The Wave: Landscape Photography in a Geological Wonderland

August 28, 2013  •  4 Comments


Navajo Sandstone swirls and other worldly geology at the Wave, North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona.  Exhumed Sand Dunes, The Wave ”Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better. ”  - Albert Einstein


”Our first trip to North Coyote Buttes was full of uncertainty and the unexpected, mainly due to threatening weather conditions. We set out on this trip with a preconceived image of the main geological attraction, the “Wave,” awash in vivid  color against bright blue skies. Instead, we encountered ominous skies with gray cloud cover and relentless chilling wind.

 NIKON D70,f/22 @ 18 mm1/15

In the aftermath of a rain storm, a mirror image of the Wave in a quiet reflecting pool.  Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs. Wave Reflection, The Wave, North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona-Utah Border


Under these conditions, the landscape was dark, colorless and rather foreboding.

Our party of photographers almost cut the trek short a couple of times, faced with periodic spitting rain and concerns about an impending storm. Instead, at Tom Gendron’s suggestion, we found a bit of shelter along the mountainside near “Wave Two,” where we enjoyed some hot tea and trail mix. This break gave us a second wind (no pun intended) and energy for a bit more exploration.

Late in the afternoon, we were pleasantly surprised to notice a bit of soft light glowing through the clouds in the otherwise gray threatening sky. Under this extra bit of illumination, the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone buttes came to life with rich color and texture. Hiking up to a plateau just beyond  on the Wave, we were delighted to find a quiet reflecting water pools under the backdrop of the distant muted horizon.

Staying a bit longer in North Coyote Buttes, we were rewarded with some wonderful hiking and photography opportunities. We’re all a bit wiser for this trip better understanding the value of patience and openness to the unanticipated.

 D70,f/22 @ 18 mm1/13

Sculpted by wind and rain, mineral laced Navajo Sandstone at the Wave.  North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs.  Nature's Grand Design, The Wave, North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona-Utah Border

Although North Coyote Buttes is most well-known for the Wave, it is also home to a number of other fascinating geological features, including “brain rock” and dome like rock formations known as “teepees,”  riparian vegetation and wildlife.

NIKON D70,f/25 @ 27 mm0.3s

Wave Two at North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona.  Second Wave, North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs

At an elevation of 5,000 to 5,400 feet, the Paria Plateau is a natural habitat for rare and some endangered species including Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, California Condors and the Peregrine Falcon."

Related postings: White Pockets in Paria Canyon –Vermilion Cliffs, Glen Canyon Recreation Area  - Ahlstrom Point at Lake PowellAntelope Canyon (slot canyons), Arizona – Utah Border and Arizona and Utah landscape photography and Grand Staircase Escalante Photography.

NIKON D200,f/5.6 @ 34 mm1/125ISO 100

Natural geometry created by a reflection of the Wave in a transient reflecting pool, following heavy rainfall.  Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona. Natural Geometry 1, The Wave, North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona-Utah Border

Sad Final Note:  In recent months, three people have lost their lives hiking near the Wave. While the deaths are being investigated, it appears that the hikers likely suffered from excessive heat exposure and dehydration. This book excerpt and photos from the Wave are posted in memory of the fallen hikers, with deepest sympathies to their families and friends.


Excerpted from Windswept Landscape: Images from the Arizona – Utah Border, Tom Gendron, Marcus W Reinkensmeyer and Steve Stilwell.


Marcus W Reinkensmeyer










NIKON D200,f/14 @ 24 mm1/125ISO 200


Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer
Thanks, everyone, for your kind words of support. Very much appreciated. Marcus
Incredible experience. A sliver of sunshine brought alive the magnificent crust.
Patience! It really helped, didn't it? Outstanding, beautiful photos. Congratulations! You write so well, I feel I'm right there in the wind, etc.
Eric Hatch(non-registered)
Beyond beautiful. This is work I'd like to be capable of when I grow up!
No comments posted.

Landscape photography techniques, photo expedition travel planning and hiking tips.