Colorado Plateau Photo Odyssey 11: Mesa Arch

Canyonlands SP13-87

Mesa Arch, one of the most famous natural structures in the world, sits on the very rim of the Island in the Sky plateau, spanning high above the canyons formed by and around the Colorado River. It’s about a third of a mile hike from the parking area along Grand View Point Road. It’s one of the most photographed spots in Utah. Photographers from all around the world flock here for sunrise shots. I arrived forty minutes before sunrise on a Monday morning. There were already five photographers with their camera and tripods waiting for sunrise. More would follow.

The hike to the spots is short, fairly flat, and relatively easy. There is a loop one can do from the parking lot to the arch and back:

On the monday in late April that I was there, it turned out to be a pretty good day for shooting Mesa Arch: just enough suggestions of clouds around the horizon to bring some color into the scene, but not enough to block out the sun. This is a sunrise shot where a bright sun can be a bonus.

After about a thirty-five minute wait, things started to get a bit more interesting, as color appeared in the sky, indicative that the sunrise would happen soon:

Finally the sun began to peak out, and then burst into flaming glory:

It was not long before the sun rose high enough to be blocked by the arch. By this time most of the photographers had left and I had the arch mostly to myself. I swapped lenses, opting for a fisheye so I could capture the entire arch in a single image, and also get close to the edge so I could photograph the canyons below:

Then I took a few more shots to provide a more complete picture of the place, starting with a long distance shot of structures in the canyons below:

And one more parting shot before leaving: