I live just under 3 hours from this masterpiece located in Arches National Park and this was the first time I had ever been there. I always dreaded the crowds but finally the calling became too great and around 1:00 pm on Saturday I quickly loaded my gear and headed out for the park. Spring Break was in full swing so I knew the crowds would be crazy. Regardless, I checked the weather and time for sunset and figured I would just make it in time.
When arriving at the parking lot, it was completely full. looking up at the trail leading to the arch, it looked like an army of ants swarming the path as far as the eye could see. I have never seen anything like it before.
The park ranger informed me the trail was fairly difficult but I quickly realized it would be a breeze compared to my San Juan Mountain hikes taken back home. The path was dangerous in spots as shear cliffs were on the edge of several parts of the trail especially right before entering the arch arena. The end of the trail looked like something out of a movie with its flat rock narrow path leading around the cliff face with a sharp drop-off on the left side. It is a wonder people haven’t fallen off, especially children. I loved it!
My first glance at the arch was quickly interrupted by nearly a hundred people from all over the world staking their territory for the big show hopefully to occur at sunset. I worked my way through the crowd and found a nice vantage point that showed off the La Sal Mt. range with of course the main show, Delicate Arch.
I was quickly surrounded by a photographer from BC, Canada on my right and by a woman from China who had the most beautiful gear imaginable. We quickly started a conversation and suddenly, the arch wasn’t the main show but rather the people present were. I found myself having a great time!
Then out of nowhere, a groom and his bride wearing a gorgeous white wedding dress showed up which was strikingly beautiful against the red rock and Delicate Arch background. To make it more interesting, a man ran out of the crowd with a large American flag and circled the arch in stunning fashion. the crowd began to cheer and I could hear the chant, USA,USA…
The foreign photographers next to me shouted out, “This is why America is so great!” This was a special moment to remember!
Of course, I had to get shots of the wedding event along with the American flag.
Back to the main event, it was now getting close to sunset but unfortunately, the clouds were very thick on the Western horizon. It looked as if we would not be treated to a gorgeous sunset but at that point, I really didn’t care. But then without warning, the magical moment began as the setting sun suddenly burst under the clouds in the distant horizon casting a laser beam of beautifully saturated light upon the arch. Within an instant, Delicate Arch started glowing almost too bright to photograph.
The crowd started cheering as all the photographers instantly went to work snapping off their shutters in hopes of catching this incredible display of nature. At this point when someone got close to the arch there was little patience as the loud voice of dozens of photographers in unison would warn the patron to steer clear of the area. It was clear to everyone now that the arch belonged to them.
The saturated light quickly disappeared and was replaced with a soft golden glow. The La Sal Mts. snow capped peaks lit up and the thin cloud cover to the east suddenly started to turn red with golden highlights. Now the crowd was quietly uttering the classic ohh’s and ahh’s as the scene before us was breath taking! My problems began as I started snapping off long exposures as the lighting started to fade out. People kept waking in front of my camera as they started to leave.
Then a large youth group from BYU saw what I was doing and they started asking me a hundred questions. At first it was annoying, but then I realized I was being selfish so I stopped what I was doing and started to give a basic photography lesson to at least 20 university students. They were fascinated with all the different settings that are available with today’s SLR cameras as most of them were only proficient with their Iphones. I let a few of them get behind my camera and take a few shots of their own. Hopefully I helped inspire some of them to become inspiring young landscape photographers.
After most of the crowds left, I snapped off this shot in the fading light. I took many more, especially with the La Sal Range in the background but this one seemed more intimate, hopefully revealing how delicate this gorgeous arch really is.
I’ll post a few more pics to my website in a few days –
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