Mesa Arch Sunrise, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands is my favorite National Park of all time, and for good reason. Driving in from Moab in the fading night with the expectation and excitement of seeing the first rays of light turn the underside of the Mesa Arch deep colors of orange and red is an indescribable feeling! Of course this jewel located in the Island in the Sky district is a frequently captured site and typically one will find at least three to five other photographers there, so I suggest that you allow about 40 minutes for the drive and arrive early to set up in your preferred spot. Sometimes, as has happened to me on two occasions out of three, there will be a large cloud obscuring the horizon, and that will be a disappointment.


"Mesa Arch on Fire," Canyonlands National Park, Utah


The variety of compositions that may be achieved are many. The image below shows a more “typical” image of the first rays of light hitting the arch, which may prove somewhat difficult due to the challenge of producing a well-exposed and balanced photograph. I would consider utilizing a graduated neutral density filter and subsequently making local adjustments in Lightroom to compensate for the darkened top of the arch, or bracketing exposures and fusing/manually combining them at a later time. That being said, both images shown here are single exposures.

I would also try to capture an original photograph, such as the one above. While I was going for a “tighter” composition and incorporating the beautiful layers and striations in the rocks on the left of the frame, I was also able to capture gorgeous beams of light shooting through Washer Woman Arch in the distance.


"Mesa Arch Sunrise," Canyonlands National Park, Utah


All images are ©2011 Alexander Filatov Photography. All rights reserved.

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