Photographing The Wave


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 The Wave itself. 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.

Facing West

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.

Great photos to the west can be had at night too. This image was shot at 24mm. The moon shining through the slot lit the center of The Wave and its north wall.

Facing South

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.

This is my favorite image of The Wave. It is best from May through August when the center of the Milky Way is in the southern sky. The south wall was lit by an LED panel, and the other two walls were lightpainted with a warm temperature flashlight.

Facing North

This image shows the entrance to The Wave. It is best mid-day and in the afternoon when clouds are present.

This image was shot at dusk. A warm LED panel was used to light the walls. The image was shot at 14mm.

The entrance to The Wave faces north so it provides good foreground for star trails. The image was shot at 17mm and the foreground was lit by the moon. In late spring and summer night photography is a great alternative to shooting during the day. The Milky Way is peak, nights are not too cold, and you can beat the heat of the day. Camping is not allowed in Coyote Buttes North so no tents or sleeping bags. Bring warm clothing though, in the early morning hours it gets cold.

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 image of the slot canyon wall shows a superb example of soft sediment deformation. This occurs during the early stages of sediment consolidation when the sediment is unsolidified or liquid like.


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Little Colorado River First Bend

The Classic Wave

Little Colorado River First Bend

Under that Serious Moonlight

Little Colorado River First Bend

The view north at dusk

Little Colorado River First Bend

Star Trails

Little Colorado River First Bend

Entrance to The Wave

Little Colorado River First Bend

The Wet Wave

Little Colorado River First Bend

The Milky Wave

Little Colorado River First Bend

The Wave Slot

Little Colorado River First Bend

Soft Sediment Deformation