LAST SUNSET AT ARCHES NATIONAL PARK - 22 January 2015
Delicate Arch in Winter Sunset - Arches National Park, File# 1515170
Link to full sized image: http://www.tom-hill.biz/Galleries/Scenics/Utah/i-Jm5CJPh/A
This image was taken on my last evening on this trip to Moab, Utah. This arch is called Delicate Arch. It might possibly the most photographed arch in the whole world. Dozens and dozens of people make the relatively difficult trek up the trail. While the trail isn't especially technically difficult it does have some sustained steep sections with little view of how far it is to go to the destination. After passing a fairly narrow walkway and around one more bend, there's the arch in all its majestic glory.
I've made this trek about a dozen times over the years. The last was three or four years ago when I crested on the ridge just to the opposite side of the arch as you see it here. Normally, when you get to where I took this image you get the opportunity to enjoy Delicate arch with forty or fifty of the best friends you've never met. Most people are quite well organized when here and mostly try not to get in the middle of anyone else's picture taking. That usually means all the photographers are stationed to the right of this image above. In fact, I have several spectacular images from just that location such as this picture:
As a result, most of the images of Delicate Arch looks very much the same as every other picture of Delicate Arch. On normal days, it's very difficult to create something innovative.
This day, the skies were completely overcast. When I got to the trail parking lot, there seemed more people coming off the mountain than getting ready for the trek up the trail. I could imagine why because the payback from the effort up the trail wasn't looking very likely. I even saw one photographer I met that morning up at Mesa Arch. He seemed to be undecided on whether the trek would be worth the effort as the clouds where quite overcast. Well, I thought; "nothing ventured, nothing gained." I got my gear together and marched up the hill making it with about 45 minutes prior to sunset. The sky was still completely overcast with clouds.
Not about 15 minutes after I made the end of the trail, the other photographer arrived quite exhausted. And, there wasn't anyone else. There wee only the two of us, two whole photographers. We had the whole place to ourselves. This was a first for me at Delicate Arch. I've never shot it with only two people, ever.
I immediately took to shoot compositions I never would've tried with the normal crowd on the site at the risk of being jeered away. The other photographer and I both planted ourselves almost under Delicate Arch hoping to include a direct view of the setting sun, if the clouds ever broke.
Sure enough, almost on cue, the clouds parted enough to allow the sun to beam the skies and illuminate the underside of the clouds just as it approached the horizon. The other photographer and I were changing positions and shooting different compositions as quickly as we could with the fast changing light conditions.
Just as the sun kissed the horizon a young Japanese fellow made it to the top of the trail so excited. How did I know? He was talking out loud to no one how awesome the light show was. His smile was so wide, he was beaming. We took his picture with the arch in the foreground and the sun in the background, his arms stretched wide. His enthusiasm was infectious.
This visitor pretty much showed off what we all were feeling. Personally, I felt very lucky and privileged to be up there with perfect light and the place all to myself. I couldn't have planned it any better if I tried.
The image here was made from three exposure values to try to capture all the light data so neither the highlights--i.e. the sun--nor the foreground shadows were blown out, meaning they still had detail. The decision path to process this image using my digital tools was quite complicated. While I knew exactly what I wanted out of this image--I imagined the final product when I shot the picture up there next to the arch--it still took quite a while to properly create it as you see here.