The Wave is the premier photographic destination in the US Southwest. It is located in the Coyote Buttes North area of the Utah Arizona border. In addition to The Wave Coyote Buttes North contains many other spectacular rock formations. These include The Second Wave, The Alcove, Top Rock Arch, Melody Arch and the Grotto, Sand Cove, and Fatali's Boneyard. The Wave is best photographed from mid-morning to early afternoon so as to minimize the extensive shadows; the other areas listed above are best photographed mid-late afternoon.
A permit issued by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is required to see The Wave. Only twenty permits per day (10 online and 10 walk-in) are available and demand far exceeds supply. During the most popular months (April, May, September, October) there can be over 150 people applying for the ten walk-in daily permits. In the other months you usually have much less than a 50% chance of getting one at the daily lottery. Your chances are better if you're going alone, or in December - February.
A six mile round trip hike in required to get to The Wave. Since there is no trail to The Wave you should be able to use a map and compass or GPS to help with navigation. The BLM provides a map with your permit and instructions on getting to The Wave, and there are a small number of cairns on the way. Over the past five years five people have died on the way to/from The Wave. If you are not sure about your navigation skills I strongly suggest you hike in with a guide or a friend with these skills. Do not go alone. If you use a GPS be sure to mark the Wirepass trailhead and other key points along the route. Stay with your party. Four of the five fatalities were heat related, so if you go in the warmer months bring plenty of water, at least four liters, and preferably more.
In order to visit The Wave you need a permit for Coyote Buttes North. Online permits and permit information can be obtained from the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at Coyote Buttes Permits. Twenty people are allowed into Coyote Buttes North each day. Permits for a total of ten people are issued via an online lottery and another ten permits are issued via a walk-in lottery. The walk-in lottery occurs the day before the permit is valid, except for November 15th to March 15th when permits for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are all issued on the preceding Friday.
Permits for Coyote Buttes North are very difficult to obtain, with demand greatly exceeding supply. All Coyote Buttes North permits are awarded by lottery. The online lottery opens up four months in advance of your trip date. You have the whole month to apply. For example, for a January 15 permit you would open the lottery page in September. The application fee is $5 per group. There is a maximum group size of six people. You are only allowed to apply once each month. If you apply more than once and win a permit it will be forfeited. Each person in the group is allowed to apply separately provided they do not share an email address. For exmaple, if there are four people in the group a total of four applications can be submitted. On each application you can select up to three dates. The drawing is held the day following the close of the lottery (i.e. October 1 in our example). Shortly after the lottery closes you will be notified via e-mail whether you were successful or not. If you do not receive a notification by the 2nd of the month check your spam folder. If you still haven't received notification it is likely you typed your email address incorrectly on the application. In this case you should call the BLM at +1 435 688-3200 for a status. If you win the lottery you will have to pay an additional $7 per individual fee for the North Coyote Buttes permit.
Coyote Buttes North Lottery Schedule
for a permit during
January 1 - 31
February 1 - 28
March 1 - 31
April 1- 30
May 1 - 31
June 1 - 30
July 1 - 31
August 1 - 31
September 1 - 30
October 1 - 31
November 1 - 30
December 1 - 31
To apply for an online permit go to the BLM permit website at https://www.blm.gov/az/paria/lotteryapply.cfm?areaid=2, watch the video, confirm that you have watched the video, and click on the I Agree button. On the next screen you need to enter the number of people in your group (maximum six) and select three dates. The bottom of the screen shows the number of applicants by day, normally Tuesday through Thursday will have the lowest number of applicants. After completing the rest of the application the credit card payment screen will appear, pay the $5.00 fee for your group, and wait until the first day of the next month to hear if you have been successful.
Walk in permits are issued one day in advance of your hiking date in Kanab at the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM) visitor center. The address is 745 E. Highway 89, the phone number is (435) 644-1300. The visitor center is open from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM seven days a week. The visitor center is on the North side of Highway 89 as you head east towards Page just after the Kanab City Cemetery. If you pass the Comfort Inn you've gone too far. From March 15 to November 15 permits will be issued every day of the week excluding national holidays. During the winter months (approximately November 16-March 15) weekend and Monday permits are issued on Friday. The lottery in Kanab is held at 9 AM Utah time. If you are hiking alone your chances for a permit are better than for a group since there are relatively few single hikers looking for permits. For example if permits were already issued for two groups of four and a single, and you are the only single left you will get a permit unless a group is willing to be split up.
The number of applicants at the walk-in lottery varies greatly by month, and slightly by week day. I recently received data from the BLM showing the number of applicants by day for the period Nov 5,2012 - November 30, 2013. From 2013 to 2018 the number of permit applications has nearly doubled so your odds are only about half of what the 2013 data shows. Based on this data I drew the following conclusions:
Additional information about permits can be found on my permits page here.
December - February
It is "relatively" easy to get permits in December, January and early February, especially through the walk-in process. Permits are hard to get around the Christmas and Ne Years holidays so avoid these times. There is a good chance there will be snow on the ground in the winter months. Snow makes hiking difficult and photographing the patterns in the red rock chancy. If there is snow you may be limited to shooting southern exposures such as The Boneyard and Sand Cove. Average cloud cover is also high in the winter months, and House Rock Road is often muddy and difficult or impossible to drive on. The South Buttes are even higher in elevation than the Wave, about 6,200 feet, or four degrees cooler. This makes snow even more likely in the South Buttes, and it will last longer. I have been to Cottonwood Cove when the north facing exposures had over a foot of snow on them.
March - May
These are good months to visit, especially April and May when cloud cover is low and temperatures moderate. Getting a permits is very difficult. Average wind speed is highest in the southwest in the Spring. The wind comes from the Southwest in this area all year round peaking in the afternoon. Sand Cove runs North - South and forms a natural wind tunnel. This makes good photography of Sand Cove and The Boneyard difficult in the Spring. Average cloud cover is low during May.
A very good month to go to The Wave if you don't mind the heat. Cloud cover is low as is precipitation. The best month for night photography as the Milky Way stretches across the sky.
July - August
I used to believe these were the worst months to go to The Wave. I now believe they are reasonably good, if you are prepared and can stand the heat. Average daily high temperature at the Wave is 101 ºF in July and there is little shade. If you go in July do not plan to be out all day. Either go in the morning when temperatures and cloud cover are lower, or go in mid afternoon if the weather looks cooperative. In 2013 there were three heat related fatalities at the Wave, and there was another heat related death in 2018. Go prepared. If you plan to stay the whole day you will need to find shade. A space blanket can help, you need to elevate it with hiking sticks, rocks, bushes, ... A good place to find natural shade is on Toprock at the Alcove. Finally bring at least one gallon of water per person in July and August. You will need it. I have seen recommendations of nine liters per person per day when temperatures are this high! Keep water inside your pack so it stays cooler, and bring some of it in the for of ice. There is a good possibility of afternoon thunderstorms or even hail. Mornings are cooler, often clear, and have little wind. It's likely you can get a good photograph in the morning, and if the weather cooperates you may get a great one in the afternoon! With luck there will be water at the Wave or in the water pockets south of The Wave. Water pockets won't last long given the average July August temperatures though. If there are water pockets look for tadpoles and tadpole shrimp. If there's a lot of water you may even hear toads croaking! (males calling for females). Permits, though still difficult, are easier to get than during the peak months.
September - November
Excellent months for visiting, Page and Kanab are less crowded than during summer vacation, and cloud cover and temperatures are reasonable. Permits are very difficult to get. The rest of the Southwest is also beautiful at this time of year with the Aspens changing in late September/early October, and the Cottonwoods in late October.
Another good source of climate information based on the Page airport data can be found at Weatherspark.com.
There are two entry points to Coyote Buttes North, Wirepass Trailhead (WP) and The Notch. The Notch is no longer actively publicized by the BLM. The trail from the Notch is poorly defined. I strongly recommend access from the Wirepass parking lot. To get to the Wirepass trailhead take Highway 89 to House Rock Road. The House Rock Road turnoff is between mile posts 25 and 26 on Highway 89 in Utah. House Rock Road is normally passable by passenger cars. Do not take this road if it is wet. It is clay based and impassable even to 4WD vehicles when wet. When the road is muddy it is like driving on ice and there are drop-offs. When dry take House Rock Road for 8.4 miles to the WP parking area on the right. You can dry camp at the Wirepass trailhead, and a toilet is present. Better camping with fire pits, tables, and pit toilets is available at the Stateline Campground, one mile further south just off House Rock Road.
Begin your hike to the Wave by signing the trailhead register and crossing House Rock Road. Follow the well defined trail east for fifty yards until you enter the wash. Wirepass wash feeds into Buckskin Gulch, the longest slot canyon in North America. Continue walking down the wash. About .55 miles from the trailhead you will see a sign marked Coyote Buttes on the right. Turn right and follow the good trail up the hill and across the sage field. At the end of the field you will cross a wash. This wash also flows into the Wirepass slot canyon one half mile downstream. Total distance across the sage field to the wash is about .65 miles. After crossing the wash hike up the slickrock to a sometimes cairned saddle. If you have a GPS mark this location. You are now in the permit area. From here there may or may not be cairns and they may or may not be accurate. There are a small number of BLM sign posts in the area at critical locations, one can be seen about 50 yards east of the saddle. Note its location, on your return this marker will tell you where to turn to the west. From the saddle proceed south, after .35 miles or so you will see a twin butte with a downed barbed wire fence on its left (east) side, either go over the fence (easy but a little exposed) or walk around the buttes via their the west side. Continue heading almost due south aiming for the crack in the cliffs to the south. After another .8 miles or so you will cross another small wash, continue heading towards the crack in the Wall and go up the sand dune. There should be a clear trail up the sand dune unless it had been very windy overnight. You will shortly arrive at The Wave. It is about 2.8 miles in total from the WP trailhead to The Wave.
It is fairly easy to get back to your car, even at dusk. The small sign posts installed by the BLM will glow in the dark if a flashlight is shined on them. Make sure that when you return you do not try to cross the ridge too early after heading north. Look for the sign post referenced above, it will tell you when to turn to cross the ridge. It should be easy to cross over the small ridge; if not you have turned west too early. Conversely if you go too far north you will end up in or overlooking Wirepass slot canyon. If so turn around and try again. For an interesting story of someone who got lost on the return, see Trouble in Coyote Buttes. If you get lost or injured and need help try to gain elevation. You may be able to get a cell signal. I have gotten service via Verizon, and a friend via AT&T.
The Second Wave
From Sand Cove hike east north-east and scramble up the cliff until you reach a flat area just before a much steeper cliff. The Second Wave is at the foot of this steep cliff. It is a great late afternoon location, but only fair the rest of the day. Shoot it from the small sand dune a few yards south, or from the rocks to the south east about ten feet above it. Make sure the cliffs to the west are in shadow. Shoot until the Second Wave goes into shadow. Leave a bit earlier if you are concerned about hiking back to your car after sunset.
To return to the Wirepass parking lot head north passing back through The Wave. There should be many good photo-ops along the hike back so don't put your camera / tripod away too soon. After leaving The Wave head down the sand dune, cross the wash, and head north to retrace your steps back to your car. "The Dive" and the North and South "Teepees" will be in good light on the way back. You will need a long lens to shoot them. If you hurry you should be able to get back to your car 30-45 minutes after sunset. Warning - if you do not have good navigation skills or have a GPS and know how to use it, you should leave The Second Wave well before sunset.
About half of all visitors to Coyote Buttes North never explore much beyond The Wave. This is especially true in the summer and winter when extreme temperatures, lightning, or snow cover tend to keep visits short. In view of this I've added some thoughts on how to photograph just The Wave. A gallery showing what I believe to be the classic images of The Wave is here.
The Wave opens up in three directions, to the north (the direction you came in on), to the east, and to the southwest. Each of these openings has a good photo associated with it. Below is a map showing the topography of The Wave.
Permits to The Wave are so hard to get that I'd suggest you shoot from all three directions on your first trip. All can be shot in the morning in good light. In addition to these images there are many other possibilities, see the main Wave gallery for some ideas.
This image is best mid-morning. By late morning the wall on the left (the south wall) is starting to go into shadow, especially in the winter. You'll need a wide or ultra-wide for best results. The image shown was shot at 14mm. The "Eye of The Wave" is shown on the right. It is a great example of soft-sediment deformation.
This image is best about an hour after sunrise when the south wall is in light, and the side walls are in shadow. A few hours later the side walls are partially lit and the image suffers. Water is often found at the entrance to The Wave, especially in summer. Only a little water is needed to get a good photo, even one inch will do. Shoot close to ground level to emphasize the little rocks in the water, with a wide angle to normal lens. Both vertical and horizontal compositions work.
The Wave Slot Canyon
The last image, is of a short slot canyon which gets excellent reflected light in late morning. Watch your DOF when shooting this. You may want to smooth out the sand in the slot using a cloth, jacket, or rain jacket before shooting. It is very difficult to remove the footprints in this sand using Photoshop.
This past week I visited Wind Pebble Canyon which is upstream of Antelope Canyon. Wind Pebble is a collection of three short slots the first two of which are quite photogenic. The canyons are named after the moqui marbles embedded in their walls. The Wind Pebble canyons are on Navajo land and you must take a tour to visit them. Tours are offered by Antelope Canyon Valley Tours. I took the photo tour which ran six hours and costs $250 per person. The hike to the slots is 2.8 miles round trip. It ends with a climb up three well secured ladders and a gain of 300 feet in elevation.
Following temporary repairs ADOT has reopened Highway 89 between Cameron and the turn-off to Tuba City.
If you are driving to The Wave or other points in Northern Arizona from Flagstaff your trip just got much longer. On October 3rd a 30 foot section of Highway 89 collapsed between Cameron and the turnoff to Tuba City. Highway 89 is closed in both directions at the site of the collapse. The closure is expected to last for multiple days. In the interim those traveling north from Flagstaff should either take 40 East to 87 North to 264 West to 160 West as recommended by the AZDOT, or take 40 East to exit 211 (the Townsend Winona Rd) to Leupp Road to Highway 264 West to 160 West as recommended by Google Maps. More information can be found at https://azdot.gov/media/News/news-release/2018/10/04/closure-of-multiple-days-expected-on-us-89-north-of-flagstaff.
Per Fstoppers, False Kiva in Canyonlands has been closed. The National Park Service closed the area in early August due to two incidents of vandalism. First photographed by Tom Till, False Kiva is simply magnificent. It is truly a shame that a few ignorant people ruin things for so many. Hopefully the same will never happen to The Wave.
About 15 miles from Cameron, Arizona the Little Colorado River (LCR) begins a serpentine dance on its way into the Grand Canyon. In a distance of less than ten miles you can find five horseshoe like bends in the river. The first bend is named "Hellhole Bend" after the many sinkholes in the area. The other bends are nameless but equally magnificent. The rims tower 1,500 to 2,000 feet over the Little Colorado, compared to about 1,000 feet for the better known "Horseshoe Bend" near Page.
You will want to photograph the bends when the Little Colorado is flowing. This occurs five to ten times a year, typically in April and in the summer. If the LCR is flowing in Cameron it should be flowing at the bends. You can check the flow level at Cameron remotely at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/az/nwis/uv/?site_no=09402000&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060. You want a flow of at least 200 cfs. You also need a Navajo Parks and Recreation permit to visit the area. You can get one in the Cameron Parks and Recreation office located at the intersection of Highways 64 and 89 (diagonally opposite the Burger King). The office is open seven days a week in the summer months, and weekdays the rest of the year, from 8AM to 5PM Navajo (DST) time. You should call first; they are occasionally closed.
A map with directions to the bends can be found by clicking on the image to the right. A high clearance 2WD vehicle is needed to get to the bends. The map also contains information about the Hopi Salt and Horse trails down to the river. These trails are moderately difficult and typically involve camping at the river overnight. All trails into the Little Colorado River Gorge are currently closed by the Navajo Nation due to excessive heat. They will reopen after summer.
A gallery with many more images is also available.
Apparently Christophe and his son were issued a rare same day permit during the walk-in lottery held Monday. This may have resulted in his death. Someone returned two Monday permits to the BLM that they could not use. The permits were added to the walk-in lottery held Monday for use that day. The lottery is held at 9AM and is followed by orientation/safety instructions, with the entire process taking up to an hour. Including the 90 minute drive from Kanab to the Wirepass TH it is possible Pochic and his son did not reach the trailhead until 11:30, close to the hottest part of the day. If so, the BLM needs to change its process so that same day permits are not issued, especially in the summer months. The BLM has had no comment pending further investigation. More information can be found at fox13news in Utah.
In an apparently heat related incident Christophe Pochic, 49, of Belgium died on Monday while visiting The Wave. His body was discovered near The Wave at 9:15 PM on Monday by two BLM rangers. Pochic was in good health. Temperatures reached 101° F in Page on Monday. There is little shade to be found on the hike to The Wave, and the light colored Navajo Sandstone in Coyote Buttes North amplifies the heat. Pochic still had water in his pack. While adequate water is necessary to prevent heat stroke or exhaustion, it is not sufficient to keep your body cool. In the summer months the BLM normally has volunteers present along the way to The Wave who can help if you need water or become lost. If you must visit The Wave in the summer months I suggest you begin your hike at least 30 minutes before sunrise and plan to be out of the area by noon. More information is available on the St George News website.
I've updated the Coyote Buttes North, Coyote Buttes South, and White Pocket galleries with Favorites sub-folders. My image galleries were created to give trip planners an idea of what they might see at different locations and have not always been shot in best light. The Favorites sub-galleries contain a much smaller set of images and show only the best locations in good light.
The Palouse, a region in the northwestern US, is the premier wheat growing area of the United States. In late May of this year I took a creative photography workshop there with Denise Ippolito which I highly recommend. Denise is very imaginative and took us to several locations that were new to me including the wind turbines area, several lone trees, and a leaning schoolhouse. Spectacular clouds were present for most of the workshop resulting in many good images.
I've added a Palouse map to the website showing many good shooting locations, and have updated my Palouse gallery with images from this past workshop. Since the gallery contains over 150 images I've created a favorites subset showing 19 of my best images, shot in good light and with dramatic clouds. If you just want to see what the Palouse can offer start with these, if you are actually planning a trip to the area I would review the entire gallery to help select shooting locations.
City of Rocks National Reserve in south central Idaho is a premier rock climbing destination. It is less than three hours from Salt Lake City. City of Rocks is a great location for photographers and reminds me of a less crowded Alabama Hills. It has many arches, spires, and historical sites. In spring wildflowers abound, and during the third and fourth weeks of October the many aspen change color. This makes October the best time to visit. A gallery of images of City of Rocks can be found here, and maps can be found here.
Recently I stopped by both Radio Tower Rock and Waterholes Canyon while traveling through Page. The New Wave area has become very popular for overnight car/tent camping. I saw nearly ten vehicles parked there. There is also a new heavily cairned trail going to Radio Tower Rock, so expect to see more people there in the future. On the night I was at Radio Tower Rock no one else was present. To minimize shadows Radio Tower Rock is best shot near sunset during the spring and summer months. The Radio Tower Rock gallery has been updated with several new images here.
Waterholes Canyon tours are available from 7:30 am to 5:00 PM at the old Waterholes Canyon trailhead. Tours of the Great Wall area also available until 5PM, just stop at the TH and ask about a tour. You must go in with a Navajo guide. You can probably arrange a Great Wall tour after 5PM, ask at the trailhead for costs and availability. The Great Wall photographs best at sunset.
Effective May 1 you can only visit Waterholes Canyon via a guided tour. You can no longer explore the Waterholes area on your own. Canyon tours are operated by "Waterholes Canyon Experience" and start at the Waterholes Bridge parking area at 7:30 AM and new tours run every 30 minutes or so depending on demand. Tours cost $35 per person and last about 75 minutes. On the tour you are driven to the powerlines at 36.82815, -111.49434, you then drop into the Waterholes slot, and hike downstream for about one mile back to the Waterholes Bridge parking lot. Waterholes Canyon Experience can be contacted at +1 928 660-2031.
Note that the tour only covers the slot canyon between the bridge and the powerlines. Unfortunately you can no longer visit The Great Wall, Waterholes Arch, or Waterholes Bend on your own. A far as I know there are no tours offered to any of these areas.
My thanks to reader George Lin for letting me know about the change to Waterfalls access. I hope to take the new tour in the near future and will update this article shortly thereafter.
Over the past month two people fell to their death at Horseshoe Bend. On May 7 Azcentral reported that a Phoenix man fell to his death, and in a separate incident Azcentral reported on April 23 that the body of a missing Buckeye inhabitant was found at the bottom of the Bend. I have heard that the first fall was due to a piece of rock on the the rim breaking off. I have not been able to confirm this. The National Park Service is constructing a viewing platform at the rim to help prevent such accidents from happening in the future.
In March I visited Iceland for the second time and drove the "Ring Road". March is a good time to visit Iceland. On the plus side temperatures are relatively mild running from 35° F to 50° F, the aurora was out on several occasions, and there were far fewer tourists than in the summer. Tourism is exploding in Iceland, in 2010 Iceland had about 500,000 visitors, by 2017 it had grown to 2.2 Million. Seventy percent of all Icelanders now believe there are too many tourists, versus only 30 percent in 2014. Going in the winter is one way to avoid the crowds. Negatives include limited hiking both on and off-trail, uncertain footing on ice and snow, most roads to the spectacular interior are closed, and frozen waterfalls. While most waterfalls we saw were flowing, we were very disappointed in that Kirkjuellsfoss, the waterfall popularized by Game of Thrones, was frozen and made for a poor photo. Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon had very little ice in it. I'm not sure if this was due to the time of year or was just a random occurrence. We expected poor driving conditions in March but were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to get around the island.
I have updated my Iceland gallery with images from the March trip here. I've also extensively revised my Iceland map. It contains many more locations than the previous map, and has sample images and shooting recommendations. The only area not covered by the map is the West Fjords Region, which will have to wait for a future trip. If you're planning a trip to Iceland you should review this map. Many of the less known locations shown are better photographic subjects than those you'll find in guide books and commercial tours, and you might well have them to yourself.
On March 26 a sandstone boulder near The Wave was inadvertently dislodged and rolled over the arm of a 21 year old female causing a deep laceration. Another member of her party had cell service and called 911 for help. Kane County Search and Rescue and Classic Air Medical responded and a technical rescue was performed using a rope lowering system. Based on the photos I have seen I believe the injury occurred on the west side of Top Rock in an area little visited. Fortunately the woman was not hiking alone as it is unlikely she would have seen anyone else in that area. Additional information and photos are available on KSL News Radio's website here.
On February 23 a 64 year old female fell right at the entrance to The Wave. Bruce Speer, a guide with Grand Circle Tours and a member of Kane County Search and Rescue, was able to call for help and the woman was transported by helicopter to Page Hospital. An image of the accident scene and more information can be found at http://www.sunews.net/article.cfm?articleID=2343 .
From the image you can see that there was a good amount of patchy snow present on the north facing Wave entrance, and that it couldn't be easily avoided. Winter is a difficult season in which to visit The Wave, snow adversely impacts photos, and slips on snow or sand covered slickrock can easily happen. House Rock Road can also be impassable. The plus side is that December through February are the easiest months in which to get a permit.
West Clark Bench is the area on top of the cliffs east of Edmaier's Secret. It is heavily cross-bedded and reminds me of a mix of Top Rock and The White Pocket. It is best after a rain when its many water pockets are full. I have been to West Clark Bench three times now and have not seen anyone else. The best features I have found in my limited explorations are a small but dramatic arch and an S Curve nearby. Both are best photographed at sunset. Thanks go once again to Philippe Schuler for providing me with the GPS coordinates of the arch.
The Associated Press has reported that there were 160,000 people applying for the 7,300 available Wave permits last year, making the odds of getting one in the lottery 4.6 percent. If you applied via the online lottery every month at the end of the year you would have had a 43% chance of getting a permit. Permit demand increased by 20% in 2017, and increased at an annual rate of 16.5% since 2013 when there were 87,000 people applying.
What can you do to increase your odds?
Above all - persistence matters, and best of luck!
The Wave walk-in lottery process is well documented in two videos made by Jennifer Kumar. Jennifer recently posted two videos of the walk-in lottery on Youtube. The first video covers the lottery held on December 28, 2017. This lottery was for permits for December 29th and had over eighty applications. The second covers the lottery held on December 29th for permits from December 30th through January 2nd (four days). There was an all-time record of 398 applications on that day. Since most applications include several people usually only three or four groups win a permit each day. Assuming 2.5 people per group there were nearly one thousand people trying for the forty available spots on the 29th, making the odds of winning a permit around 2.5%.
If you feel very lucky and would like more information on how to apply for a walk-in permit please click here.
My Depth of Field app, DOF Easy, has been released for both iOS and Android devices. DOF Easy is unique among Depth of Field Calculators. With most DOF Calculators you enter the focus distance and the aperture and the calculator tells you whether your scene will render in focus. DOF Easy inverts the problem. DOF Easy starts with information about the scene (a range of distances) and the app tells you where to focus and what aperture to use. It also shows blur amounts as a function of distance. Users can easily see how the amount of blur, in pixels, changes with distance from the focal plane.
A web based version of DOF Easy is available at www.thewave.info/DOFEasy/index.html should you wish to try the app before installing it on your phone or tablet. The app is available on the Google Play store at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=info.thewave.DOFCalc. To install it for iOS on your phone search for DOF Easy Belvin in the Apple App store. The app is free for both platforms. Please give it a try.
Cerro Gordo is a small ghost town in the Inyo Mountains of eastern California. It is about 45 minutes from the town of Lone Pine. There are several largely intact buildings remaining, of which the American Hotel is the most photogenic, especially the inside. Although the hotel is currently being renovated you may be able to gain access to the interior.
Cerro Gordo ghost town is at 8,500 feet in elevation and is accessed via Cerro Gordo Road. This is a steep packed dirt road. A 2WD vehicle is normally sufficient, except following rain or snow. While the road is not difficult to drive, it is steep, narrow, and there are drop-offs. Some will be uncomfortable driving it. The town is privately owned and only gets a few visitors per day. It is open every day from 9AM to 4PM in the winter months, and from 9AM to 5PM when daylight savings time is in effect. Admission is $10 per person and a liability waiver form must be signed. The website cerrogordomines.com contains more information about access. A visit to Cerro Gordo can be easily combined with one to the Alabama Hills. Shoot Cerro Gordo mid-day, and the Alabama Hills at sunrise and/or sunset.
The interior of the American Hotel is spectacular and by itself is worth the trip. Be sure to photograph the bar and the painting by Sylvia Winslow. The poker room is also a good subject, as are the interiors of the Assay Office and the museum. The bunkhouse has been renovated and can be skipped. The remains of the Ice House frame dry Owens Lake in the far distance.
There are many rock formations on Planet Earth with "Wave" in their name. These include Wave Rock in Australia, The Fire Wave in Valley of Fire, The White Wave in the Canaan Mountain Wilderness, the Southern Wave in Coyote Buttes South, and the New Wave just outside Page. All of these pale in comparison to The Wave. Of the above The New Wave is perhaps the easiest to get to, just a mile outside Page, and only a .5 mile RT hike. While it is not nearly as photogenic as The Wave it is worth a brief visit if you are in the Page area. Just a little south of The New Wave is another Wave like formation. I've named it Radio Tower Rock since there is a radio tower nearby. It is spectacular at sunset, much prettier than The New Wave. Both The New Wave and Radio Tower Rock share the same trailhead. I suggest you briefly visit the New Wave mid-afternoon and then explore the Radio Tower Rock area until sunset.
At the request of the Hopi Nation this website and many others have been asked to remove travel directions to Blue Canyon. I have done so. If you wish to visit Blue Canyon you must go with an authorized Hopi guide. More information about guiding services and photography in Blue Canyon can be found here.
Some months ago reader Erik Thorvaldsen sent me an excellent image taken at The North Teepees, which are just outside the Coyote Buttes North permit area. More of Erik's images can be found here. The North Teepees are a rock formation with many similar features to those of The Wave, namely conical shaped rock hills, fine sandstone edges, a short slot canyon, and a vortex. The North Teepees are worth visiting if you cannot get a permit to visit The Wave. A map and directions can be found here.
Throughout the Coyote Buttes area you will find many locations that look like vortexes or wormholes. In addition to the vortex at The North Teepees there is also one at The Wave slot canyon and one at the brightly colored rock you see to your left just north of the entrance to The Wave. I call this rock "Ginger Rock" for its tan and orange colors. The Ginger Rock vortex is best photographed around noon to avoid harsh shadows. A gallery of images of Ginger Rock can be found here.
Finally, reader David Coppedge pointed out a nice vortex east of The Boneyard. It's at 36° 59' 40.09" N, 112° 0' 43.50" W. Dave has a very good image of it on Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/psa104/3642218357.
If you wish to avoid the crowds at Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend I suggest you visit Waterholes Canyon. It typically gets less than 30 visitors a day and they are spread over a large area. Waterholes does not require a guide but does require a permit. Permits cost $12 per person and are available at Navajo Parks and Recreation just outside Page. Directions to Navajo Parks and Recreation can be found here. Waterholes has several unique attractions, the slot canyon itself, Waterholes Bend, a photogenic arch, and The Great Wall. All can be visited in a single long day, start with Waterholes Bend, then visit Waterholes slot canyon, after exiting the slot visit Waterholes Arch and finish the day with The Great Wall. The Great Wall is spectacular at sunset.
The Waterholes slot canyon is closed beyond the "Power Lines". The closed area covers several slots including Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon, formerly known as Secret Canyon. Several Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon tours are offered daily by Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon Tours. Unfortunately they do not offer photo tours and tripods are not allowed on their scheduled tours.
I have updated both the Waterholes Canyon gallery and the Maps/directions page to include both the Waterholes and Secret Canyon slots.
Horseshoe Bend is Page's biggest tourist attraction, receiving more than 4,000 visitors a day, up from only 100 five years ago. Despite the recent expansion of the Horseshoe Bend parking area cars often overflow onto US 89, and both dehydration and safety at the rim are real concerns. On November 6th the National Park Service, together with the City of Page, began a project to install a viewing platform with railings on a section of the rim, and to compact the trail so it is handicapped friendly. NPS and Page will each pay 50% of the cost of the improvements. Horseshoe Bend itself is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area; however the City of Page owns the land the parking area is on, hence the cost sharing arrangement. Future enhancements include further expansion of the parking area, restrooms, and most likely a fee booth. As of now the proposed fee is $10 per vehicle for a two day pass.
If Horseshoe Bend is on your to do list, I suggest you do it now, as the experience and photo ops will be totally different once the viewing platform is in place. Alternatively consider one of the other Colorado River overlooks such as Waterholes Bend, Tatahatso Point, Redwall Cavern Bend Overlook, or the other side of Horseshoe Bend. Mark Metternich offers an epic tour called "4 Bends in 4 Days" which, based on the photos I have seen from past trips, is highly recommended.
I have updated the Hanksville gallery with several new locations. These include Leprechaun Canyon, North Caineville Mesa, Skyline View, Long Dong Silver, the Mars Desert Research Station Area, and Little Wild Horse Canyon. Late October is a great time to visit this area with the Cottonwoods changing, fewer tourists, and temperatures in the 60s.
Many thanks to Philippe Schuler for suggesting and providing me the locations of Skyline View, Long Dong Silver, the MARS Desert Research Station, and the Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry. Philippe is one of the most knowledgeable explorers of the southwest and his website http://www.phschuler.com/usa2006/index.html is well worth a visit.
I have updated The Wave gallery with a great many images taken this summer. There was quite a bit of water present at The Wave and the water pools above it. When water is present you want to shoot The Wave when the south wall is well lit, but the west wall is still in shadow. This occurs about 75 minutes after sunrise in mid-summer, about 60 minutes after sunrise in early fall, and nearly two hours after sunrise during the winter months. In the winter the sun rises behind Top Rock and it takes quite a bit of time for the sun to clear Top Rock and light The Wave. If you have a Wave permit in the week or two following a moderate to heavy rain I suggest you arrive at The Wave an hour after sunrise or earlier in the summer, and 1.5 to 2 hours after sunrise during late fall and winter.
During this trip I also visited The Alcove on Top Rock and found that noon is an excellent time to photograph it. I also photographed Hamburger Rock for the first time. Hamburger Rock, aka The Big Mac, is on the east side of Top Rock just south of Pine Valley. It is best shot early in the morning. Hamburger Rock looks remarkably like a hamburger, with a yellow rock bun, and red rock burger. It is best accessed by climbing Top Rock from its east side, in which case Hamburger Rock is only a short detour. If you climb Top Rock from the west side, which is more usual, you will add nearly a mile to your day if you visit the Big Mac. I've included a GPS track to Hamburger Rock on the Maps page. There is a similar rock called Half a Burger just above The Wave, about midway between The Wave and The Second Wave.
I have added a gallery of images from the Tucson, Arizona area. Tucson has much to offer besides Saguaro National Park. Other great locations in the Tucson area include Mission San Xavier del Bac and Tumacacori Mission, Tucson Botanical Gardens, Barrio Viejo, and the Arizona-Senora Desert Museum. Many thanks to Mark Elder of the Sedona Camera Club for leading the trip to Tucson.
I've also updated my Tucson map to include gps tracks for fifty hikes in Saguaro National Park.
I've updated my maps for the Hanksville area to include many new locations. These include:
The Hanksville area is best visited in the spring when wildflowers are present (mid-April) and the fall (late October) when the cottonwoods are changing color. It can get very hot in the summer so if you must hike do so early in the day.
In preparation for a trip to Iceland next March to photograph the aurora I've created a preliminary map of this country. The map shows the location of many "must shoot" icons in Iceland along the ring road. Most of these should be accessible in the winter. Downloadable 100,000 to 1 topo maps have also been provided, as has a sunrise sunset calculator. The map will be enhanced over the next year with public domain photographs and website links to further help with trip planning.
Tom Van Bebber, David Kennedy, and David Alexander of the Natural Arch and Bridge Society recently visited Dick's Arch and measured the span to be 54 feet, with a height of 18.2 feet. For comparison, Cobra Arch, which has a somewhat similar shape, has a span of 35 feet. Tom Van Bebber maintains the World Arch Database, a subscription based catalog of natural arches throughout the world. If you are interested in arches you should subscribe. Highly recommended. Tom also indicated they found several other new arches in the area. I do not have details yet.
I recently visited Vermilion Arch, a beautiful alcove arch sitting just below the rim of Vermilion Cliffs. If you have a spare morning while in the area I suggest you visit it together with Double Barrel Arch. The off-trail hike to Vermilion Arch is about a mile one way, but the terrain is difficult and route finding will take some time. Like Dick's Arch, I can pretty much guarantee you'll have Vermilion Arch to yourself. Images of Vermilion can be found here, and location / travel directions here.
We are happy to announce that HTTPS is now enabled on thewave.info. This protects the privacy of our readers and ensures the trustworthiness of our content. HTTPS encrypts traffic between your computer and thewave.info, and also validates that you are communicating with us. The transition should be seamless however if you encounter difficulties please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I probably missed come options. If you believe an additional option for improving the permit system is missing, please email me and I will review it and possibly add it to the poll's choices.
The old poll on visitor safety has had over 5000 responses and is still open. The poll will close shortly. If you wish to vote the poll can be found at http://poll.pollcode.com/l23ni_result? . One third of this poll's respondents believe that the best way to improve safety is to let more visitors in (safety in numbers). Nearly 25% believe increasing the number of trail markers is the way to go.
I have added several images taken during a recent trip to Coyote Buttes South. New images include an area I've called The Southern Wave, as it bears a strong resemblance to the entrance to The Wave. The detail in the sandstone is also quite similar to that of The Wave. Of course The Wave has many features that the Southern Wave lacks, for example the "Wave Slot Canyon". The Southern Wave has one major advantage though; if you plan ahead you can normally get permits. To get a permit for Coyote Buttes South apply three months in advance within minutes of the date and time the permit calendar opens. For example for a September permit you would apply via the calendar just after 12:00 PM on June 1st. Alternatively you can normally get a permit via the walk-in lottery held at 10 AM Mountain Time in Kanab the day before you wish to hike in.
I have also added some photos of the dinosaur track found near The Southern Wave. I believe it is within ten feet of 36.964075°, -111.990083°. One of the images shows the track in its setting which should make it easy to find.
For some of the locations covered on this website (Coyote Buttes North, South, and The White Pocket) I've expanded the Maps section to include a Photo Map. Photo Maps show the location of each geocoded photo on a Google map. The Photo Map also includes latitude/ longitude, date and time the photo was taken, and in some cases the focal length of the lens used. Photo maps are useful in that they show the areas on the map I have found most productive, areas that might be worth further exploration, they help to identify photos with incorrect geocoding, and are an easy way to get latitude/longitude and time of day information.
When using the Photo Maps keep in mind that GPS accuracy is typically between ten and twenty feet, and could be much worse. Areas where GPS accuracy is sometimes poor include forested areas, alcoves, near cliffs, and in slot canyons. The GPS accuracy of your own phone or GPS device is probably about the same thereby compounding the error. Most of the photos (greater than 90%) on my site taken in the last five years include geocoding. Older photos may not and will not appear on the Photo Map. Finally Photo Maps are relatively large and will take ten seconds to load even on fast connections.
In mid-March I spent a week on a photo tour in Northern Alaska photographing the aurora. The photo tour was expertly led by Patrick Endres. Unfortunately the tour was the last offered by Patrick, however he has authored an e-book "How to Photograph the Northern Lights" which I strongly recommend. Shooting the Northern Lights is a challenge. March is one of the clearest months in Northern Alaska and the aurora is at peak. Above the Arctic Circle it can be seen almost every night when clear skies are present. Unfortunately night-time temperatures of -10°F to -30°F are common. The lowest temperature reached on our trip was -29°F. We were shooting on snow or ice between 10 PM and 4 AM the entire trip, and with gloves or mittens on. At these temperatures frostbite is a major issue, and cars and cameras break down. Camera battery life is short, and if you breathe on your LCD or viewfinder it frosts up. You are shooting at night so you need fast wide lenses (no slower than f/2.8), high ISO (typically 1600 to 6400), and long exposures. Exposure times ran from 2 seconds for quickly changing or bright auroras, to 30 seconds for dimmer ones. Fortunately we were blessed with clear skies and a moderately active aurora every night of our trip.
I've added a gallery of images from the trip here. Two timelapses are included in the gallery, the first was ended prematurely when a rare truck approached us on the Dalton Highway, and the second shows how light from the aurora changes foreground brightness.
Charleston, South Carolina is known for its lavish history, its unspoiled architecture, its good food, and its friendly people. It is a very popular tourist destination, especially during early spring when the azaleas are in bloom. In 2016 Charleston was ranked the "World's Best City" by Travel and Leisure magazine, and has been voted "America's Most Friendly City" on several occasions. If you're looking to expand your photography beyond the exotic and alien beauty of the southwest, Charleston is certainly worth a visit. I've added a gallery of images here, and a map showing suggested shooting locations here.
I've added maps of Denali National Park, the area along the Dalton Highway, and Banff and Jasper National Parks to the site. I've also updated the instructions on how to get your own free USGS and Canadian maps and convert them to mobile friendly formats:
I recently spent nearly three weeks on a photo tour of New Zealand South Island. The tour was guided by New Zealand natives Chris McLennan and Dean Fitzpatrick whom I highly recommend. New Zealand is a land of contrasts from temperate rain forests to deserted beaches to the frigid highlands. Despite largely cloudy and rainy days many good images were obtained. A gallery of images can be found here.
Sedona is one of the premier hiking and mountain biking destinations in the southwest. For those planning a visit I have added KML and GPX files for over 100 Sedona hikes to the Sedona maps page. The files can be downloaded to your GPS or phone and used to help navigate while hiking.
Aztec, New Mexico is the home of Aztec Ruins National Monument, a 450 room ancient pueblo site. Aztec Ruins is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, of which there are only 21 in the United States. The Aztec area is also home to over 300 arches, perhaps the largest concentration of arches in the US outside of Arches National Park. If you are visiting the four corners area Aztec merits a stop, perhaps in combination with the Bisti Badlands, the Durango area, or Mesa Verde. A gallery of images from the Aztec area can be found here, and maps, directions, and photo tips can be found here.
I've added a gallery of images of raptors including Barn, Eagle, Western Screech, and Saw-whet Owls, a Peregrine Falcon, and a Harris's Hawk in flight. Images were shot at Arizona's Raptor Experience in Chino Valley. Most images were shot with a 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens. Subject distance was about 30 feet, f/8, ISO 800. Shutter speeds ranged between 1/1250 and 1/2000 of a second, needed to freeze the motion of the high speed hawk. Leg bands and tracking transmitters were removed from some of the images using Photoshop.
Strange but true, a new arch with a span probably exceeding 40 feet was reported just 2/3 of a mile from The Wave. Dick Kent, of Centennial, Colorado recently sent me an image of the arch together with the 1996 trip log from his visit to the arch. The arch appears to be unreported, at least to me and many of my friends. The arch is quite elegant and reminds me of Cobra Arch, but is larger. I assigned the arch an identification number (NABSQNO) of 12S-409531-4095398 based on its UTM coordinates. The top of the arch can be seen in Google Earth. Despite being less than a mile from The Wave I believe the arch was unknown because access requires hiking up the apparently uninteresting wash you cross on the way to The Wave, and gaining 600 feet of elevation, all off-trail and mostly in sand. The arch can only be seen when you’ve hiked to within 200 feet of it.
While the official designation of the newly reported arch is 12S-409531-4095398, I refer to it as Dicks Arch for its discoverer. The area around the arch is quite photogenic and contains a great deal of "lace" rock. Unfortunately Dicks Arch only gets good light mid-day. I am not sure if the arch is in the Coyote Buttes North Permit area. The arch can be accessed from the top of the "sage field" that is crossed on the way to the Wave. Once on top of the sage field proceed due south for about 1.5 miles to the arch at 37.00038, -112.01676. A kml file of my track can be downloaded here and a GPX file here. The hike to Dicks Arch is about 2.5 miles one way, and is largely off-trail over rough terrain. Elevation gain is 700 feet from the WP trailhead. The hike is significantly more difficult than the hike to The Wave, and should only be undertaken by experienced off-trail hikers. Strong hikers may wish to explore the area around the arch more thoroughly, and may be able to gain the ridge that overlooks The Wave from the west. The view to the east from this ridge should be spectacular. Because the area is so remote there is a good chance you will see wildlife, I briefly saw a herd of mule deer near the arch. While I often see deer on House Rock Road, I have never seen deer near The Wave before.
More images of the new arch can be found here.
Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower 48 states. It is my favorite winter US destination with pleasant temperatures and easy hiking. Many of the best photo opportunities in Death Valley require only short hikes. These include the Mesquite Dunes, The Racetrack, Zabriskie Point, and Badwater. Death Valley's Furnace Creek area is only about two hours from Las Vegas, and Stovepipe Wells is only four hours from Los Angeles. There are three lodges within the park and many campgrounds. This makes it easy to stay within Death Valley most of the year. Exceptions include holiday weekends, and during rare "superblooms" of wildflowers. In short, Death Valley is an easy park to visit with short hikes, pleasant temperatures, and many great photos to be had. And Rhyolite ghost town and the Alabama Hills are less than 90 scenic minutes away. If you haven't visited Death Valley give it a try this fall or winter, you'll be glad you did.
I rarely get my best photos the first time I visit an area, and often even the second isn't productive. Recently I visited High Heel Arch for the third time. This arch is best late afternoon and near the summer solstice, so I planned my trip accordingly. I went on August 5th, a day with good clouds. High Heel Arch suffered a partial collapse in 2014 which greatly improved its looks. Its best side faces north-northeast and the arch should be visited as close to the summer solstice as possible. The arch looks very fragile and I expect it will not last much longer. A gallery of images can be found here. High Heel Arch is about 1/4 mile outside the Coyote Buttes North permit area, and can be visited at any time. Directions to the arch can be found on my Coyote Buttes North maps page.
In the same vein, I visited Margaret Arch for a third time a few weeks ago. I stayed to sunset and hiked out in the dark. Margaret gets light until about ten minutes before sunset, and, like White Mesa Arch at sunrise, gets a beautiful rosy color then. Images of Margaret can be found here.
Last but not least, I've made a few miscellaneous enhancements to the site. First, a small map appears on each gallery page showing where the photos were shot. Since GPS accuracy is typically 10-30 feet do not expect perfection, but the map should give you a good idea where each photo was taken. Second, I've added the time an image was shot to the photo data. For most photos time is given in Universal Time (UT), formerly known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). UT is seven hours ahead of Arizona time all year round, so if the photo data shows a time of 00:40:56 it means 40 minutes, 56 seconds after midnight in Greenwich, England, or about 5:41 PM in Arizona. Since I only started setting my camera's clock to UT in 2012, only rely on the reported time for photos taken since then.
View from North Caineville Mesa Trail
Skyline View at Sunset
Long Dong Silver Early Morning
Mars Desert Research Station Badlands
Little Wild Horse Canyon
Water Pool near The Wave
The Wave's South Wall
Half a Hamburger Rock
Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon
Closed Area viewed from the Power Lines
North Teepees Vortex aka Pete's Pit
Sandstone Detail at The North Teepees
Secret Passage Slot Canyon
North Teepees Vortex
Wave Slot Canyon Vortex
Ginger Rock Vortex
The Second Wave at sunset
The Alcove on Top Rock
Melody Arch and The Grotto
Saguaro National Park
Mission San Xavier del Bac
Tucson Botanical Gardens
Double Barrel Arch
Entrance to The Wave
Southern Wave Sandstone Detail
Wave Sandstone Detail
Wave Slot Canyon
Northern Alaska Aurora
Nathaniel Russell House spiral staircase
Tasman Lake Outlet
Aztec Ruins Great Kiva
Cox Canyon Arch at Sunset
Badwater Salt Ridges
High Heel Arch
The Classic Wave
Looking North at Dusk
Under that Serious Moonlight
Eye of The Wave
Slot Canyon Reflection
Cottonwood Cove Storm
Coyote Buttes South
The Second Tree
Blue Hour at The White Pocket
Delta Pool at The White Pocket
North end of The Monolith
The Fire Wave
The New Wave
Bar in the American Hotel
The Poker Room in the American Hotel
Bottles in the Cerro Gordo Museum
DOF Easy for iOS
West Clark Bench Arch
Kirkjufellfoss Image By Anjali Kiggal [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons.
Hvitserkur Offshore Rock
Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon
City of Rocks
Palouse Wind Turbines
Tennessee Flat Rd Lone Tree
Leaning Schoolhouse on Fugate Rd
The third bend after sunset
The first bend at sunset
False Kiva Panorama
Highway 89 Sinkhole
Lace Rock near The Boneyard
Leading Lines at Sand Cove
Last light on The Second Wave
Wide-angle view of The Wave
The Wave Startrail
The view north from The Wave at dusk
The Wave slot canyon soft sediment deformation
Canyon X Floor
Wind Pebble Canyon Slot 2
Wind Pebble Light Chamber