On a recent photo shoot in the USA and after many days on the road, I dragged myself out of bed in Moab at around 3.30am to set off for the drive and hike to photograph sunrise at the spectacular Mesa Arch. After a 40 minute drive followed by a short hike down the trail lit only by headlamp, I reached the location in plenty of time… and all in one piece! All I could think of while walking in the dark, stepping over rocks and gnarled roots, were all of those rattlesnakes they had out here. Us spoilt kiwis tend to get a little paranoid around snakes!
As sunrise drew closer a few more photographers arrived on the scene. Luckily myself and one other were there early enough to secure the positions of our choice. As the sun started to peek over the horizon I could see why I was not alone. It was an awe inspiring sight with the morning light uncovering a beautiful landscape sprawled before you.
There is a very unusual natural phenomenon that takes place here. Mesa Arch itself is hanging precariously off the front of an immense cliff face. As the sun rises the early morning glow bounces back off the front of the cliff face to light up the arch from below – almost like a neon sign! The light and reflections on the orange rocks are constantly changing the appearance and colours of the scene.
I spent a couple of hours shooting the arch and for the first time I can remember I used every lens that I had in my trusty LowePro backpack on that one single scene. All images were taken on my Canon EOS1Ds mk3 and the lenses included my 14mm 2.8L, 15mm fisheye, 24mm 1.4L, 50mm 1.2L and my 70-200 2.8L IS II. I also created a stitch panorama from a series of six images taken on the 24mm 1.4L.
Within 5 – 10 minutes of the initial sunrise all of the other photographers had packed up and left. I waited for almost another hour and captured one of my favourite images as the sun just peeked over the top of the arch. This was taken with the Canon 14mm 2.8L mkII. I used a small aperture to enhance the starburst created by the partially hidden sun. I then took another nice overview of the arch and the valley below with my 70-200 on the walk out.
It was an interesting exercise to do this and to see how many unique images you can create of the one subject or location. This was to be my only morning here so I wanted to make the most of it. I also used a variety of different apertures to further vary the look of the images. It also demonstrates that there is not necessarily a “right” lens to use in any given situation. Each lens provided its own qualities to the scene and created a different feel to each image.
After a successful shoot it was back to town for a long awaited caffeine fix!
One of my images from that shoot went on to win the “Scenics of the Natural World” category in the PDN Great Outdoors Photo Awards this year. Pictured below (14mm Lens)-
As published in D-Photo Magazine July 2012.