Image no. CNP0201: View from Mesa Arch. October 2003. Mamiya 645AFD, 35mm lens, Fujichrome Provia 100. Image specs: 4128 × 3132 pixels, 38.8 MB, suitable for the largest prints.
I’ve posted two shots of Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park on this website. This one is the more conventional view that emphasizes the the view of the cliffs and spires seen through the arch and the arch’s sun-washed base. The other shot, titled simply “Mesa Arch,” emphasizes the dramatic extent of the arch itself as it stretches across your field of view. 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 the 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.
After shooting here I drove down to Moab to gas up for the drive to Salt Lake City. At the gas station I realized that I’d lost my wallet. I retraced my route, keeping my eyes peeled on both sides of the road, checked my campsite from the night before, and finally stopped in the Island in the Sky Visitors Center to check lost-and-found. The ranger there verified my identity and handed me my wallet, with drivers license and all my cash and credit cards. A couple from Northern California had found it on the side of the road not far from my campsite. I’d left it on the roof of my SUV when I changed pants that morning, half-asleep, before heading to Mesa Arch. I got the address from the ranger and later mailed a large print of this image to my Good Samaritans.
Just over a year later, in December 2004, the ranger joined me for a road trip on the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia.