My second trip to the Moab area was largely disappointing. The weather for my December 2014 trip had been essentially perfect: cold and clear, even some snow to keep things interesting. When I photographed the iconic Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park at sunrise, incredibly I had the place to myself. I’ve heard of dozens of photographers showing up for sunrise.
However, the weather for my December 2016 trip was overcast and dreary. A few clouds add texture to the sky, but this time it was low ceiling and gray. For two mornings in a row I was at the arch, hoping for the clouds to lift just enough for the sun to break over the horizon, and I wasn’t alone. Both times seven or eight other photographers were with me, lined up tripod-to-tripod. I didn’t mind sharing the space–everyone was cooperative and there was just enough room for all us. I was less happy with the ceaseless chatter. When I go to a beautiful place, I want to enjoy it in silence, not listen to constant yammering. The other photographers will probably remember me as the guy who never said a word.
Conditions improved slightly throughout the second day, and as I got ready to leave Canyonlands for the last time, I decided to stop at Mesa Arch to see if it could be photographed at dusk. Unfortunately, the arch was already in shadow; but at least I was alone and there was no chatter. I lowered myself and looked under the arch, where I saw the full moon rising over the La Sal Mountains.
I wish I could say this shot was planned. As Louis Pasteur said of his seemingly serendipitous scientific discoveries, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” In my case it was pure good fortune and a bit of desperation.