This is an excerpt from my upcoming Guide Book “Cheyenne’s TOP 10 Photo Locations” – Southern Utah Edition
#6 Double Arch – Arches NP – Utah
Double Arch – not to be confused with Double “O” Arch which is a much longer and more arduous hike – is a great spot for a nighttime photo session. Southern Utah is known to have some of the darkest skies in the USA so why not take advantage of the amazing show of stars just waiting to be photographed? And when I say it is DARK I mean it is DARK. It was so dark I almost felt like I was blind – I suggest getting all of the settings on your camera adjusted before you head out and I also suggest doing a nighttime shoot in the summer and not in the middle of winter when I did mine. It was a frigid December night when I shot the photo above, it had to be in the mid 20’s and my hands were frozen only adding to the challenge of shooting at night, so needless to say this was a quick photo session. All I could think about when I wasn’t standing in amazement at the scene before my eyes was getting back to the warmth of my hotel room in Moab. I knew that this frozen experience would pay off handsomely with some amazing photos and I was right.
This unique “Double Arch” is located at the northwest end of the parking lot at the Windows and the sandy trail is a short easy ½ mile long. So grab your camera, tripod and flashlight and hit the trail, be sure to use caution as you make your way along the trail you don’t want to trip over a rock or branch, even with a flashlight it is still blindingly dark. Parking is easy and of course there was not a soul around this evening – I was the only numb skull crazy enough to brave the freezing temps. As I made my way toward the arch I noticed how it kept changing how it looked, at first it looked like a human bent over trying to squeeze out of this reality and into the cosmos with just their two legs sticking out which is why I named this photo; “Milky Way Man” and then as I rounded a corner and was almost underneath this huge rock formation it looked to me like Dino the Dinosaur from my childhood days. With his long Brontosaurus neck and round body I felt like I had stepped back to the Jurassic period and it freaked me out just a little in this extreme darkness.
As I contemplated what I wanted my photo to be, I decided that I liked the view of “Milky Way Man” better than “Dino the Dinosaur” so I wandered slowly and carefully back to my original spot and set up. I was armed only with my headlamp since too much light is not a good thing either, it is so dark that every time I turned on my headlamp to double check the settings on my camera it took too long for get my eyes to get readjusted to the pitch black. I found that if I kept the light off once I got to my shooting spot that my eyes actually started to pick up some light from the stars. And as I looked up I just couldn’t believe how many stars were in the sky – it was a spectacle that many will never get to see and I felt so fortunate to be able to witness this wonder of nature.
I aimed my camera, not that I could see anything but pitch black through my viewfinder, I hoped I was aimed at the right spot with Double Arch at the bottom of the frame with a vast sky full of stars at the top. I set my camera to ISO 1600 and opened my aperture to the widest f stop which was F.4 for the wide angle that I had on. I set my lens on the infinity setting for focus and got my cable release ready to rock and hoped for the best. I clicked off a few shots from 15 seconds to 30 seconds to see which would work best, I settled on about 20 seconds after looking at a few of the images. I was able to see a faint image in my LCD monitor and it helped me to make sure the horizon was straight in the shot and that’s about it. I can’t stress enough about how dark it was but it WAS SO DARK!
After shooting for about 30 minutes I could take no more of the cold, my fingers were frozen and I was shivering too much to even think. I slowly made my way back to the car and after I warmed up a bit I drove back to my warm and cozy room in Moab. After a nice hot shower and cup of tea to warm me up I decided to have a look at what I shot and was very happy with the outcome – the stars were bright and the images were crisp. It was worth all of the shivering and fumbling around in the dark. Nighttime photo sessions can result in the most magical images, it takes patience and determination but the rewards can be spectacular. So why not try something different on your next trip to Southern Utah but be sure to do it in the warmer months – I certainly will. Maybe you too can find your own “Milky Way Man”.
“Cheyenne’s TOP 10 Photo Locations” – Southern Utah Edition is the 1st in my series of “Cheyenne’s Top 10 Photo Locations” PDF Guidebooks – I will get you to the RIGHT place at the RIGHT time to get the RIGHT photo!!!! Also soon to follow will be Arizona and New Mexico Editions.