Tag

Panoramic Photograph

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, California

Aerial Photography, California, Panoramas, San Diego

This past spring my daughters and I took a couple flights over San Diego to shoot panoramas while the conditions were good. This is one of my favorites, showing the beautifully scalloped coastline of Sunset Cliffs, north of Point Loma. You can even see the sandstone outcropping we jumped off of into the ocean in the summer when I was in college! Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla are just visible at far left. This image was created with my uber-secret ball-head technique and is over 224 megapixels in size, printing up to 6′ x 20′ in size with no interpolation. If you like this, please see more panoramic photos and more aerial photos of San Diego. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Sunset Cliffs San Diego, Pappy's Point, Claiborne Cove

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Sunset Cliffs San Diego, Pappy’s Point, Claiborne Cove.
Image ID: 30790
Location: San Diego, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 8011 x 28354

Beautiful Oaks and Perfect Sunrise at Oak Alley Plantation

Landscape, Panoramas

Oak Alley Plantation, with its remarkable double row of 300-year-old southern live oaks (Quercus virginiana) is, I imagine, a near-ideal vision of what the old South once was. I photographed this amazing tunnel of oaks at both dusk and dawn and, after contemplating the images for a few weeks, have decided the light I had in the morning was perfect, sublime. After the sun rose it side-lit the trees beautifully. Since it had to pass through heavy, wet Louisiana air the light was just diffuse enough that it filled in the shadows of the trees. I was alone the entire morning, enjoying listening to the cicadas and watching the squirrels move about the trees and over the lawn. Perfect.

This image will print 36″ x 60″.

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31019
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

If you enjoy this image but want something wider or bigger, this panoramic photo will print 60″ x 150″ long:

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31018
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

Oak Alley Plantation and Its Famous Tunnel of Old Oak Trees, Vacherie, Louisiana

Landscape, Panoramas

While in New Orleans recently, I made a side-trip to visit Oak Alley Plantation. I love ancient, huge and gnarly trees, and when it comes to oak trees — specifically the southern live oak, Quercus virginiana — Oak Alley Plantation has some of the most photogenic in the South.

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31009
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31005
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

My goal was to produce one or two very large prints — 6 to 7 feet long — of the trees that grace this plantation, hopefully for hanging in our dining room. This required waiting for good light with no people around and shooting multi-image high resolution panoramic photographs, a slow process. The plantation’s most captivating view is that of its stately Antebellum mansion framed by the canopied tunnel of enormous trees, and that is where I spent most of my time. The double row of southern live oaks in this view was planted in the early 18th century, well before the house itself was built, and now forms a remarkable path between the house and the Mississippi River. The river itself can no longer be seen due to the the levee at its edge, but the effect is still stunning. Could the person who planted the trees 300 years ago have known what a perfectly balanced and imposing instance of deciduous wonder they would one day become, centuries hence? That would have been foresight indeed.

A tunnel of old southern oak trees stretches off toward the Mississippi River.  Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana

A tunnel of old southern oak trees stretches off toward the Mississippi River. Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31021
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31004
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

Oak Alley Plantation receives hundreds of visitors each day, so I opted to avoid the crowds and shoot at sunrise and sunset. I lucked out and got both types of light I was hoping for: overcast skies and muted, soft, flat light at dusk, and fairly clear skies and warm side lighting at dawn. I was alone for some hours walking the grounds in peace and quiet, checking out the stately mansion and its varied barns, cottages, gardens and out-buildings in addition to the many huge old oaks spread across the plantation. After sunset the sound of what I am guessing were cicadas buzzed everywhere and continued through the night. Once all hint of color had left the evening sky, I returned to my cottage and enjoyed the meal of gumbo, etouffee and grits that the kitchen staff had left for me in the fridge. I was tempted to walk around again as the moon had risen and I knew the movie Interview with a Vampire had been filmed here so there must be some kind of evening spirits inhabiting the property, but jet lag caught up with me so I set my alarm for 30 minutes before sunrise and crashed for the night. The following morning the overcast skies had lifted so I knew there would be some side lighting on the trees. It is fortunate I rose early, since the first thing that happened when I stepped outside into the heavy, wet, warm morning air was to completely fog every surface of my camera. After many years of diving with cameras in the tropics I should have known better than to take a cold camera out into a warm humid place. After 20-30 minutes the camera fog had cleared and I could shoot properly, and I set about photographing the panorama that I had planned for just as the sun crested the horizon and shed warm, diffuse Louisiana light on the oaks. Around 7:30 I had to leave, needing to be back in downtown New Orleans by 9am. The light and conditions had been just perfect and I lucked out on this one.

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Quercus virginiana, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31017
Species: Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Quercus virginiana, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31020
Species: Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

I was hoping to be captivated by the place — by the trees especially — and I was not disappointed. If I sound romantic it is with good reason since Oak Alley is indeed a romantic place, evoking the grace, decadence and elegance of the Old South. Will I return? Absolutely. The next time I am in New Orleans it will be the first thing I put on my calendar.

Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Torrey Pines Golf Course and Black’s Beach

Aerial Photography, La Jolla, Panoramas, San Diego

This aerial panorama of Torrey Pines Golf Course will print huge: up to about 4′ high and 10′ wide! In the center is seen Torrey Pines Golf Course south course, with the north course to the left. I played Torrey Pines often when I first moved to La Jolla and it is as beautiful on the ground as it looks from the air. Dominating the scene are the 300′ tall seacliffs that characterize the coastline from Torrey Pines State Reserve south to Scripps Institute of Oceanography. To the right is seen Torrey Pines Glider Port on the mesa, and Black’s Beach at the base of the seacliffs. Interstate 5 is seen in the center distance along with University City, Del Mar to the extreme left and Mount Soledad and La Jolla to the extreme right. I am often asked if I use a drone to shoot aerials, since they are becoming so popular. The answer for now is “no”: I always hold the camera. Someday I will probably use a drone but for my current interests and goals, I have greater control and can produce a higher quality image if I am in the air with my camera. Besides, its fun to fly, and I don’t want a drone to have all the fun. It was exciting making this panorama, hovering over some of the most beautiful coastline in all of California. If you like this, see more of my aerial panoramic photographs. Cheers, and thanks for looking.

Aerial panorama of Blacks Beach, Torrey Pines Golf Course (south course), and views to La Jolla (south) and Carlsbad (north)

Aerial panorama of Blacks Beach, Torrey Pines Golf Course (south course), and views to La Jolla (south) and Carlsbad (north)
Image ID: 30851
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Aerial Panorama of Point Loma, Cabrillo Monument and San Diego Bay

Aerial Photography, California, Panoramas, San Diego

This is a highly detailed aerial panoramic photo of the southern end of Point Loma, with Cabrillo Monument and both old and new lighthouses visible. The original Cabrillo lighthouse is seen atop the bluff, while the new lighthouse is down near the water’s edge next to the green lawns. North Island Naval Air Station and San Diego Bay are seen in the distance over the top of the peninsula. The submarine reefs of Cabrillo State Marine Reserve are clearly visible through the clear water. The Coronado Strand stretches off to the right (south) toward Mexico, while the broken coastline of Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs stretches off to the left (north). This high resolution panorama will print 40″ high by 90″ wide. If you like this, please see more aerial photos of San Diego. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point Loma and Cabrillo Monument, San Diego, California

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point Loma and Cabrillo Monument
Image ID: 30847
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Aerial Panorama of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge

Aerial Photography, California, Panoramas, San Diego

One of the images I wanted to add to my collection of San Diego aerial photos was a very wide, very detailed image of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge. I could have taken a single image with a very wide lens — such as this image taken a few years ago that has since paid for the flight many times over — and achieved a reasonable result, but as far as high resolution goes this approach has its limits. The wider the lens, the more distortion is present in the image (think “fisheye view”). Correcting such distortion reduces the sharpness of the details especially around the edges of the image. Also, a single photograph will be limited in resolution by what the camera can record — these days, 36 megapixels is typical. What I really wanted was an enormous, highly detailed, and rectilinear (straight lines, no fisheye distortion) image suitable for large reproduction in a space that would warrant it, such as an office lobby, museum, or the Oval Office. Equipped with the most expensive and high-tech ball head in the world, my daughter and I got up in the air and set about shooting the images. I later stitched them together on the computer using several stages and software programs. The result is this panoramic photo of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge, suitable for printing 50″ by 100″ wide with no interpolation.

Panoramic Aerial Photo of San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge

Panoramic Aerial Photo of San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge
Image ID: 30789
Location: San Diego, California, USA

If you like this, please see my other San Diego aerial photos, or my collection of aerial panoramic photos. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Park, San Diego

Aerial Photography, California, La Jolla, Panoramas, San Diego

Panoramic aerial photograph of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Parks (center), with La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rising above, La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Caves to the left and the La Jolla Coast with Children’s Pool (Casa Cove) to the right. The undersea reefs of Boomer Beach are seen through the clear, calm ocean waters. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 50″ high by 130″ long with no interpolation. If you like this, be sure to check out my always growing gallery of San Diego photos.

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove, Boomer Beach, Scripps Park. Panoramic aerial photograph of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Parks (center), with La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rising above, La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Caves to the left and the La Jolla Coast with Children’s Pool (Casa Cove) to the right. The undersea reefs of Boomer Beach are seen through the clear, calm ocean waters. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 50″ high by 130″ long with no interpolation

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove, Boomer Beach, Scripps Park. Panoramic aerial photograph of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Parks (center), with La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rising above, La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Caves to the left and the La Jolla Coast with Children’s Pool (Casa Cove) to the right. The undersea reefs of Boomer Beach are seen through the clear, calm ocean waters. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 50″ high by 130″ long with no interpolation
Image ID: 30773
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

This is the second in my series of recent San Diego aerial panoramas, part of my collection of aerial photos of San Diego. Making an aerial panorama is difficult. The technique used in the sky is important and requires a good pilot and the right conditions. Lens choice is important as well, otherwise distortion will affect the resulting image considerably. And obtaining a perfect result, with no “stitching errors” or gaps, requires a degree of patience, several pieces of software, and some trial and error. I spent days assembling these panoramas, and hope to see them reproduced at enormous sizes once the right opportunity presents itself. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panorama of Bird Rock and the La Jolla Coastline

Aerial Photography, California, La Jolla, Panoramas

Aerial Panorama of La Jolla’s Bird Rock, with surfers in the water at lower right. Submarine reefs, characteristic of the La Jolla coast, can be seen through the clear water. Mount Soledad rises above everything. This 180-degree panorama extends from Camp Pendleton in the extreme distance to the north to Point Loma in the south. The resolution of this image will permit it to be printed 80″ high by 200″ wide with no interpolation.

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Bird Rock and La Jolla Coast, with surfers in the waves.  Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are to the far right (south).  La Jolla's Mount Soledad rises in the center.  The submarine reefs around Bird Rock are visible through the clear water. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 80 inches high by 200 inches wide

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Bird Rock and La Jolla Coast, with surfers in the waves. Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are to the far right (south). La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rises in the center. The submarine reefs around Bird Rock are visible through the clear water. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 80 inches high by 200 inches wide.
Image ID: 30778
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

In March and April I made a series of flights to photograph many of San Diego’s prominent coastal features. (Yesterday I described one flight focusing on making aerial photos of San Diego’s Marine Protected Areas.) During their spring breaks, my daughters and I hired helicopters a couple times with the goal of adding to my collection of aerial photos of San Diego, trying something new. The pilots and I discussed the plans before taking off, and we gave it a shot. Making an aerial panorama is very difficult to get just right. The technique used in the sky is important and requires a good pilot and the right conditions. Lens choice is important as well, otherwise distortion will affect the resulting image considerably. And obtaining a perfect result, with no “stitching errors” or gaps, requires a degree of patience, several pieces of software, and some trial and error. I spent days assembling these panoramas, and hope to see them reproduced at enormous sizes once the right opportunity presents itself. This is the first of several I will post over the coming days. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Lunar Eclipse April 4 2015 from Joshua Tree National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Desert, Joshua Tree

I went up to Joshua Tree National Park to watch the lunar eclipse of April 4, 2015. Photographically, I was not sure what I was going to do. I’ve made a series of lunar eclipse sequence images (lunar eclipse October 8, 2014 and April 14, 2014 version 2 version 3). While these images are visually appealing and challenging to make well, I really wanted to do something different for this eclipse, push the creative comfort zone so to speak. Fellow photographer Garry McCarthy and I mulled over some ideas on the drive up to Joshua Tree but after arriving I was still at a loss. I deliberately left my 500mm lens at home so I would not fall into the trap of trying to photograph closeups and sequences that way. In fact, I brought my fish eye lens to force myself to look for something different. We headed to the arch, a spot we often go to for night photography and the place at which Garry (with some help from me) originally planned and executed the “Milky Way Arch over Arch” photo, which we have subsequently re-photographed in many variations over the years. A little pondering, a pause for a Santana’s chicken burrito, some crawling around on the rocks looking for angles, and then thankfully I had finally had an idea for a different kind of sequence and a different angle on the arch. At least something to try.

Lunar Eclipse Sequence, the path of the moon through the sky as it progresses from being fully visible (top) to fully eclipsed (middle) to almost fully visible again (bottom), viewed through Arch Rock, April 4 2015, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Lunar Eclipse Sequence, the path of the moon through the sky as it progresses from being fully visible (top) to fully eclipsed (middle) to almost fully visible again (bottom), viewed through Arch Rock, April 4 2015
Image ID: 30713
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

I wanted a composition that told the story of the entire eclipse from start to end in one photograph, and in which the Joshua Tree NP setting was clearly evident. I recalled the exposure settings I had used during the last eclipse and realized that the variation of the moon’s light is too great to capture with just one exposure setting, but that could work to my advange in depicting the entire smooth path of the moon through the sky. I took a wild-ass-guess at the best aperture, shutter and ISO to use, set up my camera on a small tripod wedged into some rocks, turned on the intervalometer and let it go all night. The result is the following composite image, depicting the moon from about 1am until 6:30am, including the lunar eclipse from when it began at 3:15am until it set behind the rocks in the distance. The frame is “Arch Rock”, but in an unfamiliar angle. 890 individual images were taken to make this image. The stars and eclipsed moon are shown at about 5am, when the eclipse was at its “peak”, the moon being in its “blood red” phase and lit only by indirect, refracted light passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. The color of the moon is indeed red in the full res version but its hard to make out on the web. The path of the moon is flared toward the top due to high altitude clouds which were passing by, but as the eclipse began the skies cleared and the moon’s path through the sky becomes smoother.

We also realized that during the eclipse, the milky way would become visible, something that is typically impossible to see during a full moon. In fact, the strength of the moonlight would gradually fade in such a way that we could wait for it to exactly match the milky way and starlight above, allowing us to photograph the arch lit by a perfect amount of moonlight, right at astronomical twilight when blue just begins to appear in the sky, without resorting to using any artificial light at all. The result was this image: Milky Way over Arch Rock during Lunar Eclipse of April 4, 2015. (Note: I think this is the highest quality panorama of this scene I’ve ever photographed, and I’ve practiced it many many times. It will print 4.5′ by 7′ with no interpolation.)

Milky Way during Full Lunar Eclipse over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 4 2015.  The arch and surrounding landscape are illuminated by the faint light of the fully-eclipsed blood red moon.  Light from the sun has passed obliquely through the Earth's thin atmosphere, taking on a red color, and is then reflected off the moon and reaches the Earth again to light the arch.  The intensity of this light is so faint that the Milky Way can be seen clearly at the same time

Milky Way during Full Lunar Eclipse over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 4 2015. The arch and surrounding landscape are illuminated by the faint light of the fully-eclipsed blood red moon. Light from the sun has passed obliquely through the Earth’s thin atmosphere, taking on a red color, and is then reflected off the moon and reaches the Earth again to light the arch. The intensity of this light is so faint that the Milky Way can be seen clearly at the same time.
Image ID: 30717
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

We were also treated to a 22° lunar halo an hour or so before the eclipse occurred. Often mistakenly called “lunar corona”, the lunar halo forms when moonlight refracts through hexagonal high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22° the sky is darker inside the halo. It formed a complete circle for about 45 minutes. We were freezing our asses off and, while this was a superb distraction, once it was gone we still had to wait and freeze until the eclipse began. Why is it still so cold in the high desert in April?

Full moon with 22-degree lunar halo, Joshua Tree National Park.  The lunar halo (not to be cofused with lunar corona) forms when moonlight refracts through high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22-degrees the sky is darker inside the halo

Full moon with 22-degree lunar halo, Joshua Tree National Park. The lunar halo (not to be cofused with lunar corona) forms when moonlight refracts through high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22-degrees the sky is darker inside the halo.
Image ID: 30711
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Cheers and thanks for looking!

Mesa Arch Sunrise and Night under the Milky Way, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands, Utah

Icon alert: this post is about Mesa Arch, a major icon which many now scorn and avoid as a subject of landscape photography, and which is known to have the crowd these days.

I’ve photographed a few icons over the past 30 years, although many of them are underwater and so the landscape buyers probably don’t even think of them as icons, or even think of them at all. Mesa Arch is one of the landscape icons. It’s hard to break new “visionary ground” at a place like Mesa Arch, of which hundreds or thousands of photographs are made each day, almost all of them within a short of period of +/- 20 minutes of sunrise. I first visited Mesa Arch in the 90s, and first made a meaningful photograph of Mesa Arch in 2007. Standing on the arch with arms spread, enjoying the cold winter sunrise in solitude while hovering over a yawning canyon, I made an image that ended up taking a first in a national competition and has since been licensed a number of times, paying for the trip several times over. It has a serious flaw in it that I somehow overlooked at the time I shot it — no, its not the model in the shot — but nobody has really mentioned it when they have looked at the high res. I’m glad I was using the Canon 1DsII for all my photography at the time, since the resolution of that mainly studio and fashion camera has held up well over the years, and the sharpness of the Canon fisheye with which I took the shot will cut fingers if one is not careful.

Mesa Arch, Utah.  An exuberant hiker greets the dawning sun from atop Mesa Arch. Yup, that's me, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch, Utah. An exuberant hiker greets the dawning sun from atop Mesa Arch. Yup, that’s me.
Image ID: 18036
Location: Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

When I decided to return to Arches and Canyonlands a few years ago, I wanted to make a different image of Mesa Arch, one that I had thought about for a while: the Milky Way arcing over Mesa Arch. So I did it. Getting the lighting the way I wanted it was a challenge, and stitching the resulting very-wide image without distortion affecting it took some time, but in the end I was very happy with the result. I used a mix of equipment brands in order to produce the highest quality image I could: a Canon 5D Mark III which was new at the time and exhibited great image quality at high ISO settings, combined with the Nikon 14-24 lens, then and still the best all-purpose wide landscape and astrophotography lens available. I believe this image was the first of its kind at Mesa Arch at the time it was made, and the composition has since been repeated a number of times, especially in the last year with its burgeoning interest in astrophotography and the popularity of the online image duplication factories 500px and Flickr.

Panorama of the Milky Way over Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Panorama of the Milky Way over Mesa Arch.
Image ID: 27824
Location: Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

The Milky Way arching over Mesa Arch at night, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The Milky Way arching over Mesa Arch at night.
Image ID: 27827
Location: Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

During those years I had never seen another person at Mesa Arch. Not at night, not at sunrise, not during the middle of the day. I had heard rumors about the crowd from other photographers, and as pros changed from providing images to providing travel services and workshops in the early 2000’s, I heard the comments more and more: the testy workshop groups and solo photogs with crossed-up tripod legs all hoping to get one for the bucket list, the rock climbing hipsters wanting to walk the span of the arch just when the light was good, and the busloads of foreigners making a 10 day whirlwind tour of the entire southwest while allotting just 30 minutes to see Mesa Arch at the moment of sunrise before running off to Arches for the rest of the morning. I knew someday I would encounter the crowd and kind of wondered about how it would be. My expectation was that the crowd would be a bummer but given these are our public lands — shared lands to which we are all equally entitled — and that we all are tourists (including photogs) at a place like this, I figured it was just something to be endured and hopefully would be fun.

Last month a buddy and I spend 5 days in the Moab area running around with our cameras, shooting some night images, making a few hikes, and seeing the icons. It was great! We did make a few new night images to be proud of, and photographed a couple icons along with everyone else … including Mesa Arch, the classic morning shot which I had never really made before. I do get requests for a sunrise image of Mesa Arch. I’m not sure why I get such requests, since there are many photographers who have this in their stock files and can provide a beautiful print. But I wanted to make sure I could fulfill such requests, so I photographed the arch with two cameras (Nikon 14-24 and Nikon fisheye) in order to provide a couple alternatives.

Mesa Arch Sunrise, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Mesa Arch Sunrise, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Image ID: 29304
Location: Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

Garry McCarthy and I arrived at the arch first that morning, but my record of having solitude at Mesa Arch was soon broken: about 30 other people eventually arrived to enjoy the spectacular view. So now I’ve experienced the crowd the Mesa Arch, and it was not a bad thing. Everyone wanted to see the same magic light illuminate the underside of the arch, glimpse Washer Woman Arch in the distance, and feel the dizzying vertiginous pull of the cliffs just a few feet in front of us. I heard a number of accents and languages all expressing excitement when the sunlight hit the rocks, and joy when they realized their camera had captured the scene nicely. It was a great morning.