In the mid 80's through the early 90's I made several visits to the slot canyons in the four comers region of the Southwest. My first few trips into the slots were magical. At the time only a handful of people were visiting these locations and I had the place pretty much to myself. I made a return trip about ten years later and was surprised that the canyons had turned into a major tourist attraction. The first trip I made into the canyon, I had my thirteen year old son with me and we hitched a ride in the back of a pickup truck with a local Indian girl and her newborn. I gave her a few dollars and she offered to return around 4 pm. to pick us up.
The most successful photographer to make photographs in the slot canyons is Bruce Barnbaum. He is one of the first photographers to venture into the numerous slot canyons of the Southwest. His work is spectacular and all of it done with a large format camera. Another great photographer that spent years photographing the Southwest was Eliot Porter. His work with dye-transfer color is unmatched by any print process to date. I made this image in Lower Antelope canyon in 1994 using a Linhof 4x5 view camera. It is the last trip I made into the slots in that area. I continued to seek out new narrow canyon locations to photograph that were less visited. Often times I would be hiking alone and venturing into these remote locations can be a risk. I always tried to keep my enthusiasm in check as I start my early morning climb down into these canyons. It is easy to lose track of the time and the distance hiked when in the canyons. After a few fool hardy mistakes I developed a strategy of four hours hiked in equaled four hours back. So in the winter months I would be making my return trip around 1 or 2 in the afternoon to be out before dark. There is always the urge to see what is up and around the next corner and to push it a little too far. A few times I found myself struggling to find my exit out of the canyon in the dark.
The Southwest of the U.S. is a remote area of intense beauty. It is easy to overlook the danger that can exist when exploring this region. It is important to have a "get back to safety" plan in place before heading into the rugged canyons.