Mesa Arch Madness

If ya happen to breeze by Canyonlands National Park outside Moab, Utah before sunrise then a good place to stop is Mesa Arch up in the “Island in the Sky” district of the expansive three-sectioned park.  It was 3 AM when I rode by on my iron horse.

Mesa Arch at sunrise is also a good way to meet 20 new friends. They all go there for the same reason you do… photograph the underglow of Mesa Arch at sunrise. Most of those folks will speak European languages; many no English at all.

The three districts of Canyonlands are divided by the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers in the middle of the park. The other two main districts are The Needles and The Maze.

It even has a fourth small, isolated section separate from the rest that has among the finest Boulder-style ancient pictographs found anywhere. I haven’t got there yet, dangit!

I pulled in well before sunrise and decided to try to capture the arch under the stars. The planet Venus and constellation Orion were conveniently located just above it.

Taking pictures of stars isn’t as easy as you might think. Proper focus is the big bugaboo. One method is to focus to infinity on something before sunset and then wait for dark.

Once dark, though, you are toast unless you can find something bright enough for autofocus to see. Otherwise, pictures will be totally out of focus. You don’t stand a chance of hand focusing in the dark.

The most practical method of focus in the dark is to bring along a bright spotlight you can shine on objects you want in sharp focus.

I was lucky. My camera would autofocus on both the moon and on Venus. I just needed enough DOF to keep the arch in reasonable focus to.

I was gonna try some light painting with my 2-million candle-powered spotlight, but unfortunately had to use up most of its juice to follow the trail up to the arch in the dark. 🙂

Btw… a word to the wise… don’t ever run up underneath it to photograph strait up on the underglow beneath Mesa Arch. It is about a 500 foot drop if ya do and the landing has gotta hurt.

On the plus side, though, you’d have time to take several great shots from further and further distances just before you smacked the ground. In that event then remember to protect your camera to preserve the pictures before splatting on the rocks below.

Here is one of my newest friends that I met in Canyonlands…

About azleader

Learning to see life more clearly... one image at a time!
This entry was posted in Desert, Geology, Landscape, life, Mesa Arch, Photo, Photography, photos, Thoughts, Utah. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Mesa Arch Madness

  1. Gabriel | 加百利 says:

    wonderful images !

  2. azleader says:

    Thanks for your kind remark… I try.

  3. Zach Schierl says:

    Love the nighttime shots! Getting proper focus is always my problem with those types of photos as well…looks like you aced it!

    • azleader says:

      The key to nighttime star photography is to have something at infinity to focus on. That can be done numerous ways. Among them are:
      1-Focus the camera BEFORE dark and wait
      2-Focus on a distant light source like Venus or the Moon or human
      3-Use your own spotlight to generate enough light for autofocus on main subject

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