Photographing Arches National ParkBlake and Hudson Henry Style
Hudson and I discuss our adventure in Arches National Park for the ON1 Plus Community. You have to check out Hudson’s work, he is a phenomenal photographer that taught me so much in such a small amount of time. Also be sure to scope out what ON1 Plus has to offer.
Watch it large, and in HD, there is some great Drone and Go Pro Footage!
Last week Hudson Henry and I went to Moab to scout locations for a future workshop with Shutterclick Adventures. Our intent was to photograph and scout Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. As it turned out, we were so impressed with Arches that we only spent a couple of hours in Canyonlands photographing Mesa Arch.
We had a great time and clicked (pun intended) instantly, but we did have some hurdles early in the week. We were supposed to get into town around 2 PM on the first day of our adventure, but something had other plans for us. Both of our flights into Grand Junction from Denver were canceled, so we had to rent a car and drive to Grand Junction, pick up the other rental car and then head into Moab. By the time we got into our rented condo, it was nearly 11 PM.
The travel debacle put a small crimp in our step as we were going to use the first afternoon as our original scouting time. It was important because we had a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time. The next three days would prove to be a whirlwind of driving, hiking, and lots of shooting. I think we only slept a cumulative total of 12 hours in 3 days, but it was WELL worth it.
This blog post will cover our tracks in the order that we shot the locations. It is important to note that it is not laid out in the order you would see them if you were to drive through the park. For each area, I will briefly discuss the terrain to get to each location and what to expect when you are there.
Please join me on March 29th @ 2 PM Central for an exclusive Live Event where I will release some of my secret tips for shooting these locations!
Balanced Rock was the first place we visited during our adventure. We had no idea what to shoot the first morning for the Milky Way since we had no time to scout the night before. After looking at the Arches Map and a few eBooks we decided it would be an easy stop in the dark. It is very accessible, no hike, just a quick pullout from the main road. However, it does provide a phenomenal foreground element for just about any time of day.
Once the Milky Way had vanished with the onset of blue hour and dawn, we headed back toward the park entrance to the Courthouse tower parking lot to photograph The Organ. You can shoot this structure pretty easily from the parking lot, but its scope and size are best revealed from a distance which may require a small hike in any direction. Shooting this structure “in the round” is a great idea and one could photograph it for days and still not find the perfect angle. We visited it quite a few times on our trip.
The morning light washed out the landscape which was perfect for Hudson and I to go back to the condo, grab a bite to eat, and take a nap. Around 2 PM we headed back out to the park and made our first stop at the Park Avenue Parking lot. This is another accessible landscape to photograph with a viewpoint only a few hundred feet from the parking lot. However, some of the best photos of Park Avenue can be found on the hike which will put you over by The Organ when it is complete.
The Fiery Furnace
While the afternoon light was vanishing, we headed up to the far side of the park to a place called the “Fiery Furnace”. The Furnace area required a hiking permit to enter, but the parking lot and surrounding area provided a beautiful view of the La Sal Mountains with slick rock formations in the foreground. With a decent telephoto, this is an easy place to photograph and probably my favorite view of the La Sal’s paired with the red slick rock.
After visiting the Fiery Furnace we made our way back toward the Windows section of the park to photograph Turret Arch and Double Arch. We first settled at Turret Arch for sunset. It is a short walk to the arch from the parking lot, maybe a quarter mile at most. It is well worth the expended energy for the shots you can get there. In the images here you can see we photographed Sunset, Sunrise and the Milky Way, an excellent foreground element for any time of day.
Once the sun had set on Turret Arch, I assumed it was dinner time, but Hudson had other plans! I tell ya, he is a phenomenal photographer, and rightfully so, when others are ready to pack up and settle he is just beginning! Double Arch shares a parking lot with Turret Arch and is only about a quarter mile easy hike from the car. We decided to shoot it during moonlight, just as Blue Hour was concluding and we managed to grab some incredible shots! This is where I fell in love with my new Voigtlander 10mm wide angle lens.
On the second day of our shooting adventure, we went back to Balanced Rock and the Organ / Park Avenue area for our Milky Way and Dawn location (some of these images you have already seen above). Then we went back to the condo, ate and got some much-needed rest. Our afternoon was spent in Canyonlands National Park. It is a whole different shooting experience; it is more like vast open countryside with panoramic views that are relatively easy to photograph from the parking areas.
The most impressive areas to shoot here are False Kiva (we did not have the chance to make it this trip) and Mesa Arch. Typically, Mesa Arch is flooded with photographers at Sunrise. Hudson and I went at Sunset and only saw one or two hikers, but no other experienced photographers. Sure, it is a sunrise spot, but we had the whole place to ourselves for sunset to scout and find the most primo locations if we went back for sunrise.
While Hudson photographed a pano of the Arch, I walked around and found some interesting compositions. Don’t discredit the area around Mesa Arch, there is plenty of beauty in the landscape there and is probably the quietest place I have ever photographed. It is a great place to just stop, breathe, and reconnect.
Sand Dune Arch
The next morning we shot the Milky Way and Dawn at Turret Arch (some of these images you have already seen above). In keeping with the routine, we headed back for breakfast and naps and then planned the rest of our day. Our final shooting day in Arches National Park was at Sand Dune Arch.
This Arch is unlike the rest of its siblings in the park. It is tucked away in a crevasse between two large rock formations and very close to the parking lot. An easy hike in revealed an arch shielded from light which made for some fun abstract images. We didn’t spend much time there due to high traffic and a quickly setting sun.
We finished our last day in Arches National Park by photographing the famous Delicate Arch. We shied away from this location for the bulk of the trip due to the influx of cars in the parking lot and high traffic on the slick rock path up to it. I will admit, I did not want to shoot this arch at all. I was fatigued, hungry, sleep deprived, and ready to call it a day before it started, but Hudson convinced me otherwise. I am glad he did!
Delicate Arch is a MUST photograph location. The trail leading up to it is not for the faint of heart and would require a copious amount of determination for the out of shape photographer. I would highly recommend packing a good headlamp, at least 30 ounces of water for your hike, and a protein bar to enjoy at the top. I was lacking the snack and could have used it once we reached the summit!
We were both carrying anywhere from 65 – 80 pounds of camera gear to the lookout point of Delicate Arch. The hike is about 3 miles roundtrip, but the elevation increases 500 feet along the way. We were about to lose the sun, so we quickly made it up in record time, a little less than 20 minutes.
At the top of the hike, we were welcomed by a natural amphitheater full of photographers and onlookers excited for the sunset experience. Delicate Arch can be difficult to photograph, and I can imagine anyone who had photographed it before us got very skilled with the Clone Stamp tool rather quickly!
Don’t let the idea of onlookers and photographers dissuade you from photographing Delicate Arch. It is a must see! It is the pride of the park and sits high above the rest of the locations. We referred to it as the “King of the Park.” In one of the images shown here, you can see Balanced Rock and Turret Arch in the distance. It is gorgeous.
We stayed until after the sun had set and all of the onlookers departed leaving Hudson and me with the Arch all to ourselves under the light of the full moon. It was an incredible experience and one I will never forget. While Hudson setup and shot a time-lapse of the arch, I roamed the natural amphitheater and shot to my heart’s content. The moon was so bright that we didn’t even need headlamps to hike back down.
Arches National Park
There is beauty all around the park. While it does have those must-see attractions, don’t hesitate to photograph the beauty of everything around it. I had my primary camera (a7rII) equipped with a wide angle lens for the bulk of the trip, but my sidearm (a6300) was rocking a 70-200 mm telephoto to get in tighter. This gave me the opportunity to photograph the park in two ways at any given time.
The arches are an exciting phenomenon but don’t forget to turn around, shoot a bit tighter, and enjoy the whole park with your camera(s). I guarantee there are many things we missed, but we covered the park pretty well in under 72 hours!
Hudson Henry and I are both Gurus for ON1. While I am a guest coach with ON1 Plus, Hudson spends a lot of time perfecting the community by assisting thousands of photographers with critique sessions, courses, and forum participation. I have to say that in 72 hours I learned so much from Hudson. He taught me all about the right clothes to wear on long adventures, how to use phone apps for milky way photography, and how to be just darn awesome in the process.