Category

Arizona

Acorn Woodpecker Photo

Arizona, Birds

Another photo from Upper Madera Canyon, this time a photo of a male Acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus). The females look very similar, with the exception that on females the white forehead is separated from the red cap by black.

Acorn woodpecker, male, Melanerpes formicivorus, Madera Canyon Recreation Area, Green Valley, Arizona

Acorn woodpecker, male.
Image ID: 22961
Species: Acorn woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
Location: Madera Canyon Recreation Area, Green Valley, Arizona, USA

Shot at Bill Forbes’ Upper Madera Canyon “drip”, which I visited and described recently.

Photographing Birds at Bill Forbes Place, The Pond at Elephant Head

Arizona, Birds, Wisdom

I recently spent a couple days photographing southern Arizona critters at the Pond at Elephant Head and the Upper Madera Drip with the help of Bill Forbes. Bill is the inventor of the Phototrap, a device for remote camera triggering using infrared beam, perfect for capturing difficult images of wildlife behavior. (For some stunning examples of what can be accomplished with the Phototrap, see Scott Linstead‘s website. Scott was kind enough to give me lots of good information about what to expect at Bill’s place.)

Northern cardinal, male, Cardinalis cardinalis, Amado, Arizona

Northern cardinal, male.
Image ID: 22891
Species: Northern cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis
Location: Amado, Arizona, USA

Bill Forbes owns a small ranch south of Tucson, Arizona. On his ranch the visiting photographer finds Bill’s workshop, which is overflowing with tripods, flashes, snakes, wires, birdseed, electronics equipment, along with everything he needs to build the Phototrap. You name it: if it is part of small critter photography it is somewhere in his shop. In the back of his property Bill also keeps a small pond, surrounded by two in-ground blinds and several movable blinds. The pond is known among photographers as “The Pond at Elephant Head“. The pond is maintained year round, so all the local wildlife, both nocturnal and diurnal, comes by seeking water constantly. It is a real magnet for animal life. I spent a few sunrise and sunset sessions at Bill’s pond, alone in a blind at the edge of the tiny pool, photographing springtime migrating and resident birds as well as several small mammals. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. A few minutes after I entered the blind, birds would arrive and begin lighting upon the many movable perches that I had set up around the pond. A little later, rabbits and squirrels would show up too. Periodically I would get out of the blind to stretch my legs, put out some bird seed or pieces of fruit, or move perches around. The animals would flush, but would return in a few minutes once I went back into the blind. It was amazing to me how much wildlife Bill has in his backyard, and I only saw the daytime visitors. (Bill uses his Phototrap to shoot stunning images of several species of bats that visit the pond at night, something I would really like to see one day.)

Greater roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus, Amado, Arizona

Greater roadrunner.
Image ID: 22902
Species: Greater roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus
Location: Amado, Arizona, USA

Photography around the pond is a morning and evening thing. During midday it is too hot for my taste, and the light is too harsh for good photography. I arrived each morning at Bill’s about 5:30am to be ready for the first animals’ arrivals at 6am sunrise. I would shoot until 10am or so, then break until about 3pm to get some lunch in nearby Green Valley. One day I drove up at lunch to the nearby observatory in the mountains for some sightseeing. If desired, during the midday hours one can also shoot hummingbirds, provided it is the right season (spring I think). Bill had a hummingbird setup, with four strobes, a feeder and a colored backdrop, in the shade of his workshop while I was there. The setup was perfect, but the day I was there not many hummers came by. I only managed a few keeper frames, however, I did learn much from seeing how Bill set his equipment up and listening to him speak about how to best use it. He is a wealth of information for those so inclined to learn.

When shooting from the blind, I was using a 500mm lens and 1.4x converter on a full frame camera body. I would have preferred a 600mm or 800mm lens for the small birds, but the 500mm was sufficient and I am pleased with the many “bird on a stick” photos I got. Not long after sunrise one finds that the light gets harsh. By this I mean that shadows begin to appear strongly on or around the subject. Even when the photographer has his shadow pointed directly at the subject (easy to accomplish with the lightweight movable blinds!), the height of the sun above the horizon will still result in increasingly contrasty images as the morning progresses. The solution is to use fill flash. I put my strobe on a Wimberley off-camera pedestal, and put a Better Beamer in front of the flash. The Better Beamer effectively doubles the throw of the flash, or conversely can be thought of as effectively lessening the strobe’s recycle time. The perches are elevated, most of them right about eye level when sitting on a chair in the blind, so there was no real need to lay on the ground for bird shots. For some of the mammals (rabbit, squirrel) I might have improved my images be getting a little lower.

For sunset on my second afternoon with Bill, I decided to forgo his pond and instead shoot at a “drip” that he maintains on private property in nearby Madera Canyon. At about 5,000 feet, the drip attracts a different species than one sees at Bill’s pond. Madera Canyon is famous for the number of different hummingbird species that can be found there in spring, and sure enough when I got up into the canyon there were dozens of bird watchers walking along the road with binoculars and ID books. Bill’s “Upper Madera Drip” is about the size and height of a pool table. It is a basin of water surround with natural rocks, set in a clearing with plenty of movable natural perches that one can position around the drip in infinite variety. Once the perches are setup properly, one enters a lightweight, movable blind and waits a few minutes for the birds to arrive. While the pace of activity at the drip was less than what I observed at Bill’s pond, it was a pleasure to see the different species. I even had wild turkey and mule deer walk right up to the drip, although too close for the 700mm lens I had on at the time. I could have had a second camera setup with, say, a 300mm on it, but in the spirit of keeping life simple I used only the 700mm and that was great for both the pond and the drip.

I should mention that Bill has a spartan but comfortable bunk house on his property that is available for photographers wishing to stay there rather than in nearby Green Valley. I opted to stay in Bill’s bunk house for a night.

Thanks to Ron Niebrugge and Scott Linstead for their comments in helping me decide to visit Bill Forbes and his Pond at Elephant Head, and for making sure I had enough batteries to keep up with the fill flash. I shot about 3500 images in two full days, and kept about 200, of which about 20 are appealing enough to go into my gallery of bird photographs (the good stuff!). The 28 species I saw in those two days, none of which I had photographed before, were:

At the Pond at Elephant Head
Harris’ antelope squirrel (Ammospermophilus harrisii)
Black-throated sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata)
Gambel’s quail (Callipepla gambelii)
Cactus wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)
Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus)
House finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
Greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)
Bullock’s oriole (Icterus bullockii)
Hooded oriole (Icterus cucullatus)
White-sided jackrabbit (Lepus callotis)
Gila woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis)
Bronzed cowbird (Molothrus aeneus)
Brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater)
House sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Horned lizard (Phrynosoma)
Canyon towhee (Pipilo fuscus)
Round-tailed ground squirrel (Spermophilus tereticaudus)
Desert cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus audubonii)
Curve-billed thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre)
White-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica)

At the Upper Madera Drip, in Madera Canyon
Mexican Jay (Aphelocoma ultramarina)
Bridled titmouse (Baeolophus wollweberi)
Acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)
Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)
Black-headed grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)
Arizona woodpecker (Picoides arizonae)
White-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

plus a couple of hummingbirds I have not yet identified. Not bad for my first time shooting from a blind!

Photographing Antelope Canyon, The Wave, Buckskin Gulch and Horseshoe Bend

Arizona, How To, Landscape, The Wave, Utah, Wisdom

I have been fortunate to visit and photograph a few of the iconic locations around Page, Arizona: The Wave, Antelope Canyon, Buckskin Gulch, Horseshoe Bend and Monument Valley. Recently, I shared some correspondance about these places with UK photographer David Sharp, whom I originally met at Brooks River a few years ago. Since I receive emails from other photographers about the Wave every few weeks, I decided to edit my comments to David and post them here for others to consider. Note that I am not what a true landscape photographer would call a true landscape photographer! I know what I am doing with a camera but do not have the dedication or time that is required to photograph landscapes, and these Southwestern landscapes in particular, properly. However, I do have clear impressions of these places and, not being shy, I am putting them out there. Furthermore, this website currently gets about 5000 visitors a day, so I am reasonably certain at least a few people would read this even if it was composed by a monkey at a typewriter which, in a sense, it is. On all of my trips through the American Southwest, visiting the places mentioned above plus Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, and Arches, I was pedal to the metal, flying, booking, jamming, screaming, etc. In other words, I had too little time and too far to drive, was all hopped up on caffeine, and tried to see it all. Naturally, that is not the best way to visit such special and serene places but it is how I, and many others, approach such a trip, especially those coming from far away to see the American Southwest for perhaps the only time in their lives. To photograph and experience these locations properly requires a more relaxed, contemplative and deliberate pace, one that I shall be sure to adopt when I turn 80.

Note that virtually all of photos on this website have GPS coordinates as well as links to Google Earth, taking you to the exact spot where they were taken, so there is no mystery where to go.

Rental Car: Assuming you are arriving in Las Vegas (NV) or Salt Lake City (UT), you will probably rent a car. Although none of these destinations requires one, I suggest that you rent a nice cushy SUV (the kind Americans love) when you arrive. It will make the little bit of off-roading you do more comfortable. Since some of the drives are quite long, having room in the back for your kids to spread out is helpful. Yes, you will burn gas — a lot of it. I realize that I am politically incorrect just mentioning the word “SUV”. Note that House Rock Valley Road, which is the dirt road that takes you to the Wave and Buckskin Gulch, can be a bit rough (but should not actually require 4WD) and having a larger SUV-type vehicle, with high clearance, makes the drive more pleasant. If there are long or deep muddy parts on the road, an SUV might actually make it possible to get to the trailhead whereas in a passenger (sedan) vehicle it could be more dicey. It all depends on the road conditions when you get there, there is no predicting those. If the conditions are truly bad, the road may simply be closed. Opting for the satellite radio on your rental SUV is important, since the variety of radio stations in this part of the country is quite slim with country/western and western/country being the only two choices.

Hiker in Buckskin Gulch.  A hiker considers the towering walls and narrow passageway of Buckskin Gulch, a dramatic slot canyon forged by centuries of erosion through sandstone.  Buckskin Gulch is the worlds longest accessible slot canyon, running from the Paria River toward the Colorado River.  Flash flooding is a serious danger in the narrows where there is no escape, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona

Hiker in Buckskin Gulch. A hiker considers the towering walls and narrow passageway of Buckskin Gulch, a dramatic slot canyon forged by centuries of erosion through sandstone. Buckskin Gulch is the worlds longest accessible slot canyon, running from the Paria River toward the Colorado River. Flash flooding is a serious danger in the narrows where there is no escape.
Image ID: 20716
Location: Buckskin Gulch, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA

Buckskin Gulch: Buckskin Gulch is easily accessed from the same trailhead that one uses to hike to the Wave: the “Wire Pass trailhead”. For this reason, if you are in the area to visit the Wave it makes perfect sense to visit Buckskin the day before or the day after you visit the Wave. Consider staying in Kanab, and just drive out to the Wire Pass trailhead each day for the two hikes. Kanab is quiet, simple and has a few good restaurants and plenty of hotels and motels. Watch your speed driving through Kanab or Officer Dummy may catch you in his speed trap. Camping at the Wire Pass trailhead is an option. However, since I do not like dirt and do not camp, I cannot advise about the camping there from personal experience. The drive from Kanab to Wire Pass trailhead, via Hwy 89 and House Rock Valley Road is, as I recall, about 30-45 minutes or so, quite easy except for perhaps a bit of the dirt House Rock Valley Road which may be muddy or a bit rough in some places. A half day, especially if you get started reasonably early (7am comes to mind) is enough for you to hike into the “upper reaches” of Buckskin Gulch, get into a few deep and really fun sections, and then return back out the way you came. A full day gives you further reach into the gulch. The alternative is to make a one-way trip down through Buckskin and Paria Canyon, but that requires overnights, permits, and arranging a pick up at the far end, and so the time investment is considerably more. Note that flash floods in Buckskin Gulch and Wire Pass Narrows are a real danger, and it is good to know where the exits to the gulch are as well as the weather forecast for the wider area (flash floods can be created by rain many miles away). It is possible to visit both Buckskin and the Wave in the same day. I did it last May. It was about a 15-17 mile day and tiring but I was in good shape and able to do it without problems. I even had time to catch a one-hour nap at the Second Wave waiting for sunset light. Do not underestimate the need for hydration on a day such as this. I drank about 10 liters of fluids and sweated out all of it (I think I peed only twice all day). Buckskin Gulch blog posts, Buckskin Gulch stock photos.

The Wave, an area of fantastic eroded sandstone featuring beautiful swirls, wild colors, countless striations, and bizarre shapes set amidst the dramatic surrounding North Coyote Buttes of Arizona and Utah.  The sandstone formations of the North Coyote Buttes, including the Wave, date from the Jurassic period. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Wave is located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness and is accessible on foot by permit only

The Wave, an area of fantastic eroded sandstone featuring beautiful swirls, wild colors, countless striations, and bizarre shapes set amidst the dramatic surrounding North Coyote Buttes of Arizona and Utah. The sandstone formations of the North Coyote Buttes, including the Wave, date from the Jurassic period. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Wave is located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness and is accessible on foot by permit only.
Image ID: 20608
Location: North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA

The Wave: There is no denying the appeal of a sunrise hike to the Wave. At that hour the air is cool with perhaps a hint of dew, the surrounding hills and canyons are quiet and still, and within minutes of setting out one is alone. However, while you may be eager to get to the Wave early in the day, the photography at the Wave formation itself seems to me to be best in mid- to late-morning. By that time the sun has risen enough to fill the deeper parts around the main Wave formation for evenly lit photos. That said, during late spring, summer and fall, the cooler it is walking out to the Wave, the more comfortable you will be. The hike is about 3 miles one way, so plan on two hours at a easy but constant pace. The last part going up a sand hill is the most tiring. There is little shade once you are there, so be prepared for sun! Do not forget the Second Wave, which is only about a 5-10 minute walk from the main wave. You do not actually see the Second Wave until you round a knob of rock at which point you suddenly realize you are are practically on top of it. Although the spot is no secret, the GPS coordinates and Google Earth links alongside my photos will put you right on it. The light on the Second Wave is best just before the sun goes down at the end of the day, so if you stay for that photo it makes for a long day. In that instance you will hike out as the sky is growing dark but that’s ok, there is still plenty of light and, if you feel unsure of how to return, you can use your GPS to revisit your waypoints in reverse on the way back out. I should mention that both times I visited the Wave, I stayed until dark. As the day went on, there were fewer people around so that by 3pm I was alone, which was very nice. Blog posts about The Wave. Stock Photos of the Wave.

A hiker admiring the striated walls and dramatic light within Antelope Canyon, a deep narrow slot canyon formed by water and wind erosion, Navajo Tribal Lands, Page, Arizona

A hiker admiring the striated walls and dramatic light within Antelope Canyon, a deep narrow slot canyon formed by water and wind erosion.
Image ID: 18009
Location: Navajo Tribal Lands, Page, Arizona, USA

Antelope Canyon Slots: These are just outside the town of Page and require virtually no effort to visit. They are on Navaho tribal lands, so accessing these slot canyons requires that you be on a tour or with a guide. The Upper Antelope canyon, which is the most iconic and photogenic, is the one that gets most crowded. If it is crowded when you are there just be patient and wait for the chamber(s) that you are photographing to clear out and then bang out your exposures before someone else walks in front of you. It can help to carry an electric cattle prod or pocket Taser to ensure the area where you are photographing remains clear of New Yorkers and Nikon photographers. OK, my bad on that last part. I highly recommend that you do not change lenses, there is simply too much dust. In fact, do not be surprised if you encounter another photographer tossing dust in the air to better define the light beams in his composition. If his forward technique does not balance harmoniously with your chi, you can rebalance the moment by tossing sand into his eyes to better define your opinion of his method. If I had to choose one lens to use to use at Antelope Canyon, it would be 16-35 (or either of Nikon’s 14-24 or 17-35) on a full-frame camera. On a second body I carry a 24-70 or similar. Those two should cover 95% of my needs in terms of focal lengths at Antelope. The LOWER canyon is, I hear, far less crowded and has very good photography as well. There are two types of “tours” to visit Upper Antelope Canyon: a normal tour (about 30-60 minutes) and “photo” or extended tour, the latter being more suitable for photographers who feel a need for more time in the slot. I went on an “extended” tour and had about 90 minutes at the canyon, with a 15 minute ride in a van from Page (we met the tour at a small storefront in Page). That was in winter. I understand that during much of the year the Navaho Indian tribe offers guide services (for a fee) right at the entrance to the Antelope Canyon area on the main highway, in which case you might save a little money over the tours that are arranged in the town of Page itself. However, all visits require some Navaho guide presence. If you are coming from far away I suggest that you just reserve a photo tour ahead of time to ensure that you have the time you need. It may cost a little more but at least you know you will be in the canyon at the right time of day, with enough time to relax and take photos. The only unknowns are weather and how crowded it will be on the day of your visit. Kids might get bored after half hour, so families might arrange for the shorter tour while the lone photographer in the family goes on a longer tour. I went to the Upper Antelope Canyon with Antelope Canyon Tours when I was there in Jan 2007. At that time we literally had the entire Upper Canyon to ourselves (a group of 5 people) for 90 minutes, with one 20 minute exception when another small group came by for a brief visit. However, in the winter the dramatic light shafts do not reach the floor of the slots. Those appear in summer, principally June and July, coincidental with the crowds. So if you want solitude in Antelope Canyon (or something approaching it), try it winter. If you want the cool beams, battle the crowds.

Horseshoe Bend. The Colorado River makes a 180-degree turn at Horseshoe Bend. Here the river has eroded the Navajo sandstone for eons, digging a canyon 1100-feet deep, Page, Arizona

Horseshoe Bend. The Colorado River makes a 180-degree turn at Horseshoe Bend. Here the river has eroded the Navajo sandstone for eons, digging a canyon 1100-feet deep.
Image ID: 26602
Location: Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona, USA

Horseshoe Bend: If you are in Page, Arizona, you must find a bit of time for Horseshoe Bend. From a pulloff on the side of the highway just a few minutes outside town, an easy 10 minute walk takes one to the edge of the chasm that is Horseshoe Bend. It is so easy it would be a shame to miss it. Just be careful that Fido and the kids are paying attention since there are no rails or anything keeping you from falling in. (Give the personal injury lawyers time, I am sure there will be a fence and a “viewing area” that we are required to use eventually). If you stay in Page for the night, you might want to go photograph Horseshoe Bend at sunset, late morning and/or sunrise to see what you can get. I took this the above shot with a 16-35 at its widest.

Monument Valley panorama, a composite of four individual photographs

Monument Valley panorama, a composite of four individual photographs.
Image ID: 20902
Location: Monument Valley, Arizona, USA

Monument Valley: OK, in spite of how little experience I have in Monument Valley, I will add some words about it, since it is likely others travelling to Page will visit Monument Valley the same way that I did. I blew through there one day by myself on my way to Page, spending about 1 hour at one of the main viewpoints (where I think I paid $5 to the Navaho tribe at the gate and then drove my own car about 2-3 miles on an easy dirt road into the area and then back out, looking for view points, until I found the one above). The timing was good, I was there in the final hour of light, although having clouds would have helped. If you want to just make a quick stop in Monument Valley and visit only one of the easily-accessed viewpoints, I suggest you make it sunrise or sunset. (If you want to spend a full day at Monument Valley, you can arrange private guides that will take you deep into the area and show you views that are better and different, but I believe it will require most of a day to accomplish.)

Tech: For any of these locations, my photography equipment is quite simple and light, no need for any heavy stuff. Landscape shooting is simple compared to all the gear needed for underwater and/or wildlife shooting!

  • Two full-frame bodies (currently Canon 1DsII & 1DsIII)
  • Canon 16-35 II f/2.8 lens
  • Canon 24-70 f/2.8 lens
  • Canon 70-200 f/4 lens
  • Tripod with ball head, cable release, polarizers

If you found this information useful, please post the link to it and let others know. Cheers!

Panorama of the Wave, North Coyote Buttes

Arizona, Landscape, Panoramas, The Wave

The Wave, that much-photographed geological oddity on the border between Arizona and Utah. I spent some time there on my last visit trying to shoot appealing panoramas, but was not entirely satisfied, it is a tough landscape to capture that way. This was one of panorama photos I was happy with:

Panorama of the Wave.  The Wave is a sweeping, dramatic display of eroded sandstone, forged by eons of water and wind erosion, laying bare striations formed from compacted sand dunes over millenia.  This panoramic picture is formed from thirteen individual photographs, North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona

Panorama of the Wave. The Wave is a sweeping, dramatic display of eroded sandstone, forged by eons of water and wind erosion, laying bare striations formed from compacted sand dunes over millenia. This panoramic picture is formed from thirteen individual photographs.
Image ID: 20700
Location: North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA

We’ve got permits for March and April already, and hope to get out there again this spring.

Photo of Buckskin Gulch

Arizona, Photo of the Day

Last one from Buckskin Gulch: a hiker considering the towering walls and narrow, convoluted passageway of the the Buckskin Gulch narrows. The trail continues behind the hiker, disappearing into the twisting walls so that it is hard to tell that it is even there. The floor of the passage is littered with large cobblestones, deposited there from upstream by powerful floodwaters that fill the slot canyon and carve it deeper into the sandstone with each passing year’s storms.

Hiker in Buckskin Gulch.  A hiker considers the towering walls and narrow passageway of Buckskin Gulch, a dramatic slot canyon forged by centuries of erosion through sandstone.  Buckskin Gulch is the worlds longest accessible slot canyon, running from the Paria River toward the Colorado River.  Flash flooding is a serious danger in the narrows where there is no escape, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona

Hiker in Buckskin Gulch. A hiker considers the towering walls and narrow passageway of Buckskin Gulch, a dramatic slot canyon forged by centuries of erosion through sandstone. Buckskin Gulch is the worlds longest accessible slot canyon, running from the Paria River toward the Colorado River. Flash flooding is a serious danger in the narrows where there is no escape.
Image ID: 20716
Location: Buckskin Gulch, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA

Buckskin Gulch Backpacking

Arizona, Photo of the Day

Here are a few backpackers walking through the Buckskin Gulch narrows. They are blurry because it is so dark in the narrows that a tripod and long exposure must be used, which caused the backpackers to smear across the photo as they walked while the stationary walls and ground remain sharp and clear. Check out the big log jammed between the sandstone walls! It was left there by a powerful flash flood some time in the past, and is a testament to the height and strength of those floods.

Suspended log in Buckskin Gulch.  Hikers pass beneath a heavy log suspended between the walls of Buckskin Gulch, placed there by a flash flood some time in the past.  Buckskin Gulch is the world's longest accessible slot canyon, forged by centuries of erosion through sandstone.  Flash flooding is a serious danger in the narrows where there is no escape, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona

Suspended log in Buckskin Gulch. Hikers pass beneath a heavy log suspended between the walls of Buckskin Gulch, placed there by a flash flood some time in the past. Buckskin Gulch is the world’s longest accessible slot canyon, forged by centuries of erosion through sandstone. Flash flooding is a serious danger in the narrows where there is no escape.
Image ID: 20723
Location: Buckskin Gulch, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA

Hiking Buckskin Gulch

Arizona, Panoramas

This is a 360-degree panorama showing, in a single image, a hiker in Buckskin Gulch both coming and going. I set my camera on a tripod in the middle of the trail through Buckskin Gulch, leveled it with a bubble level, and spun it in a complete circle taking sixteen photos roughly evenly spaced as I did so. In two of the photographs I set the camera’s self-timer and jumped into the picture myself. Later, the images were then “stitched” together on a the computer with panoramic imaging software, resulting in the single image you see. Click on it to see it larger!

Buckskin Gulch hiker.  A hiker moves through the deep narrow passages of Buckskin Gulch, a slot canyon cut deep into sandstone by years of river-induced erosion.  In some places the Buckskin Gulch narrows are only about 15 feet wide but several hundred feet high, blocking sunlight.  Flash floods are dangerous as there is no escape once into the Buckskin Gulch slot canyons.  This is a panorama made of sixteen individual photos, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona

Buckskin Gulch hiker. A hiker moves through the deep narrow passages of Buckskin Gulch, a slot canyon cut deep into sandstone by years of river-induced erosion. In some places the Buckskin Gulch narrows are only about 15 feet wide but several hundred feet high, blocking sunlight. Flash floods are dangerous as there is no escape once into the Buckskin Gulch slot canyons. This is a panorama made of sixteen individual photos.
Image ID: 20699
Location: Buckskin Gulch, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA

Wire Pass Trailhead

Arizona, Photo of the Day, The Wave

If you are going to hike to Buckskin Gulch or the North Coyote Buttes, you will likely start at the Wire Pass trailhead. Here is what it looks like at 6am. The dirt road you see, on which the trailhead parking lot is located, is the House Rock Valley Road. The few times I have driven it, the road has been fine. However, it is an unpaved road and I have heard that, following rain storms, it can be nearly unpassable. Just to be safe I have always used a high clearance vehicle on the House Rock Valley Road. A few cars are in the trailhead parking lot, with hikers readying their stuff for the day’s outing or still snoozing in their campers if they spent the night there.

Wire Pass trailhead.  The parking lot at the Wire Pass trailhead, early morning, as hikers arrive and set out to Buckskin Gulch, the North Coyote Buttes and the Wave, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona

Wire Pass trailhead. The parking lot at the Wire Pass trailhead, early morning, as hikers arrive and set out to Buckskin Gulch, the North Coyote Buttes and the Wave.
Image ID: 20745
Location: Wire Pass, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA

Here is a look at the Wire Pass Trail itself, which runs down a sandy wash. It is quite unexceptional, and does not begin to hint at the wonderful sights that it will lead one to in either the Wire Pass Narrows or at the Wave.

Wire Pass trail.  The Wire Pass trail runs along a river wash through sandstone bluffs and scattered trees and scrub brush, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona

Wire Pass trail. The Wire Pass trail runs along a river wash through sandstone bluffs and scattered trees and scrub brush.
Image ID: 20746
Location: Wire Pass, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA