Canyonlands is a vast National Park divided by North and South access points. Grand vistas, crazy rock and cliff formations and pure primitive desert atmosphere dramatically define this Utah wilderness. In an area of the park called, "The Island in the Sky", you will find the popular and well visited Mesa Arch. This amazing arch clings precariously to the side of a looming 1000 foot cliff and frames up a truly spectacular east view overlooking the sprawling Colorado river carved canyons below.
I wanted to experience the sensational sunrise event that takes place every mostly clear sky morning. Arriving at the arch the night before, I began photographing and surveying the surrounding area including the arch from different angles and elevations. By nightfall, I had chosen a couple spots that I wanted to image the sunrise from. I stayed up most of the night to get shots of this amazing arch at every time of the day... but I knew that I had to be right on time and game to get the sunrise images that I wanted. Timing was critical because each morning at Mesa Arch, a large crowd gathers to see the surreal under-arch glow. In fact, entire buses of people are sometimes unloaded - and they are not photographers. This means people are everywhere! Under the arch, on top of the arch, and in front of your camera! But the biggest obstacle - other photographers that squeeze in a push your camera tripod to the side. It’s fierce! Even though I stayed up until 3:30am photographing accompanied by a tiny amount of sleep, another photographer still beat me back to the arch and staked out his space at 4:00am!
I had a good idea about where the sun was going to break the horizon by listening to other people that had seen it the morning before. And that is how I guessed on my “shot spot” to get the sun as close to the center of the arch as possible. Then finally the sun pierced the horizon and I had only a few minutes at best to capture as many exposures as possible before the sun became to bright and glary. The main event of sunrise Mesa Arch is how the radiating sunlight crashes into the cliff below and uniquely illuminates the underside of this arch with a fiery orange and red color.
The Sun rising near the center of Mesa Arch during this time of year gave me the opportunity to successfully photograph “Stargate” - a dramatic image that neatly frames one of the best views of the American Southwest.