Image No. CNP0101: Mesa Arch. October 2003. Mamiya 645AFD, 35mm lens, Fujichrome Provia 100. Image specs: 4012 × 2466 pixels, 38.8 MB file size.
I’ve posted two shots of Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park on this website. This one is the less commonly seen image, cropped to a wider Nikon aspect ratio, emphasizing the dramatic extent of the arch as it stretches across your field of view. The other shot, titled “View from Mesa Arch,” emphasizes the view of the cliffs and spires seen through the arch and the arch’s sun-lit base. Twelve years after I shot these images, a California photography instructor told me that, these days, I probably would not be able to get these shots due to overcrowding.
In October 2003, while I was photographing at an overlook a couple of miles away and chatting with another photography instructor, he mentioned shooting Mesa Arch at sunrise. Since I’d never heard of the phenomenon, I asked him if the sun illuminated the arch nicely at sunrise. He looked at me, almost incredulous that I hadn’t known about it, and said simply, “Oh, baby!”
I resolved to see what he was talking about. I camped in my rented Ford Escape among trees in a nearby pullout campground (that doesn’t exist anymore), to be assured of being the first in line to photograph the arch at sunrise. I awoke to my alarm clock at 4 AM, packed up and drove to the Mesa Arch parking lot at the trailhead, and hiked the quarter-mile trail to Mesa Arch. I was the only one there, so I got close and set up my tripod and Mamiya camera and composed my shot, and waited for the sun.
While I was shooting, I looked behind me and saw some hapless photographers watching me, their cameras still in their packs. The early bird catches the worm, the only worm.