The Wave

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    "The Wave", for those who don't know, is a small area of wind-swept sandstone deep in the Utah / Arizona wilderness that has become a prime destination for nature and landscape photography. It's also very challenging to get to, as access to the land is granted to a maximum of 20 people per day, and it's a pretty good hike (especially with 40lbs on your back) across slickrock and sand, originating in Utah and ending in Arizona, and the road to access the trail head doubles as a flood plain, making it weather dependant too.

    Last spring we attempted to get access through the Bureau of Land Management's daily access lottery, after already having attempted to win passes months before. To get access this time we entered the lottery back in November and, though I didn't win, someone else in our group did (John), and with that our whole Southwest was set underway around this date.

    John, Suad, Scott, and I set out relatively early in the morning and arrived at the wave itself, seen here, around noon after making one lengthy side trip along the way. Noon is prime time to see the wave as there are not strong shadowed areas and the colors really light up well. We were cursed with a bit of overcast weather for this hike (and the whole trip) which meant the light was very flat - meaning no harsh shadows which expands the window during which you can easily shoot the way, and comparatively dull colors. Since the colors were so muted I made sure to switch to 'cloudy' white balance to restore some of the color. We were all in place ready to shoot when the sun broke through the overcast skies and fired off some shots before the sunlight disappeared and this is what I came away with.

    This is a very common perspective on the Wave and, having seen it, I can also understand why. It's the natural vantage point for shooting the wave and lends itself well to photography. So I'm starting here, with the most recognizable perspective, and I should be adding to this shot with additional shots of The Wave and other places withing the Coyote Buttes North Wilderness.

    Nikon D90 | Sigma 10-20@16mm | f/7.1 | 1/320s | Tripod

    Runaway Wind, and 104 other people added this photo to their favorites.

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    1. ceciliadom 75 months ago | reply

      wow! impressive....

      Seen in my contacts' photos. (?)

    2. BamaWester 75 months ago | reply

      The wave is definitely on "The List" for me. I've seen lots of shots of it and yours ranks up there with the best of them. Nicely done.

    3. shaifulzamri 75 months ago | reply


    4. Dan.Heacock 75 months ago | reply

      Wonderful photo! I have a question, though, regarding the access. You mentioned John was one of the winners of the lottery but you were not, so does each lottery winner get to take a few people along? I was curious as I was planning a trip to Southern Utah soon and would love to make this part of the trip. Thanks !

    5. Tyler Westcott 75 months ago | reply

      Thank you all for the wonderful feedback - it really feels like a place you can't go to wrong shooting, but I'll gladly take some credit for myself anyways. :)

      A couple of things I'll add...

      1) The wave is extremely fragile. We spoke with a Navajo guide there that day afterward about how it's changed over just the last 10 years. He said it had been quite substantial, just from people tramping over it, and I believe it. The Wave itself is the most remarkable formation, but you see these thin veins of sandstone throughout the area, and you barely need to breathe on them wrong to break them - the Wave was once entirely like this, but has lost a lot of its fine detail over the years. If you do go at any point, tread as lightly as possible. While only 20 people/day seems excessively conservative when trying to get a permit, once you're there you can see that it's probably excessively liberal. (also, no mountainbiking on the wave is permitted ;-) though on some level I bet it would be a blast).

      2) Access to the wave is quite a challenge to get, particularly from spring through fall. Others have written extensively about it, so I won't go on too much (but feel free to ping me or any of my travel companions for more details if you'd like them). Basically though, when entering the lotto for permits you get to specify the size of your group - up to 6 people. We requested 4 permits, and John won them. I'm not sure how they handle it online, but if, for example, you had a party of 4 and you enter the lotto the day before at the BLM office, and only 3 spots are still available, you may have the 3 and leave someone behind, but your group of 4 will not be permitted to go. Absolutely no more than 20 people / day are allowed into the area.

    6. zuf1 74 months ago | reply

      Out of this world!
      I want to go there too!...

    7. Senthil V S 74 months ago | reply

      Amazing shot!

    8. GIGEO 74 months ago | reply

      What an amazing landscape. Great photographs.

    9. mikeossur [deleted] 74 months ago | reply

      Some nice work!

    10. Ivan Makarov 74 months ago | reply

      Very nice angle. Reading your story, I should get there myself sooner rather than later before the wave disappears.

      I kind of like this wide angle view.

    11. wicks_photo 74 months ago | reply

      Great perspective and colors, although it would be awesome if there was a little more of the sky in the top. sweet shot, nonetheless.

    12. Matt Granz Photography 74 months ago | reply

      You are invited to post this image to "Spectacular Landscape, invitation only"

    13. Simon Christen - iseemooi 74 months ago | reply

      Spectacular. Definitely on my list of places I would like to see in person!

    14. Patrick Leitz 69 months ago | reply

      Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Gorgeous American Nature Award, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

      This Photo Is Gorgeous!
      Please add this photo to:
      Gorgeous American Nature Award

    15. laurente 60 months ago | reply

      OMG ... I got notified today of winning the lottery for my family 5 today. With all the hiking we have done the past 5 years, now I have the motivation to step up to a DSLR.

    16. David Watson [deleted] 59 months ago | reply

      Perfect color.

    17. Saloua Moslih 50 months ago | reply

      wwwwwwwaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwww !!!!
      je ss scotchée !!!!!!!!!!!!!! bravo

    18. ayoye 39 months ago | reply

      Fantastic it. FAV.

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