Moab is not only an outdoor recreation playground, but it’s also a photographer’s paradise. Photographing Moab has been one of my favorite photography trips for nearly 30 years. I’ve visited Arches, Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point, and dozens of uncharted trails and off-road tracks.
No trip has been more fun, though, than a field trip I made a few years ago with a group of fellow photographers. Our trip consisted of early mornings and twilights (the best light for landscape photography), with hiking, exploring and learning in between.
Our first morning photographing Moab, we headed out to Dead Horse Point State Park. We planned to view the sunrise where the Colorado River makes a horse shoe bend at the edge of Canyonlands National Park. These two images were made less than 10 minutes apart. I am always in awe of how quickly the light can change at dawn.
Later that afternoon, we hiked to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, where we were treated to a late afternoon thunderstorm, followed by a beautiful rainbow.
We stayed on for twilight and the real object of our hike, night photography of Delicate Arch. This is where it helps to travel with your photographer friends. We set our cameras and tripods and framed the view each of us wanted. Then one member of our group headed over to the arch to illuminate it with a flash while we photographed our scenes. This is not a photograph you can create by yourself.
The hike back from Delicate Arch was an interesting one. By the time we left to hike back, the sun was long gone and the trail across the wet slickrock was pitch dark because of the clouds. We came prepared with flashlights, and I was at the back of the pack. The hike was a little dicey in spots as I’d never hiked it in the dark before, and then about halfway back, my flashlight died. It suddenly went from mildly adventurous to a white-knuckle trek across dark and slippery rock with steep drop-offs and crevices. As I began to debate my next steps (literally), one of my friends showed up to lead me back in his light. Now I carry two flashlights in my pack.
The next morning we headed out for sunrise photography at the iconic Mesa Arch. It’s one of those places where the photographers are almost literally tripping over one another–we were by no means the only ones there–but if you’re a photographer, you go.
The golden sunrise glow on the underside of this arch, combined with the spectacular view of Canyonlands through the Arch is what makes it such a draw. I don’t know of any other arches where this sunrise phenomenon is so pronounced.
And here is my “iconic” image of the arch. Once I photographed to sunrise view, I wandered away from the other photographers to find my own views of the canyon.
We spent most of our second day, wandering through the parks, sharing photography tips and experiences. And then for our last morning, it was back to find another vantage point for photographing the sunrise over Canyonlands. Once again, it was amazing to watch how the light changed as we went from night to day.
Whatever level of photographer you are, if you want the opportunity to stretch your skills, make some incredible photographs and enjoy hiking and exploring in one of the most scenic regions in the western United States, you need to plan to spend some time photographing Moab.
All of the images in this post are available for purchase in my art gallery, by clicking on any image above, or by clicking on the Art Photography link at the top of the page and selecting the “Utah” gallery.