kind enough to let me photograph her.  It may look as though we were all alone, but we were there with about 150 visitors from around the world.

Horseshoe Bend at sunset photographed by Melissa Maxwell of Gilbert, AZ.

The next morning we woke up bright and early to visit Antelope Canyon.  If you’re planning a visit, here’s what you need to know:

First of all, there are two canyons: Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon.  The one you see photographed most often is the Upper Canyon.  It has those beautiful light shafts and is much easier to enter.  Lower Antelope Canyon requires climbing ladders and has several tight turns.  Both canyons are on Navajo land and you are required to make an appointment with a Navajo guide to tour the canyons.  There are two types of tours for both canyons: a photography tour and a general tour.  Photography tours cost about twice as much and last about twice as long.  Children are not allowed on the photography tours, which is why my family and I took the general tour.  Even without the extra time and the use of a tripod, we were able to get some great photos of Lower Antelope Canyon.  Most of the cool views are higher up, anyway, so just shoot over everyone else and you will be fine.  (Don’t get me wrong, I’m so coming back for the photography tour someday.)

Lower Antelope Canyon is about 2 miles Northeast of Page.  We used Ken’s Tours and booked a 7:40am tour.  We were told over and over again by our guide that we were flippin’ geniuses for getting there early in the morning.  There can be a wait anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours during the late morning/early afternoon tour times.  Did I mention you’re waiting outside in the Arizona heat?  Well, you are and that’s the worst.  Because we came early, we got straight into the canyon without a wait.  Here’s what the entrance looks like:

Entrance to Lower Antelope Canyon.

The steps are steep and scary, but then you get inside and it looks like this:Lower Antelope CanyonLower Antelope CanyonHalf-pipe at Lower Antelope Canyon

This rock formation is called the “half-pipe”.  Another piece of advice: make friends with your tour guide.  Ours was the best!  Before we got in the canyon, she helped us with our camera and phone settings and then once we were inside, she would take our cameras and photograph anything we might have missed.  Every once in a while she would stop and tell us to look at a rock formation and tell us what they call it and why.  Then we would all nod like we totally saw it, too.  She may have been making it all up.

Here’s a shot of our guide with my kids.  My kids got some amazing pictures on their phones!
Lower Antelope CanyonLower Antelope CanyonLady in the Wind, Lower Antelope Canyon

This rock formation is called “The Lady in the Wind”.  You see it, right?

Lower Antelope Canyon

This is a shot my daughter took with my phone.  She said she liked it because it looked like fire.  Totally.

Lower Antelope Canyon from above.

Here’s what the canyon looks like from above.  Just a slot in the earth.  (Hence the name “slot canyon”, duh.)  We were in the canyon for about an hour.  Two minutes in, my son said he had to go to the bathroom.

A few more tips:

  • There are only port-o-potties at the tour office.  You’ve been warned.
  • There’s an $8 per person charge that must be paid in cash to the Navajo nation in addition to the cost of the tour.
  • Lower Antelope Canyon is on Arizona time (no Daylight Savings Time), however, because it’s so close to the Utah border, Utah cell phone towers will often change the time on your phone.  This happened to me several times, so I never knew what time it was when we were in Page.  Wear a watch.
  • Wear hiking clothes, a hat, and sunscreen.
  • Bring water.
  • Tip your guide if they’re awesome.
  • Don’t go to the dam visitors center to check out the dam view after seeing Lower Antelope Canyon because absolutely nothing will impress you after this.  However, it is fun to make dam jokes on the way to the dam visitors center because it makes kids laugh.

Lower Antelope Canyon

I hope you found this helpful for planning a trip to this beautiful part of the country.  Let me know if you have any questions or tips of your own!

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  • Carrie YH - Excellent photos and great information!ReplyCancel

    • melissa@jubileefamilyphotography.com - Thanks, Carrie! Happy to help.ReplyCancel

  • Patti Maxwell - I read your blog all the time without commenting, but this post was so incredibly informative and fun, with jaw-dropping pictures, I just had to say something. Bravo!ReplyCancel

    • melissa@jubileefamilyphotography.com - Thanks, Patti! I appreciate the feedback.ReplyCancel

I’ve always wanted to take dance lessons.  The closest I’ve ever come was zumba class at the rec center.  Then I developed bad knees because apparently I’m a 37 year old senior citizen.  (Have I mentioned my undiagnosed early onset dimentia?)  Since my dream of being a dancer is pretty much dead, I’ve been living vicariously through my daughter (as one does).  CB has been dancing for many years now and few things bring me more joy than watching her perform.  She ended another year of dance recently with back-to-back endless dance recitals.  (As my dad once put it, “Some of those parents are just throwing their money away.”)  What I love most about watching her perform is seeing the happiness that it brings her.  That way I don’t feel like a creepy dance mom.

By the end of the year, CB was tired of having to keep her hair long (so she could wear it in the required Ariana Grande high ponytail).  The day after her recital, CB got her hair chopped off.  We picked our two favorite recital costumes and headed downtown for a photo shoot to celebrate her hard work and her new look.

Roosevelt Row Art District is an area of downtown Phoenix dedicated to visual arts and fried foods (from what I saw).  I’ve seen some of the beautiful murals in this area pop up on my Instagram feed and have been dying to take a look for myself.  It’s such a cool place to hang out and an even better place for portraits.  (Though a stranger did tell me he wanted to punch me in the face when he saw me taking pictures.  So watch out for face punchers, I guess.) I don’t think we found half of the amazing artwork on display in Roosevelt Row.  We’ll have to put on our dancing shoes and head back for more.

Photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZPhotographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.

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  • Liz - Melissa!! These are gorgeous portraits and CB is beautiful.ReplyCancel

    • melissa@jubileefamilyphotography.com - Thank you so much!ReplyCancel

Last week’s portrait session was extra special for me.  I got to photograph my own child for his baptism portraits!  M is my youngest and he may be the most positive person I’ve ever met.  He gets so excited about absolutely everything.  For real.  We recently bought him some new underwear and he spent the day thanking us and telling us how amazing his new underwear is.  (Weirdo.)  He turns eight this week and it’s a birthday he’s looked forward to for a long time because he gets to be baptized.  I took him out to Freestone Park dressed in his Sunday best and he modeled like a pro.  I photograph a lot of kids, so it surprised me how easy going he was about the whole thing.  No bribe attempts or blubbering.  He simply said “Please.  Please I have to know . . . Will there be frozen yogurt after all this?”  Anything for you, kid.

Boy photographed by Jubilee Family Photography.Boy photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Boy photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Boy photographed by Jubilee Family Photography.Boy photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Boy photographed in Gilbert, AZ by Jubilee Family Photography.Boy photographed by Jubilee Family Photography.Boy photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Boy photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Boy photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Boy photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.

Looking for more ideas for baptism portraits?  Check out my Pinterest board!

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When my family and I moved to Arizona from St. Louis, MO, we drove into the state on Route 66.  We entered Northeastern Arizona and found ourselves in the mountains surrounded by pine trees and cabins.  We thought, “Wait–this is Arizona?”  Then we kept driving south where we were greeted by rolling hills covered in saguaro cacti.  We thought, “Wait-this is Arizona?”  Then we entered the Mesa/Gilbert area with its palm trees and citrus groves and thought, “WHAT IS ARIZONA?”  It turns out, Arizona is all the things.  Drive two hours in any direction and you’ll find a completely different landscape.  It’s intriguing and wonderful and one of the many reasons I heart AZ.

The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert is one of my favorite locations for portraits because you will find many different Arizona landscapes in just one spot.  The cactus garden is a particularly popular spot.  (I even had my own family photos taken there last year.)  I had the pleasure of photographing one of my favorite families in the cactus garden recently.  This family was amazing!  They followed directions and looked great doing it.  That’s really all it takes for me to like you.

Family photographed at Riparian Preserve and Water Ranch in Gilbert, AZ.Family photographed in Gilbert, AZ by Jubilee Family PhotographyFamily photographed in Gibert, AZ by Jubilee Family PhotographyChildren photographed in Gilbert, AZ by Jubilee Family Photography.Family photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Cactus family photosCactus family photosChildren photographed in Gilbert, AZ by Jubilee Family Photography.Couple photographed at Riparian Water Ranch in Gilbert, AZ.Cactus family photos

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Ask any elementary school student in Arizona to name you the “Five C’s” and they will proudly sound them off: copper, cattle, citrus, climate and COTTON!  I was surprised when I learned that there were cotton fields in my area, but didn’t think much of it until my Instagram feed started filling up with photo sessions in cotton fields.  There’s something so ethereal and soft about cotton field portraits and I wanted in.  Unfortunately, you can’t just Google “Cotton fields near me.”  (Well, you can.  It will likely lead you to a map of all the cotton fields in Australia.  Very helpful.  For Australians.)  In late January I went with my son on a field trip and as we were riding on the bus we passed a cotton field.  I nearly did backflips!  It was white and beautiful and ready for someone to take its picture.  I immediately scheduled a photo shoot.  Then I went to check out the field.  It looked like this.

Oh! the disappointment!  There was still a row of cotton around the edge of the crop, so I pulled out my 50mm lens and hoped magic would happen.

Cotton field photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.

Ta-da!  That’s the magic of a good lens.  Let that be a lesson to us all.  By the time we finally had our photo shoot in early February, the crop had been plowed TO THE GROUND.  It was tragic.  So, it turns out cotton fields are available from September to January.  If this is something you’re interested in, plan accordingly.

This is Diana Irving of Diana Irving Photography.  We got together to try out some new equipment and techniques.  It’s always such a great learning experience to shoot with another photographer and share tips and with each other.  We both had a great time photographing this lovely young woman as well as our beautiful mother and daughter models.  I can’t wait until the cotton comes back!

Young girl in cotton field photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Young girl in cotton field photographed by Jubilee Family Photography.Young girl in cotton field by Jubilee Family Photography.Teenage girl photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Mother and daughter photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Child photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Mother and daughter photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Child photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Mother and daughter in cotton field photographed by Jubilee Family Photography.Mother and daughter in Gilbert, AZ by Jubilee Family Photography.Mother and daughter photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Child photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Mother and daughter photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.

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  • Mani - That’s the power of a good photographer! I LOVE the cotton field (row) and these pictures are to die for. The neutrals are my favorite.ReplyCancel

    • melissa@jubileefamilyphotography.com - Thanks, Mani! i can’t wait to try it again with an actual field of cotton and not just a row. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Kels - Would you share the cross roads?? I love the mountain in the back !ReplyCancel

    • melissa@jubileefamilyphotography.com - It’s right next to Schnepf Farms. Across the street from the Olive Mill. (I don’t remember the cross streets. Sorry!)ReplyCancel

      • Montana - Hi there! Wondering how you got into the field? Is it open or did you have to get a pass or permission from owners?? Taking engagement pictures next week and want to do it here!ReplyCancel