Island in the Sky is the most accessible and popular of the three “districts” in Canyonlands National Park. I spent a day there earlier this year and photographed a number of viewpoints during late afternoon waiting for the sunset to arrive. Next time I plan to descend into the canyons in a 4WD for some real exploration!
This sandstone pillar in Arches National Park, which probably has an official name, looks to me like an enormous totem pole. I photographed it at night with a short enough exposure to freeze the stars but long enough that the quick moving clouds blurred across the sky. Lighting was tough on this one since the pillar was quite a distance away and very tall (hundreds of feet I estimate). The glow at lower left was produced by the nearby citizens of Moab, all tucked in bed while visions of mountain bikes danced in their heads. If you like this, please see more of my night astrophotography landscape photos. Cheers!
Balanced Rock at Night, Arches National Park
Balanced Rock rises 128′ (39m) above the surrounding land, just off the main road in Arches National Park. It is an outstanding example of erosion and sandstone layering. The precariously perched capstone rock is made of harder sandstone than the layers beneath. As the softer sandstone eroded, a neck formed in the column. Eventually the capstone will topple off and sightly Balanced Rock will be no more. Until that time, I will wander about it at night, pondering the heavens above, whistling strange tunes and conjuring the odd saying that only the lonely midnight desert wanderer is prone to utter. If you like this image, please see my website devoted to my full collection of Landscape Astrophotography images.
Photo of Delicate Arch At Night and The Milky Way Galaxy, Arches National Park, Utah
I recently made a short trip to Arches National Park to do some photography. One of the photos I made is a self-portrait, showing me light painting Delicate Arch at dusk with the Milky Way galaxy rising in the sky. I took this photo of Delicate Arch almost as an afterthought, but I am sure glad I did since I suspect it may end up being the most popular image I made on the trip! Since I posted it in June it has had over 16 million views. (16 million! That is more than any other photo of mine, I am certain.) Over the years I have often put myself in my photos, primarily because I want a souvenir for my personal scrapbook rather than because I intend to market the image for publication. However, two self portraits I have made, both of which curiously involve natural stone arches, have been well received so I think I should do more of them in the future: “Mesa Arch Sunrise“, which won the landscape category of the National Wildlife Federation’s photography competition a few years ago, and “Heavenly Arch” which appeared as the photo of the day last year on Earthshots.org.
At least four light sources are mixed in this image: fading dusk (sometimes called blue hour), quarter moon at camera right, starlight and milky way glow, and my uber-mondo handheld light. Everyone else had left at this point. After I made this image I sat down and ate my dinner in the quiet while waiting for the moon to set so that I could expose for the milky way properly. It was pleasant some hours later hiking back to the car in the dark with only the noise of my boots, bird chirps and darting rabbits to hear — no voices. I used the super-clean Canon 5D Mark III and the very sharp Nikon 14-24 to make this image, along with a few other tricky pieces of night photography equipment. Cheers and thanks for looking!
Here is another image, which is the one I set out to make, photographed a short while later:
Panoramic Photo of the Milky Way Arcing Over Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Earlier this year I spent an evening photographing Mesa Arch, the famous and oft-pictured natural stone arch at the precipice of Canyonlands National Park. I photographed Mesa Arch at sunrise twice previously — quite fortunately alone both times — but that was years ago before the explosion of photography interest on the internet. Based on the many reports I have read during the intervening years of elbow-to-elbow photographers and workshops going postal at sunrise when the sun lights the underside of the arch, I had essentially given up on ever photographing Mesa Arch again. In 2011 I decided to try for an image I have wanted to make there for some time and which might allow me to enjoy the arch in solitude again — the Milky Way arcing over Mesa Arch. Photographer buddy Garry McCarthy and I have executed versions of this idea with other arches. It is surprisingly tough to do well, since lighting must be consistent across the many frames that are blended to make the final image. The result must be flawless with no blending artifacts if one wishes to print the image for display. Using hard-earned uber-secret lighting and processing techniques from past night photography efforts, combined with several different compositions and attempts at lighting the arch in various ways, I ultimately decided upon this highly detailed 50″ x 80″ panoramic photo of Mesa Arch as the final result of my efforts. If you like this image, please see my website devoted to my full collection of Landscape Astrophotography images.
Dead Horse Point Overlook, a stunning promontory on the edge of the mesa that is Utah’s Dead Horse Point State Park, offers a jaw-dropping view down 2000′ to the Colorado River. Canyonlands National Park is visible in the distance. The entire scene is a jumble of convoluted bends in the Colorado River with canyons, walls of sandstone, endless sky and few people. I made this panorama from a series of 7 images about a half hour after sunset. Cheers and thanks for looking!
Sunset at Dead Horse Point Overlook, with the Colorado River flowing 2,000 feet below. 300 million years of erosion has carved the expansive canyons, cliffs and walls below and surrounding Deadhorse Point
Image ID: 27823
Location: Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah, USA
Stars over the Tower of Babel, Arches National Park, Utah
The Tower of Babel is one of the most imposing and distinctive sandstone structures in Arches National Park. An enormous narrow freestanding wall or “fin” of Entrada sandstone, the Tower of Babel may, over the course of eons, erode into a arch. It is very near the main road through Arches National Park so few photographers who visit the park do not at least take a snapshot of this icon. I allocated a few hours one night trying to figure out how to photograph it against a sea of stars. It is such a tall and long expanse of sandstone that I was not even sure I wanted to try it, assuming there is no way I could effectively light paint the beast in the 30 seconds of exposure I was using. It took me some time but, after trying a number of different lighting angles and even resorting to mixing my own car’s headlights and those of another passing vehicle in some experimental images, I managed to produce this one image. If you like this image, please see my website devoted to my full collection of Landscape Astrophotography images. Thanks for looking!
Landscape Arch and Milky Way at Night, Arches National Park, Utah
Landscape Arch in Arches National Park, Utah, is considered to be the longest natural arch in the world, having a span of 290 feet (89m) . Landscape Arch is gradually falling apart, with at least three sections of the arch known to have fallen since 1991. I set out to photograph this amazing arch under the star-filled Utah sky and it turned out to be one of the most technically challenging nightscapes (nighttime landscape photos) I have made. Because the trail that formerly went under the arch is now closed (National Park lawyers know what is good for us better than we do), viewing of the arch is from several hundred feet away. That is a long distance to light at night. Furthermore, in order to use side lighting as a way of illustrating detail in the rock, I had to use remotely controlled equipment since I was working alone. After two nights of experimentation, I managed to make four keeper images, of which this is my favorite. This image was shot with the technically excellent combination of Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon 14-24 lens so it is very sharp and clean while still freezing the glorious Milky Way galaxy (the galaxy in which we live) in the sky above the arch. If you like this image, please see my website devoted to my full collection of Landscape Astrophotography images. Thanks for looking!
Landscape Arch and Milky Way galaxy. Stars rise over Landscape arch at night, filling the Utah sky, while the arch is gently lit by a hiker’s light.
Image ID: 27869
Location: Arches National Park, Utah, USA
Also seen on my Landscape Astrophotography website: Landscape Arch and Milky Way at Night, Arches National Park, Utah.
Photographer in the Virgin River Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah
I was fortunate to have three of my photographs receive Highly Honored recognition in this years Windland Smith Rice photography competition sponsored by Nature’s Best Photography. 21,000 images were entered in the competition, 500 made it to the final round of judging and 131 were winners or highly honored and appeared in the most recent issue of Nature’s Best Photography magazine. I am crossing my fingers that one of mine will also be featured as part of the competition’s six-month exhibition next year at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.. Here is the first of the three, taken in a bend of the Virgin River Narrows in Zion National Park. This is an utterly fantastic hike with spectacular photography possibilities at every turn, and a place to which I am anxious to return in 2012. My buddy Garry McCarthy serves as an “anchor” to lend some perspective to the scene and create a little tension from the corner of the composition across to the beautiful cottonwoods in the Narrows.
The first morning of my recent roadtrip around northern Arizona and southern Utah with a few old diving buddies found us at the Toadstool Hoodoos a few hours before dawn. Garry McCarthy is always thinking of ways to creatively photograph the night sky, and on this trip he suggested photographing the Milky Way above these hoodoos. Garry led us stumbling up the sandy wash that leads to these sandstone spires in pitch darkness. The trail is quite short and is physically easy, but I was half asleep and had no idea where I was relative to, well, anything, so I was grumbling a bit along the way. As it happens, we were just within the southern edge of Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, a place I had wanted to visit for years. Eventually Garry and Don, who had both been to the Toadstool Hoodoos before, announced “we’re here.” Huh? I was baffled, standing in the dark able to see only the dirt at my feet. After a while my eyes adjusted so that I could discern large forms jutting into the night sky. We used our tiny hiking headlamps to illuminate the surrounding sandstone relief. I then understood what Garry had envisioned and planned for: a sublime scene in which the Milky Way was arching over a family of sandstone spires, one taller than the rest. Wow! We spent 45 minutes photographing the view, experimenting with compositions and lighting before the approaching sunrise overwhelmed the pale light of our galaxy. The air was quite still and cold and the only sound to be heard was us fumbling around in the dark with our cameras and blinding one another with our lamps. Naturally, the occasional swear word was said but gradually we figured out what worked as far as exposure settings and lighting. When we first arrived at the hoodoos I had no sense of what the larger surrounding area was like but the location — a variety of hoodoos and tortuously eroded sandstone formations situated below the line of Rimrock Cliffs looking down on us from the north — was gradually revealed to us over the next 90 minutes as starlight gave way to clear skies and one of those keen, brilliant sunrises that one gets in the desert southwest. It was a great beginning to a productive and fun trip. If you like this image, please see my website devoted to my full collection of Landscape Astrophotography images.
As I used to do in the film days, I bracketed exposures as much as possible since it was difficult to judge the accuracy of such an extreme exposure with just the histograms on our cameras. Out of the many exposures I took I found two that I was happy with, including this one.