This from the Arizona Dept of Transportation - "Two years after a landslide ripped apart a 500-foot section of US 89 and split the communities of Bitter Springs and Page, the Arizona Department of Transportation anticipates reopening the highway to traffic on the afternoon of Friday, March 27, barring any potential weather delays or mechanical breakdowns during the paving process, which began today."
Google Earth Pro licenses, formerly $395 per annum, are now free. Google Earth Pro can be freely downloaded here. During installation you will be asked for a username and license key. Use your email address and the key GEPFREE to sign in. One of the features in Google Earth Pro that was not in Google Earth is the ability to make aerial movies from folders and tracks. I've created medium (864x480) and high resolution (1080p 30fps) videos showing the hike from the Wirepass trailhead to The Wave so that hikers can get some idea of the terrain they will be traversing. The medium resolution version is on the maps page and the high resolution version can be downloaded by right clicking here. I've also added a tutorial showing how to create a smooth video from any GPS track.
Wupatki National Monument contains a number of 800-1000 year old ruins. The ruins photograph well and Wupatki gets good light year round making it an excellent destination for photographers. Wupatki is a better sunrise than sunset destination, especially in the winter months when the red rock of the ruins contrasts well with the snow on Mount Humphreys. I've added a gallery of Wupatki images here, and a map showing the locations of the six ruins open to the public here.
The Hopi Clown is a rarely photographed rock formation in Tohachi Wash, about 20 miles northeast of Wupatki National Monument. Tohachi Wash is in the southern section of the Adeii Eichii Cliffs, an area also known as Red Rock Cliffs. A Navajo Nation permit is required to visit the Hopi Clown.
The Red Rock Cliffs area is very remote and there are no named roads within fifteen miles of it. To get there you'll needs a high clearance 4WD vehicle. I suggest you go in with more than one vehicle and do not drive in or leave at night. I've added the Hopi Clown to my gallery of Adeii Eichii images here, and travel directions to my Adeii Eichii map here. As far as I know this website is the first English language site with travel directions to the clown.
When in the vicinity of the Hopi Clown you should also explore/shoot the cliffs and formations surrounding Tohachi Wash. You could also shoot either Wupatki NM or Grand Falls depending on how you come in.
Many thanks again to my Belgian friend Rudi who provided me with GPS coordinates. I would never have found it without his help.
Update - I recently received an email which indicated that a gate on the road to Tohachi Wash will be locked going forward, and that the local leaseholder will post no trespassing signs shortly. For now the Hopi Clown is off limits.
White Sands National Monument contains the largest gypsum dune field in the world - 275 square miles. It is located in southcentral New Mexico and is less than two hours from El Paso, Texas by car. White Sands gets nearly 600,000 visitors every year and is very popular in the spring and summer months. Unlike the other major US sand dune fields ( Great Sand Dunes National Park and Death Valley NP), the sand in White Sands is perfectly white and very fine grained. Vegetation (grasses, yuccas, and occasional Cottonwoods) is common throughout much of the park and adds considerably to White Sands photographic appeal. I recently spent several days in the park photographing the cottonwood trees and yuccas and came away with many good images. I've added a gallery of images to this site here, and a map and some tips on photographing the park here.
With over two million visitors a year, it's hard to call Lake Powell a secret. However despite its dazzling beauty few professional photographers go out on the lake and shoot it. Gary Ladd, a resident of Page since 1981 and a well known Arizona Highways photographer, is one of those who regularly do so. When I found out he was leading a week tour of the lake this past October I booked it immediately. Despite imperfect weather I got some magnificent photos and had a great time during the week I spent on the lake.
The Lake offers almost everything a desert
rat (photographer) could hope for: great crossbedding, weathering pits, slot canyons, waterfalls, alcoves, arches, magnificent backgrounds, and, of course, the lake itself with its ephemeral reflections and wakes, and its often green hue. The locations we shot at on the Lake are indeed secrets known to just a few, lasting only as long as water levels allow. I've included some images shot on the tour here, and maps and descriptions of the locations we visited here.
Horizon Arch is a photogenic arch close to the town of Escalante, Utah. The arch is also known as Kissing Dragons Arch. Visiting the arch requires a five-seven mile off-trail hike where the mileage depends on whether your vehicle can reach the closer trailhead. Good navigation and route finding skills are needed. I've added a gallery of images here, and maps and directions to the arch here. The arch is best shot at sunset and is worth visiting if you are in the Escalante area.
Many thanks to Michael Haudek who provided me with excellent directions to the arch. His website contains directions in German and some good photos of the area.
October is perhaps the best month in which to visit the Southwest; temperatures are pleasant, and the aspen and cottonwoods are changing. I spent a few days in Escalante the first week of October revisiting Dance Hall Rock, and shooting Sunset and Moonrise arches. It was too early in October for the cottonwoods on Dance Hall Rock to change color but I did get a few good images. Sunset and Moonrise arches are only a few miles from Dance Hall Rock. The iconic shot of Sunset Arch frames Navajo Mountain, shooting the arch from the other side yields a nice sunburst. Moonrise arch frames the full moon at sunset. I was there a few days before the full moon but still got a reasonable image. I've added directions to both arches here, and some images here. Finally I revisited Balancing Rock near Boulder. I shot this last year mid day, sunset yields much better color. The shadow of the hoodoo was not optimal in early October, spring or summer would be better.
Google recently introduced a new version of Google Maps, called My Maps. The old version of Google Maps ("Classic") is being discontinued. My Maps offers several advantages over "Classic" Maps including layers and improved stability. In view of this change all of the maps on this site have been migrated to "My Maps'. Other enhancements to this site include:
Just outside Grand Canyon National Park there is a largely unknown overlook of the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers. The view of The Confluence is as good as any in Grand Canyon National Park proper with one key difference, you will probably have the overlook all to yourself. You can camp right at the overlook on the rim of the Grand Canyon with the Colorado river visible 3,500 feet below. The viewpoint lies in the Navajo Nation and a $12 permit is needed to visit it. The viewpoint is the future site of the controversial "Escalade" project should it be approved and make its way through the courts, so I suggest you visit it now before construction begins.
I've added many images taken from the overlook here, and a map and directions here. A 4x4 and good navigation skills are needed to traverse the thirty offroad miles to the overlook. No hiking required.
Highly recommended, see it now!
I recently visited two spectacular arches in the Hanksville area that are rarely photographed despite their beauty. Both are moderately difficult to get to. The first is Arsenic Arch located about twenty miles south of Hanksville. It's best at sunset and can be combined with a trip to Little Egypt which is nearby and great at sunrise. The drive to Arsenic is easy but the hike, while not difficult, is off trail and requires good navigation skills. I've added a map with good directions to the arch. You'll probably have the arch to yourself, and the hike is fun. A small camping area with room for two cars is close by, again you'd probably have this to yourself.
The second arch is Colonnade Arch located in an alcove west of the Maze district of Canyonlands NP. The arch is also known as Five Hole Arch since it has three outward facing openings, and two openings in its roof. The arch overlooks the Green River and Canyonlands NP can be seen to its east. The arch is best at sunrise when it gets good reflected light and capturing a sunburst is possible for most of the year. It is fairly difficult to get to this arch as it is forty miles over a good dirt road from the nearest highway. A one mile off trail hike over varied terrain is also required. Getting to the arch for sunrise would be difficult unless you camp at the trailhead and scout out the hike the prior evening, or camp near the arch. Please do not camp in the arch!
I've added many new images from a recent trip to The Bisti Badlands. Most of the images are from the northern section of the Bisti. This area includes The Bisti Wings which is perhaps the most photogenic area in the Bisti. The Wings are well photographed at sunrise, sunset, the blue hour, or during the night. Shoot either from overlooks to their east, or up close with a wide angle lens. At night The Wings provide good foreground for The Milky Way to the east, and can also be used as foreground for star trails. Normal access is via a two mile one way hike starting at the main Bisti parking lot, however shorter and easier access is possible from the Bisti north parking area. I've updated the Bisti map to show my GPS tracks from both parking areas.
I've added a gallery of images from Coal Mine Canyon, a scenic area near Tuba City in Arizona. Coal Mine Canyon is a good summer destination since hiking is minimal and it is at 5,800 feet. I've also added a map with directions on how to get there. A Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation permit is needed to visit the rim of Coal Mine Canyon, see the maps page for information on how to obtain one. The Navajo Nation recently increased hiking fees substantially, from $5 pp per day, to $12 pp per day. The permit is valid for a full 24 hours from first use, so backpacking and camping are now included in the fee.
Finally, access to White Mesa Arch is no longer allowed and Navajo permits for this area will no longer be issued. White Mesa Arch is part of the Kaibeto Chapter community which prohibits hiking and camping throughout the entire area under its jurisdiction.
Richard Ong, the 62 year old hiker recently rescued near The Wave, is recovering from his injuries. Richard was discovered near the Notch trail, an alternative route to The Wave. Since Richard's car was parked at the Wirepass Trailhead which is over a mile from the Notch trailhead it is possible he made a wrong turn on his way back to his car. More information and some good tips on safety can be found in this article from the St George News.
A 62 year old man was rescued on Sunday after falling from a cliff south of The Wave. The victim had a permit to visit the area on Friday. On Saturday a BLM ranger noticed his car still at the trailhead and contacted his wife who said she hadn't heard from him. At dawn on Sunday searchers combed the area on foot and horse back. The victim was found by a searcher approaching The Wave from the south. The man suffers from diabetes and is in intensive care in an area hospital. More information is available in this Salt Lake Tribune article.
I've updated several of the galleries on the site. New images taken at Coyote Buttes North, the White Pocket, Studhorse Point, Rhyolite, and Horseshoe Bend were added. The Coyote Buttes North area includes new images of The Wave and several images taken atop the cliffs in the upper west part of the CBN permit area. This area is rarely visited and contains a great deal of Lace Rock. The fins on lace rock are typically less than 1 cm thick and break very easily, please tread carefully.
Startrails taken at the Boneyard, Sand Hills, the Lace Rock area, Studhorse Point, and Rhyolite were added as were timelapse videos made at The White Pocket, Rhyolite, and Studhorse Point. Timelapses were generated using the excellent program LRTimelapse.
Finally I've updated the Coyote Buttes North map section to include GPS tracks from some recent visits, and to include the location of the beautiful Hourglass Arch on Top Rock.
I've added a gallery of images taken at the Adeii Eichii Cliffs. This area, just east of Cameron, Arizona, is rarely visited. It is part of the Navajo Nation and an easily acquired permit is needed to visit it. The region has many red and white striped hoodoos and the rock formations remind me of those in Blue Canyon. The Adeii Eichii Cliffs are virtually unknown to photographers in the US. There is some information on EU websites in the Dutch, German and French languages. My thanks go to my Belgian friend Rudi for drawing my attention to the area, and for translating some of the material available overseas.
The Adeii Eichii Cliffs are quite difficult to find and there has been some trouble with local homeowners in the past so I suggest you read the information on the maps page carefully before planning a trip there.
I recently received one year of data from the BLM showing the number of people applying at the walk in lottery in Kanab. The Permit Information page on this site contains the data and an analysis of the best/worst times to apply. Here is a brief summary showing the number of walk in applicants by month:
|Month||AvgApplicants||Std Dev||Min Applicants|
As can be seen, if you apply in January you have an excellent chance of getting a permit.
If you've been frustrated by the permit process you should visit the link above. The data should help you maximize or at least understand your chances of getting a permit.
I've added a small gallery of images from Sedona, my home town. Sedona's many houses often work their way into your pictures, but good images can be had if you know where to go. GPS coordinates are included for most of the pictures in the gallery. Click on the camera icon below the image to get the latitude / longitude, or the marker icon to see where the image was shot on a map. The icons are circled below. The date and time the image was taken is also available, note that times are given in the Greenwich (UTC/GMT) time zone. Arizona times are always seven hours earlier than GMT times, i.e. noon GMT is 5 AM in Arizona.
If you've driven Highway 12 from Bryce or Escalante to Capitol Reef you may have noticed a small hoodoo about one mile west of the ranching town of Boulder. Or you may have seen it on page 121 of Laurent Martres excellent book "Photographing the Southwest Volume 1 - Utah". This hoodoo is named "Balancing Rock", and it appears on the Boulder Town USGS 24K topo map. I finally got a chance to visit the hoodoo recently. I have posted a few images and directions on this site. I visited "Balancing Rock" at noon, hardly the best time to photograph it. Photos would be much better at sunset, or even at night if you're willing to hike down the steep terrain in the dark. This hoodoo is spectacular and well worth a visit if you're in the Boulder area.
I've created a community on Google+ called The Wave. This community is for sharing images and information about The Wave and surrounding area. Posts might include trip reports or information on road conditions, trail conditions, safety, whether water or snow was present, and how many people were at the walk-in lottery, for example. If you haven't already done so I suggest you join Google+. This can be done at http://www.plus.google.com. After you have done so please join the public community The Wave. Once you have a Google+ account you can join a community by following the instructions here. Before posting to The Wave please read the rules on the right side of the communities home page.
Please join the community and post your images. I'd love to see them.
You can also follow my personal posts by clicking on the button on the right side of the menu above.
I recently visited this area and had breathtaking conditions right at sunset. I've never seen the Control Tower in better light. The Control Tower is also a good destination for star trails photography as the best view is towards the north, and the hoodoo is relatively close to the Cottonwood Cove parking area. I have added and reprocessed many of the images in the Coyote Buttes South Gallery. The Coyote Buttes South map has undergone a major revision and now supports layers. This new feature makes it easy to view only the areas and roads of interest on the map.
Dance Hall Rock is a superb destination in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Little hiking is needed to get some great photos in the summer when dramatic skies are present, and in October when the cottonwoods change color. I've added a gallery here, and maps and some tips on photographing the area here.
If you are in the Bryce area and looking for something a little different you might try the Twentymile Wash Tracksite. This site contains over 1,000 tracks in a beautiful environment of Entrada sandstone. I suggest you visit the tracksite in mid afternoon, and then go to nearby Devil's Garden to shoot sunset. I've added a small gallery of images from the tracksite here, and travel directions here.
Apparently the Coyote Buttes law enforcement ranger has been very active in giving out fines. Here's some information posted on backcountrypost.com:
“I talked to someone at Paria Outfitters about how heavily patrolled House Rock Valley Road is. They said that the ranger who checks permits was not furloughed and that he is catching people poaching the Wave. One of them received a $1200 fine.”
Apparently $1,200 is the standard fine. Forewarned is forearmed.
Thanks Bill for the updated information.
Here's a paraphrased update I received from Lance.
"We hiked The Wave on Oct. 4, 2013. We had four permits from the web lottery run four months prior to hike. We met a ranger when we arrived at the parking lot, who said because those permits were issued prior to shutdown, they are valid and hiking The Wave is allowed with them. He said self-service day use areas are officially closed as are all other hikes where permits are to be picked up at the office. He drove off as we were heading down the wash, and obviously wasn't there the rest of the day, as within a few hours we saw at least 30 people hiking the same trail, and the parking lot was overflowing when we returned. The ranger also mentioned the significant fines for hiking without a permit."
This confirms what I indicated earlier - Coyote Buttes North and South are open if you already have a permit. Note also that since day use of Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch require a fee to be paid at the trailhead they are closed.
Thank you very much Lance.
I've updated the Sand Hill section of the site with two new locations. The first is an overlook of Wrather Arch, considered the least accessible of the major US arches. The second is Soap Creek Tanks. This is an area of multicolored brain rock near the SE corner of Vermilion Cliffs. Soap Creek Tanks is full of spotted rocks, I have never similar rocks elsewhere. I've also added topo maps covering Sand Hills and Vermilion Cliffs in Geotiff, KMZ overlay, and Oruxmap formats.
I have contacted several sources in Kanab and have received conflicting information about whether existing permits for Coyote Buttes are valid. My best information, coming from the Kane County Visitor Center, is that if you have a permit it is valid. Lottery permits and walk-in permits are not being issued at this time.
I have heard indirectly from a local guide that there were 50 people at The Wave yesterday. Going to The Wave without a permit is illegal. Law enforcement is one of the areas that the BLM and NPS have not completely shut down, and fines for entering Coyote Buttes without a permit are substantial.
If anyone has further information about whether the area is closed, or can provide information about visitation or conditions at The Wave, please email me and I will update this post. I would especially like to hear from someone in the BLM with definitive information.
I've added a downloadable screensaver / desktop wallpaper to the site. The wallpaper consists of 18 of my favorite White Pocket images. The images were resized and cropped to fit most common screen sizes. The images and installation instructions can be found here. A screensaver for Coyote Buttes North images will be forthcoming shortly.
Drivers headed to Page and the Lake Powell area this Labor Day weekend will have a shorter option when the Arizona Department of Transportation opens the newly paved Temporary US 89 route (US 89T) on Thursday, August 29, albeit with some restrictions. While the 27-mile paving operations have been completed, US 89T remains an active construction zone as crews continue to install right-of-way fencing along the corridor, which has a large amount of livestock. Until fencing is complete, US 89T will be open during daylight hours only (except for local residents) and there will be a 25 mph speed limit in place. When construction is complete, the speed limit will be raised and nighttime restrictions will be lifted. More information about this new route to Page can be found on the Arizona Dept. Of Transportation website.
An estimated 50% of 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 shoot The Wave itself. A gallery showing what I believe to be the classic images of The Wave is here, and below is a map of The Wave showing where these were taken. Click on any image in the map to zoom in.
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 as can be seen on the map above.
All of the above photos can be shot at night as well. Shoot startrails following the blue and red arrows, or the Milky Way following the green arrow on a moonless night. I have not yet shot the slot canyon at night but believe it would work well also.
Permits to The Wave are so hard to get that I'd suggest you shoot all of the above on your first trip. They can all be shot early morning to noon. In addition to these images there are many other possibilities, see my main Wave gallery for some ideas.
The BLM is currently considering additional measures to improve safety at The Wave. I've added a poll on the right showing some of the actions they might take. To vote in the poll please select one choice from the list of options. Each option has its pluses and minuses such as cost or difficulty to implement, effect on visitors or the environment, and whether the "wilderness experience" is preserved. If you "mouse-over" each option in the poll you'll get additional information about that option.
Please take the time to vote in the poll. If there are other options I have missed please add them in the comments section of the poll here.
The last poll is still available via the Polls tab above, or by clicking here. Based on that poll of 600 people who have been to The Wave about 40% visited The Second Wave, and about 20% visited other areas such as Top Rock, Melody Arch, Sand Cove, etc. Over 90% of the people who visited Top Rock found Melody Arch or The Alcove.
In yet another tragedy Elisabeth Ann Bervel died on her way back from the Wave on Monday July 22nd. She was hiking with her husband and collapsed shortly before 2 PM, probably due to heat exhaustion. Elisabeth is the mother of two and was 27 years old. The couple was hiking on their fifth wedding anniversary.
This is the third fatality this month at The Wave. As a result, the BLM is currently considering adding additional signs marking the way to The Wave, and making changes to the permit process so that people do not feel compelled to hike in on questionable days.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to Elisabeth's family for their sad loss.
Once again it's the time of the year to visit the White Pocket. It rained heavily on July 2nd and there was water everywhere. This led to some great photo ops, and some loud toad croaking. I've updated my gallery with many new images and included a new area that I hadn't visited before. The far north end of the White Pocket has a great many moqui marbles resting on coral colored polygonal cracks. This area is the best I've seen for photographing moqui marbles. It is illegal to remove the marbles. I've also added some images of The Milky Way and of some nearby petroglyphs. Water dries quickly in 100°F plus weather but I would expect there to be water in the deeper pools throughout the summer.
In another terrible tragedy Ulrich and Patricia Wahli apparently succumbed to temperatures that reached 106 degrees on Wednesday July 3rd. They had walk-in permits for The Wave and were found by other hikers early on July 4th. Cause of death is not fully known but is believed to be heat related.
Safety - If you must go into The Wave at this time of year go in early. Leave your car no later than sunrise and preferably a bit earlier. You should be out of the area by 11 AM at the latest. On July 3rd it was still over 100 degrees at 7 PM. Going in late is not a good option. You'll also need more than the normal recommendation of four quarts of water, up to nine! may be needed. Electrolyte drinks are preferable to water. Avoid caffeine. There is no shelter on the way to/from The Wave, you may want to bring a Mylar space blanket to create a temporary one, reflective side up. A PLB or satellite phone may also help but remember, emergency help is at least 1-2 hours away and you can die of heat stroke very quickly after symptoms are recognized.
I've added a gallery of pictures from the Paria Movie Set, a very scenic location known for the movies that were shot there, and for the Chinle formation present throughout the area. To get to the movie set proceed to milepost 30.6 on highway 89, then turn north on the signed dirt road 4.6 miles. The road continues in one form or another all the way to the Paria river. It is illegal to drive across the river to get to the other side. There are a small number of ruins on the north side of the river, and some abandoned gold mines which were never productive. 4 wheel drive is suggested, and the road is impassable/dangerous when wet. The most famous movie shot there is the movie "The Outlaw Josey Wales" directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.
In the same gallery there are close-ups of Chinle formation shot on the east side of House Rock Road. Access is via short hike starting 12 miles from the intersection of House Rock Road and Highway 89, take the left immediately before the hill and park just before the wash.
I've added some images and information on Alstrom Point. Alstrom Point is an overlook on the north side of Lake Powell. It is generally regarded as the best overlook of the lake, and is best at sunset. A high clearance vehicle is required to visit it. It is a great destination for sunset shots, in the winter, full moon shots, and for panoramas. It is about 90 minutes from Page. The last few miles of the road can be hard to follow, so I suggest you visit the maps page and download the route before visiting the point.
Jessica Fridrich, a professor at Binghamton University in New York, sent me this article which discusses how The Wave was formed. In short, The Wave and surrounding area was sculpted by wind, not water. Much of the article is beyond my abilities, but I did find the diagrams on p 174 of value. Diagram "A" shows the prevailing wind direction over Coyote Buttes North. It also shows the location of three "scour pits", all on Top Rock. The northern most scour pit is "The Alcove", the middle is the smaller depression just south of The Alcove at the same elevation, and the southern most one is at Melody Arch. Diagram B shows the flow of wind through The Wave. Diagram C shows the volume of sand moved by the winds in the area. Note that sand moving winds largely come form the SSW, and almost never from the East or North. Diagram D shows how the sand dunes in Sand Cove below "The Boneyard" were formed by an eddy. The eddy is created by the headwall on the east side of Sand Cove.
Jessica also passed along a superb photo
she took at "The Wave" in August. Double click the photo for a larger version. Conditions appear to be about as good as it gets at The Wave, good sky, lots of water (it looks as though you would get your feet wet walking into The Wave), and calm winds. The large amount of water and the calm winds allowed for a "double reflection" - beautifully done. I have only been to The Wave once when there was that much water present. On that occasion in late afternoon I could hear male toads croaking for females right at The Wave.
Hiking in the Southwest during July and August can be challenging. You need to carry lots of water, rest often, and be prepared to find shelter or retreat should a thunderstorm approach. But the rewards can be great: water filled potholes teem with tadpoles and fairy shrimp, skies are dramatic, and lightning and rainbows are frequent. Nights can be very pleasant so the summer is an excellent time to photograph startrails and starpoints. The Milky Way is at its peak in the northern hemisphere in July and August.
So what do I shoot in the summer? I shoot destinations which require little hiking. The White Pocket is my favorite August destination. This past August I was there for just one day, but, like last year, I got great images at both sunrise and sunset with minimal effort. This year there wasn't as much water as in 2011, but the potholes were still full enough to provide good reflections. It rained briefly when I was there producing some double rainbows, and a semicircular one. The rainbows were present for over an hour. Even faint rainbows can be easily enhanced using the saturation adjustment brush in Lightroom. Or you can use a digital rainbow filter, e.g. the one in Tiffen DFX, to produce your own rainbow when there were none. I also saw a beautiful rainbow at the Paria movie set just after sunrise.
I've added about 25 images to the White Pocket gallery. Two are of note: The first was shot about 20 minutes after sunset (the "blue hour"). Since is only a half mile back to your car it's easy to shoot this late at The White Pocket. The second is a sunrise reflection of the White Pocket Monolith in the stock pond on the western edge of the pocket. This pond usually has water in it.
I've added a Road Conditions link to the information menu above. On the linked site you'll find House Rock Road near the bottom. Take the information about road conditions on the linked site with a large grain of salt:
I've added additional options to the Maps pages on this site so that you can view either the Google or Bing Map of the area. This was done since in several cases (Sand Hills and Monument Valley) the Google map was partially obscured by snow or cloud cover and unusable. For example - the best known formation in Monument Valley - the Mittens - is totally covered by clouds on the Google map of the area. So far I haven't found any Bing maps where substantial portions are covered by clouds. Bing Maps also seem to have a bit more resolution. Here is a sample Bing map of Coyote Buttes South and Sand Hills. For comparison here is the same map in Google Maps. Zooming in on the lower right section of the map will make the differences clear.
I've also added an option so that you can easily download a KML file which includes the waypoints, tracks, and routes that appear on the map. KML files can be converted to GPX (Garmin format) files using GPSBabel if needed. You can convert KML routes to GPX tracks or KML tracks to GPX routes using GPSBabel as well. This may be needed so that the GPX file can be viewed on your GPS, tablet, or phone.
White Mesa Arch is a superb destination in the Navajo Nation. The arch is very large with a span of 53 feet and a height of 84 feet. It is easily seen from Highway 160. The arch is best photographed within ten minutes of sunrise all year round. There are wonderful leading lines on its eastern side. I've added a gallery of images taken at dawn and a much needed map with directions and GPS coordinates to help get you there. A permit is required to visit the arch.
On May 20 a rare annular solar eclipse will occur at the Wave. These events are indeed very rare, the next annular eclipse at the Wave doesn't occur until 2238! I've included some suggested locations and shooting tips here.
Good luck and most of all enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.
In mid January I had a walk-in one day permit for Coyote Buttes North. Walk-in permits are fairly easy to get in January. I went to the Kanab GSENM visitor center on a Friday so permits for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were available for the lottery. There were only 15 people present at 9AM when the walk-in lottery is normally held. With 30 permits available no lottery was needed and many permits went unused. In addition there were same day permits available for Friday since the ten walk-in permits from Thursday had not been used. January is not the best time to visit the area since snow can make both road access and hiking difficult, but you can usually get permits. If you can go on short notice check the weather forecast and check if it has snowed recently, if conditions are good go! It had snowed about four inches in the area on Tuesday so House Rock Road was in poor condition. It was passable if you went in early in the day when the surface was frozen, and drove out well after sunset when it refroze. Hiking was easy as most of the snow had melted. North facing slopes were sometimes impassable.
Saturday was largely clear and I got some good photos. There was a little (less than one inch of) water at the Wave which surprisingly led to some nice reflections. I should have arrived at the Wave a bit earlier (9-10 AM) so that the South wall would be in Sun, another reason to go again!
I also visited Top Rock Arch at sunset. It had a nice glow and very good light even in January when the Sun is well to the south. The Sun set over "The Notch" and could be barely seen from the arch. I expect that sunset photos of the Top Rock Arch would be much better in March or April when the setting sun would be more centered in the arch and the arch more evenly lit. Do not shoot Top Rock Arch at sunset if you are not prepared to hike out in the dark, I only got back to my car 2-3 hours after the sun had set. There was a fatality last year when someone hiked out after sunset.
I've updated these galleries with new images from recent trips. Some of the new images include:
I've also provided high resolution USGS 24K topo maps for Arches and Canyonlands - you can download them freely from this site. I've updated the Coyote Buttes map page as well to include higher resolution topo maps.
A California hiker apparently lost his way coming back from the Wave in the dark and fell 100 feet into Buckskin Gulch. Bo Tian, 36, of San Jose, California had a permit to hike The Wave. He was last seen at The Wave near dusk on the night of July 23. It is unknown whether he was doing some additional exploration of the area after visiting the Wave or was lost. It was reported that the flashlight he had with him did not work. Sunset was around 7:45 PM on the 23rd, and moonrise (waning quarter) was around midnight. It would have been too dark to hike without a flashlight after 9 PM on the evening of the 23rd.
Despite the fact that Buckskin Gulch is considered one of the most dangerous places to hike in the US this was the first fatality there.
Reminder - Safety first:
If you like photographing farm land, you'll love the Palouse. The Palouse is the most productive wheat growing area in the USA. It is full of rolling hills, old barns and grain elevators, rusting cars and farm equipment, crop dusters, and animals. Within an hour of arriving we saw mule and whitetail deer, porcupines, marmots, and a yellow crop duster. Rarely moose are seen! The Palouse is best visited during the months of June to August. In June you'll get rolling hills of green and Palouse Falls is near its best. In July the wheat is turning amber, and August is harvest time. We went in early July, however because of a cold wet spring, everything was about a month behind. The wheat was still green, the canola fields a spectacular yellow, and Palouse Falls still had very good flow. This trip was one of my most productive trips ever.
If you go to the Palouse I strongly recommend going with a local guide as the Palouse is over 3,000 square miles in size. While you can get many good images from the top of Steptoe Butte, from Palouse Falls, or just from driving the back roads, you'll do much better with someone local who knows where the old cars and barns are, and whether the barns are still standing, who knows the farmers and can get access to some of the properties, and who knows what farms look good at this time of this year. And remember, every year is different as farmers vary their planting and harvesting patterns. We went with photographer Jack Lien who, with his wife Barbara, has a beautifully set home in Colfax, the town closest to Steptoe Butte. Jack really knows and loves the area, and got us to the right locations at the right time. He works for reasonable rates and put in 10-12 hours each day with us. Jack is also a good teacher should need you need advice on composition or just how to work your camera. I highly recommend him!
We stayed in Colfax at the Best Western Wheatland Inn which we recommend. If you book a tour with Jack Lien you might be lucky enough to stay at his home, which he sometimes uses as a bed and breakfast for his students.
Other recommendations - Most of the land is private; please respect it. Do not walk in the wheat or other fields, or on fields freshly planted. Do not drive down private roads without permission. When you park on the side roads pull way over as farm equipment can be wide. Normally you do not need a 4x4 in the Palouse; most roads are paved or graveled and are well graded. Bring some long telephoto lenses. I found 300-500 mm got a lot of use on a full frame body. We photographed crop dusters, deer, owls, and eagles from a long distance, and 300mm works well from the top of Steptoe Butte. 150 -300 mms is needed to photograph some of the barns from the road. There can be a lot of haze, especially in the evening so bring a polarizer and/or a haze filter. Views from Steptoe Butte photograph better in the morning when there is less haze. Palouse Falls should be shot early to mid afternoon before a harsh shadow starts to creep across it. Finally, bring boots or non-mesh sneakers to walk in. I brought mesh sneakers with me and am still picking out the burrs.
I've added a gallery of images taken in Bodie, California and some recommendations on how to handle the unique shooting circumstances you'll find there. The best time of year to visit Bodie is in late September - mid October as the aspen in the Eastern Sierra's will be changing color then. Should you go to Bodie I highly recommend going on "Photographers Day" so that you can be there at sunrise and sunset. Bodie is a great place to visit if your visiting the Yosemite high country, the Eastern Sierra's, Mono Lake, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Death Valley, or the Alabama Hills.
This petroglyph is outside the permit area. It is one of the finest I have seen, and is in excellent condition. The BLM is considering a sign at the trailhead asking that you treat the petroglyph with respect and do not touch it. I will not provide GPS coordinates on my site pending this decision. In the interim if you ask at the Paria Ranger station they should provide directions, they have in the past. Or you can email me, just indicate in your email that you will not post coordinates on the web.
The Petroglyph is best photographed from midday to sunset. Shooting later in the day will give the best color, or use an Enhancing filter to bring out the red.
Although I had been given "permission" to post GPS coordinates for the Nautilus I recently received an email from the BLM asking nicely that I remove them from this site. The primary reason given was that the Nautilus is made of "Page" sandstone and would not survive extensive visitation. After some soul searching I have decided to follow the following policy -
1. I generally believe in the free distribution of location information.
2. I will comply with government requests to withhold coordinates from my site.
3. If someone gives me location information and explicitly asks that I withhold it I will do so.
4. I will include GPS coordinates in the exif of my photos whenever I have them, subject to the above.
I have therefore removed the coordinates/directions for the Nautilus from my site. If you need them email me and I will supply them provided you agree not to publish the coordinates on the web.
I have seen some posts recently where GPS coordinates were withheld even though the author had them. Two arguments were given for this - first, GPS coordinates are not needed since the route to the location is obvious. Second - the author believes that providing them is "dangerous", i.e. if you don't have good navigation skills you should not be relying on a GPS. I disagree. Even when a route is obvious in the daytime photographers often return to their car or go to the location well before sunrise or after sunset. A GPS can help here. Conditions also change - in Alaska I hiked over three miles in heavy fog navigating totally by GPS. The trail was obvious in good light but not in heavy fog. In emergency situations coordinates also allow one to reliably give rescuers good location information, and can help you take the shortest path to get help. GPS coordinates allow you to locate a destination on Google Earth, words do not if the trail is too small to be seen on the map. With GPS coordinates and tools like "The Photographer's Ephemeris" one can easily check whether the sun will hit a given location at sunrise or an hour later. A Google Earth map and location information also helps one search for alternate routes. GPS coordinates are also a "universal" language. For example, I don't read German. Even simple directions given on a German web site are, sometimes, just incomprehensible to me, even with Google translate.
Finally, some good news - I have added a few more images of the Nautilus taken under better conditions, the Black and White image below is an example. I will be adding some pictures of the "Maze" petroglyph in Coyote Buttes North to the site shortly as well.
Permits for the Wave are increasingly difficult to come by so if you get one you should plan your day carefully. Here is my recommendation for a relatively fit photographer who wants to hit most of the key areas in the best light. This advice is based on over 20 trips to Coyote Buttes North starting in 1998. 8 - 9 miles of relatively flat hiking are involved. There is some slight exposure during the scramble from Sand Cove up to the Second Wave. To shoot everything in best light will require getting back to your car after sunset so you'll need a headlamp.
This is a little known formation near the White House Campground. I've posted directions to and the GPS coordinates of "The Nautilus" (with permission - first time on web?). The photos in the gallery were taken midday and there were very harsh shadows, a very late day (reflected light) or cloudy day exposure should work much better.
I've also added some new photos of Toadstool Hoodoo taken late day in good light. By shooting very late in the day the white background goes into shadow and improves the images considerably. A red enhancing filter (either glass or digital) also helps.
Added some new photos of the White Pocket from a recent trip. If you are in the mood for an adventure here is one: While in the area I visited Hole in the Rock Arch . The arch is about two miles west of the White Pocket. It is rarely visited since the road to the arch is indistinct, sandy, and infrequently traveled. If you go to this arch make sure someone knows where you are going. If you get stuck or break down it could be days before you see another car. I would not go to the arch in the winter if there is snow. The arch was in poor light when I got there and wasn't very photogenic despite being made of Navajo sandstone. Visit the arch for the experience and not for the photos. It may be possible to ascend to the arch by going up the sand dune on its left; perhaps one can then find some good foreground closer to the arch. When I visited in August there were many wildflowers in the area..
I also added some nice images of Fatali's Boneyard to this page. Photographer Michael Fatali shot a superb image of the "Boneyard" at dawn. My picture to the right was shot late afternoon just before the area went into shadow. By shooting late afternoon the cliff in the back of the Boneyard is dark and provides good contrast to the boneyard itself.
Coming soon to this log - many more images of Coyote Buttes North taken during my last trip.
Added a gallery of 20 photos from the White Pocket taken in the last three years, and added White Pocket travel directions from Coyote Buttes South and from House Rock Road. Added a link to the Natural Arch and Bridge Societies List of US arches. The list includes Google maps of the arches in Utah and Arizona. In the Arizona section Top Rock Arch (NABSQNO 12S-410195-4094000) is misplaced. Melody Arch (NABSQNO 12S-410520-4094320) is called Joanne's arch and is a buttress natural arch eroded through Navajo sandstone. Vreeland listed Joanne's Arch as number 12-2 in his catalog and reported a span of 10 feet. The outer arch there is described as Danny's Arch and is a fin natural arch eroded through Navajo sandstone. Vreeland listed Danny's Arch as number 12-1 in his catalog and reported a span of 12 feet. The Utah map is missing what I call "Overlooked Arch", the 5238AT arch on the 24K topo map.
The story behind Edmaier's Secret- The story behind the pictures is perhaps more interesting than the photos. For some time I've been looking for areas to go to in the Arizona Strip (area of Arizona between the North rim of the Grand Canyon and Southern Utah) when I can't get a permit for the Wave. Wave permits are increasingly difficult to get. Thanks to Laurent Martres' books I've been to many of the (already obscure) areas in the strip such as the White Pocket, the Upper and Lower White Rocks, Yellow Rock, and Wahweap Wash. I wanted to see if I could find something on my own. So I started looking at Google Earth aerial maps for terrain which looks similar to that found in North and South Coyote Buttes. I found an area about five miles North of the Wave and East of Buckskin Gulch that looked interesting, the aerial photos showed that it had lots of "Brain" rocks. When I looked last December on the web in preparation for a January trip I couldn't get any info on the area, or find any photos. I never got there in January because the weather didn't cooperate on the day I planned to go. In March I decided to look at Google Earth again (for an April trip) and to my surprise I found a new "Panoramio" photo labeled "Edmaier's Secret". So I googled "Edmaier's Secret" and found that the area is just starting to become known (about 3 years now). As is so true of the Southwest, it was first photographed by a German photographer Bernhard Edmaier from a plane. A photo can be found in the book GeoArt authored by him, I haven't seen it. Another photographer named the area "Edmaier's Secret" because even having seen Edmaier's photo it is very difficult to find out where it was taken. Even Edmaier didn't know exactly!
Getting There - The normal route into "Edmaier's Secret" is from the Buckskin Gulch trailhead (four miles down House Rock Valley Rd.). You'll need to pay the BLM a fee of $6 to day hike in Buckskin Gulch, you can pay where you park. You then hike about 2.5 miles down Buckskin Gulch before you exit to the east to arrive in the general area of Edmaier's Secret. I have not been in from this direction because it looked like there was a much shorter way (described next), but I can see that this way would be a little tricky, there is a barbed wire fence that needs to be crossed, and a way needs to be found to climb up to the area. I devised an alternate route coming in from Long Canyon Rd., take Long Canyon Rd. about 4.5 miles to the Road labeled "Jeep Trail' on the topo map and bear right. In .6 miles you hit "Dry Flat" on the topo map "West Clark Bench", bear left and continue on "Jeep Trail" for about 1 mile and park anywhere. From your car its about .7 miles to the edge of the escarpment versus 2.5 miles via Buckskin Gulch. You will have to descend 200 feet from the top of the escarpment and do a bit more hiking to get to the best area for photos. You will need a 4x4 for Long Canyon Rd. and especially the "Jeep Trail" , and the road is totally impassable with substantial drop-offs when wet. Only a fool would drive this when wet! Long Canyon Road also goes to "Cobra Arch".
Photography - The area has many good photo ops, but of course none nearly as good as "The Wave". Definitely a late afternoon location, in fact you get good light almost till dusk. At dawn the escarpment will block off the best light for 2 hours or so. Overall - I'd rate the area as Good-Very Good, not quite as photogenic as the White Pocket, but a lot easier to get to!
This page last updated 4/6/2017