Photographing Mesa Arch--at Sunset

Moon rise over the La Sal Mountains from Mesa Arch, Canyonlands NP.

Moon rise over the La Sal Mountains from Mesa Arch, Canyonlands NP.

My second trip to the Moab area was largely disappointing. The weather for my December 2014 trip had been essentially perfect: cold and clear, even some snow to keep things interesting. When I photographed the iconic Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park at sunrise, incredibly I had the place to myself. I've heard of dozens of photographers showing up for sunrise.

However, the weather for my December 2016 trip was overcast and dreary. A few clouds added texture to the sky, but this time it was low ceiling and gray. For two consecutive mornings I was at the arch, hoping for the clouds to lift just enough for the sun to break over the horizon, and I wasn't alone this time.

Conditions improved slightly throughout the second day, and as I got ready to leave Canyonlands for the last time, I decided to stop at Mesa Arch to see if it could be photographed at dusk. Unfortunately, the arch was already in shadow; but at least I was alone and there was no chatter. I lowered myself and looked under the arch, where I saw the full moon rising over the La Sal Mountains.

I wish I could say this shot was planned. As Louis Pasteur said of his seemingly serendipitous scientific discoveries, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” In my case it was pure good fortune and a bit of desperation.

TravelMario DennisUtah