Sunday, December 27, 2009

A little known Delicate Arch photo opportunity.

I was perusing the Internet for information about photography in Utah over Thanksgiving weekend and I came upon a piece of information about Delicate Arch that I wasn't aware of. For those who don't know, Delicate Arch located in Arches National Park, Utah, is perhaps the most famous Red Rock - Arch formation in Utah. As the article, or blog stated (I really don't remember which it was) "you can catch the sun setting through Delicate Arch one week before, or one week after the winter solstice."

That knowledge triggered all sorts of brain activity and the next words out of my mouth were, "Honey, I am going to Moab on the Weekend of December 19th." Of course, I did thoroughly explain myself and the uncertain logic behind a cold winter trip to Moab. After some deliberation, we agreed that it was a reasonable idea for me to go to Moab, by myself, the other members of the family having no interest in joining in.

Planning for this trip was simple, find and pack every old item of cold weather mountaineering gear that I owned, along with anything else that looked warm. Next, book a night at the Moab Motel 6 and I was ready to go. Having been to Delicate Arch on numerous occasions, most recently in July, I felt I did not need a road map. I even had a pretty good idea where I had to park myself in order to get the shot with the sun setting inside the arch.

When the 19th of December finally arrived, I packed up our diesel Jeep Liberty and left home around 7:30 a.m. The weather forecast for Moab was cold, cold and colder and I was feeling a bit uneasy as I passed over Soldier Summit with the Jeep telling me that it was -2 degrees outside, then near Green River where it was a foggy 7 degrees. But, it was sunny and 19 degrees as I checked in to my motel, the sunshine giving me the sensation of warmth. It was pure joy to be in Moab again! I unpacked myself into the Motel, changed into my warm gear and headed for Arches.

I stopped at the visitor center after entering the park and got into a conversation about photography with one of the rangers. He stated that he never heard that you could take a photograph of the sun going down inside of Delicate Arch. So, it was not very well known, or I was going to freeze on a wild photograph chase.

I lazily drove my way through the park stopping often to take photos of the park in winter. The contrasts between the red rock, the snow and the deep blue sky made for beautiful scenery and I was hoping, beautiful photographs. I was totally absorbed in the beauty around me and didn't even seem to notice the cold. Finally I arrived at the snowy parking lot that is the trailhead for the 1.5 mile hike up to Delicate Arch. The bigger surprise was how many others were doing the hike on that day, the parking lot was almost two-thirds full.

Strategic planning had set my arrival time at the trailhead. I determined (actually it was more like a thoughtless guess) how long the hike would take, how much time before the sun would set, and how long I could sit still watching the sunset before frost bite would set in.

The hike was on partial snow and ice, but at least it was warm as the activity was keeping my blood moving. Unfortunately, it was starting to cloud over as I hiked. After about 40 minutes I arrived at the end of the hike, which is the top of the rock, just north of the Arch. There were probably 15 to 20 other people there, including what looked like four serious photographers.

Being the amature photographer that I am, I promptly took out my Canon G10 Point and Shoot and plopped myself down next to the other photographers. As I was setting up my tripod, I looked over my right shoulder with more than a hint of jealousy at the thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment pointing at the Arch. I actually heard one of the other photographers state that a friend had told him he took his point and shoot up here and actually took a couple of nice photos. I assumed it was in reference to my equipment.

It was a great location to take a photograph and it was what I will call the standard beautiful shot, but it wasn't the angle or shot that I had come all of this way to take. After taking a couple of photos, I wandered around the end of the bowl and set myself up behind a large boulder out of the way of the other photographers view. My location was east of Delicate Arch and as I setup my equipment, I could actually see the sunlight behind the clouds and it was clearly inside of the arch. Now the questions were, was I going to get a clearing in the clouds to enable me to see the sun and was I going to be able to handle the cold long enough to be able to take the shot that I had come all of this way to take.

I stayed there and took more than 50 photographs from that spot and only one other individual wandered over to my location during that time. I pointed out the view of the sunset to him and he promptly took some pictures of the sun setting inside of the Arch. I stayed until the sun was no longer visible on the horizon and until my fingers were hurting and numb. Then I packed up and hurried on back to the trail.

The hike back to the Jeep was very cold, but the activity helped me get my fingers warmed backup. It was after dark when I arrived and there were only a couple of cars left, fortunately my diesel Jeep that clearly hates the cold started up for me. I had an interestingly lonely drive out of the park where I only saw one other vehicle the whole time.

So, did I get any good photographs on my trip you ask? Well, I will have to let you decide, just click on this link to my photographs of Delicate Arch and Arches National Park: Arches National Park at

Was this cold trip to take photographs worth it? Absolutely! It was another in a long list of adventures to Moab that I will always cherish!

The beauty of Arches National Park is always present in all types of weather conditions. Maybe next year there will be more open cloud cover, or maybe it will be snowing. It doesn't really matter, I will go back if the opportunity presents itself.