December Sunrise at Mesa Arch
December Sunrise at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The view of the La Sal Mountains, the Washerwoman, and Monster Tower framed by Mesa Arch is one of the scenic climaxes of Canyonlands National Park. During the fair-weather months, even at sunrise, you practically need to take a number to get a space for your tripod. Although the weather is benign in summer, it’s not the best time to photograph Mesa Arch. The sun rises directly over the La Sals, which means the light is less colorful by the time it reaches the arch. Shooting directly into the sun also magnifies problems with haze. In summer photographs, the La Sals are often almost invisible behind a shroud of backlit dust. As part of my multi-year project to photograph Canyonland’s major features at the very best time of year, I decided to photograph Mesa Arch in December, when the sun rises as far to the south of east as it will for the entire year. At the latitude of Arches National Park, the angle of sunrise (and sunset) varies by more than 60 degrees from summer solstice to winter solstice. By choosing to photograph near winter solstice, when the sun rises well to the south of the La Sals, I was able to capture the most colorful possible light and to minimize problems with haze. To me, this image embodies the full grandeur of this spectacular overlook.