One of the most popular scenes near Moab, Utah is sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. The previous night Andy and I had met up with Phill Monson and his brother-in-law Jeff to photograph Delicate Arch, and we arranged to meet on this particular morning at Mesa Arch at 5:30am. This meant leaving our hotel at 4:30am (ick). We wanted to be the first photographers at the arch so that we could stake out our favorite spot. To our delight we were the first photographers for a couple minutes at least. 5 minutes later our solitude was broken as groups of photographers began to arrive.

For a saturday morning we were extremely lucky – only about 15 photographers showed up. No pushing or shoving, knocking tripods, or being rude. Everyone politely came over, found a spot, setup their tripods and waited. As the sun began to rise over the La Sal Mountains in the background, the rays of light hit the underside of Mesa Arch and caused it to glow

I chose this composition because I wanted to include as much of the plateau below the arch as I could. There are beautiful mesas, buttes, spires, canyons, and rivers here and I wanted to try to include them all I also knew that I wanted to include some sky and as much of the arch as I could; at times I wished I could have even been more wide angle than I already was. I took a number of photos as the sun rose and I wanted to include the largest sunstar that I could; I chose this photo because it has the suns rays on both the mountains and the arch.

This is NOT an HDR. Phill challenged me to take advantage of the amazing dynamic range of the Nikon D800 and this is only 1 exposure All it took was some simple dodging and burning, a curves adjustment to bring back some contrast, and some additional minor tweaks here and there.

Nikon D800 w/Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 ED-IF AF-S:
17mm, f/22, 0.6 sec, ISO 100
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Aaron M Written by:

Aaron Meyers is a landscape and wedding photographer living in Silicon Valley, CA. His love of the outdoors makes for frequent forays into the Californian wilds, where he delights in the stunning vistas of Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, and the Pacific Coast.