Does the world really need another image of Mesa Arch?

I almost didn’t go. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of arches (and so have you by now!).

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, has to the be the most overly photographed place in the USA. Of course, there is a reason for that, it looks amazing at sunrise when the bottom of the arch glows red just as the sun breaks the horizon. I’ve seen it a gazillion times before, just never in person. But I couldn’t haul my butt out of bed early enough to get up there so the world can have a gazillion and one images of Mesa Arch at sunrise.

I was at the trailhead at around 6pm and I almost didn’t go at all, but in the end I decided to go on the short hike with just one lens (I must have been tired if I didn’t even take my super lightweight tripod), and hope that maybe I would get something more unique since it was sunset.

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Please click the images to view larger versions.

Mesa Arch really is a neat thing to see. Most of the arches tower 50 feet or more overhead but this one is only a few feet off the ground and you can look through the arch to the canyon below. It is quite stunning.

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Both of these are hand-held HDR images. Usually you would use a tripod if you intend to make multiple exposures but it is possible to do it handheld and line up the features in post-processing, either manually or using software. I let Photomatix line up the features and it does a great job all on its own. I just use the highest frame per second rate the camera allows, use auto-bracketing, and try not to move too much while I take the three shots.

I know I will be spending more time in Utah ove the coming winter, so I will try my best to get out there for sunrise next time :) It will probably be easier in the winter when the sun doesn’t rise so early.

I guess after seeing it in person I have decided that yes, the world does need another image of Mesa Arch at sunrise because I don’t have one in my collection yet.

Share Button


  1. says

    Seen a thousand pictures of it but never been there, and yes I do plan on going at some point. The same thought has entered my mind, does the world really need another photograph of this? Guess it comes down to the personal experience rather than making the gazillion and two photograph of it. It’s good to look at photography as a medium to experience the great outdoors rather than strictly an image creation mechanism.
    The two shots here are great nice job in capturing as much of an alternate view as possible.

    • says

      Hi Brad, I couldn’t have said it better, it is all about enjoying the experience. You have to really experience a place before you can hope to convey anything in an image of it. Thank you very much for your visit and comments.

  2. says

    I ask myself the same question each time I see a photo of Mesa Arch, Mormon Row (Tetons), and Half Dome. I’ve decided that each photographer needs to take these obligatory shots to make them his/her own. Each of us has such a unique perspective of the world around us. The photos of what seem to be done over-and-over need to be captured. It’s important that photographers capture their own version, even if they never plan to share it online, in a portfolio, or have a print made. I have trip to New York City coming up in August and I intend to capture every tourist-type of photo along with some unique ones. Who knows when I’ll ever get the chance to travel there again, so I’m going to make the most of it. Anne, your images of the arch are yours. They are unique. They have your “spin” or “take” on that setting. They are beautiful images. Yes, the world really does need another photograph of Mesa Arch. :)

    • says

      Hi Shaun, you have a very good point that we all have a unique perspective of the world around us and as photographers we need to try to convey that perspective in an image. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be an image that is better than all the rest, it is still our own and helps us learn how to put our feeling into our work. Thank you so much for your comments.

  3. says

    I really never get tired of seeing pictures of Mesa Arch. I haven’t been in person but it’s on my “must see/must photograph” list. These are beautiful.
    Edith Levy recently posted..Sky LightMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Edith, just be warned about the size of the arch! I have a photographer friend who drove out there from LA and was disappointed to discover it is only a few feet high. It can be really hard to judge the scale from the images we see. But Arches National Park is right nearby and the arches there are huge. Thanks for your comments.

  4. says

    I like these. I feel like I’m taking a peek through a spy hole or a letter box on another world on the other side of the arch. And it’s a pretty fantastic world beyond there too. The arch frames the view, which is distinctly different from the other ‘Arch’ views. Clever POV, Anne
    LensScaper recently posted..Bus PassesMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Andy, thank you so much! I did like the way the arch frames the canyon below. Most of the images I see of the arch include the whole arch, and to get the whole arch you usually have to step back where you can no longer see the canyon through the hole. Well, maybe I did get a different point of view after all! Thanks for your comments Andy.

  5. says

    Hi Anne, lovely captures, very nice light. I’d love to come explore the US a little more! I think your opening question fits many of the great landscapes around the world, as they can all suffer from a bit of over exposure (no pun intended!). Thing is you’ve made the shot your own, and you like it for your own reasons, and hey, we like it too!

    I headed out to a location recently, it was a great evening and apart from the dog and me nobody was around…until we reached the location. Three other photographers were set up! I had similar thoughts to you and wondered how many of the shots would be published and what the individual interpretations would look like. The dog and me enjoyed our hike, and the sunset and that’s what counts. If I’m pleased with the shot afterwards it’s a bonus!
    Barney Delaney recently posted..Landscape Photography, English Landmarks, Peak District, Windgather Rocks SunsetMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Barney, you are totally right, it’s all about enjoying the moment and trying to capture it in an image, regardless of whether the image has been “done” before. It’s hard to come up with a unique point of view but it sure is worth trying. Thanks for your visit and contribution.

  6. James Ronan says

    There are never enough beautiful photographs of nature! Besides, as said before, each person has there own way of seeing such a picture. I have been to Mesa Arch three times. Once in the rain in the afternoon during a drive through road trip, once in the early morning for sub rise, and once for sunset. My photos of the arch are among my favorites that I have taken. Interestingly they were very different from a friend who was also taking pictures at the same time. Or choice of lenses, exposure, and post processing preferences almost made it appear we were at different places! I love photographing new things on our road trips, but always try to capture my take on iconic sites as well. I am really enjoying you’re website and Facebook page. If accurate you are in our neck of he wood on the Oregon coast now. Great time of year for OR coast pictures! If you go inland sometime I would love to see your take on some of OR covered bridges!

    • says

      Hi James, Thank you very much for your visit and comments. I always find it interesting when I go on photo walks with friends how different the images turn out. The trip up the Oregon coast was gorgeous, as always. It was a bit of a shock getting used to the grey skies and the rain after being in the desert for so long. There always seems to be 4 yucky rainy days followed by one absolutely gorgeous day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge