Colorado Plateau Photo Odyssey 14: The Windows

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The Windows section of Arches national park features several arch-like structures, including those official known as “The Windows.” There’s a north window and a south window. In the picture below, the north window is on the right, the south window on the left:

The money shot for the windows is a sunrise shot looking through the North Window toward Turret Arch:

To get the shot, you have to climb up on a ledge opposite the window and ascend the point of a knob-like formation in the center of the picture:

I spent two of the three mornings I stayed in the Moab area at The Windows. The first morning, I arrived about an hour before sunrise, hoping to get first dibs at the top of knob. There were already two photographers on site. They had been there all night. But just as I came, they ran off chasing some phantom or another, so in their absence, I grabbed the top spot. The morning was cloudless, so I opted for a tighter view of the North Window. When the sun started to creep above the horizon, this is what I got:

You can get a sense of how immense this arch is in this photo with the hiker ascending its flanks:

I decided to take a second stab at The Windows when it looked like we were going to get some clouds. With clouds in the sky, I could photograph The Windows with a wider angle lens. I chose to use a 10-17 fisheye zoom. This time, I had the place almost all to myself. For some strange reason, no one wanted to photograph The Windows from the famous vantage point. But this did not stop people from pouring into the area. Cars pulled into the parking lot. A bus pulled up and spat out hordes of tourists. I expected at least someone to come up and try to photograph the Turret Arch through the North Window, as I was doing. But, no, no one came. The crowds instead began coalescing around the Turret Arch. What was going on?

Before the sunrise I took the following shot. Notice the little round disk near the top left corner. That is the moon:

Below is a 100% resolution crop of the people gaping at Turret Arch:

Luckily, they can barely be seen in this image. That’s the advantage of shooting with a fisheye lens. Later I would walk over to try to figure out why all these people were getting in my shot:

Apparently, they hoped to photograph the moon through Turret Arch! As the clouds became thicker as the morning progressed, they wound up missing the shot. Meanwhile, however, I got some real nice shots of The Windows from the knob. And not just the North Windows, but both Windows:

Here’s a full, 180º fisheye shot. Note the crooked horizon:

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I fixed up the shot in Photoshop and passed it through Color Efex Pro to look like this:

The Windows is a short hike from the parking lot. One of the easier morning shots to get in the area.