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Photography in the Moab Area

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park
Sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park

Tips for Capturing the Beauty of Red Rock Country

The Moab area is a paradise for photographers.  Under conditions of constantly changing light, Moab's red rock landscapes provide limitless photographic opportunities.  Often, the difference between an average photograph and an exceptional photograph, is good lighting.

Lighting

The right time of day can make all of the difference when it comes to photography in the Moab area.  Certainly the best time of day for photography is during sunrise or sunset, when the red rocks seem to glow with intense color.  However, since you can’t be everywhere at the same time, simply avoiding the flat light on cloudless days between 10:00 am & 3:00 pm will go a long way toward getting some great shots.  With all of our amazing rock formations, a lower sun angle can add real depth to your photos.  If you absolutely must take photos during midday, try slightly underexposing your red rock photos by 1/3rd to 2/3rd of a stop. (Many cameras have exposure compensation buttons that allow you to easily do this.)  Our red sandstone is darker than it may appear to the naked eye and cameras tend to overexpose it in bright light.

Clouds, a Utah Photographer’s Best Friend

Dramatic cloud formations, along with the shadows that they cast, can add real depth to a photograph.  If the sky has scattered clouds, just about any time of day is great for photography around Moab.  If you are lucky enough to be here during a passing storm, count your blessings!

Fiery Furnace
A passing storm as seen from the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint
in Arches National Park

Stormy weather almost always results in great photos.  Our vast panoramic views are truly spectacular when a sunbeam bursts out of a cloud. In addition, the color of sandstone can really intensify when it is wet.

Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park & Dead Horse Point State Park

Low sun angles are very important for these parks. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to visit these parks, however anytime before 10:00 am or after 3:00 pm should give you some good lighting.  Once again, clouds change everything. When there are scattered clouds, head up to these parks at any time of the day.

Arches National Park

Arches gives you the most photographic flexibility of any park in southeastern Utah. Good photographs are possible at just about any time of the day. Because you will be wandering around many colossal sandstone formations, you can usually find to find a good angle for lighting. Pay attention to shadows, since these are what will add depth and interest to your photos.

Windows Section of Arches National Park
View of the La Sal Mountains from the Windows Section of Arches National Park during sunset.

When the sun angles become very low, there are some preferred locations in the park. Below are the best times to photograph some of the major features in Arches: 

Early Morning Late Afternoon
Moab Fault Park Avenue
The Three Gossips Courthouse Towers
Sheep Rock Petrified Dunes
The Great Wall Balanced Rock
Turret Arch The Garden of Eden
The Spectacles The Windows
Double Arch Tower Arch
Cache Valley Fiery Furnace
Wolfe Ranch Skyline Arch
Landscape Arch Fins in Devils Garden
Double O Arch Delicate Arch
Garden of Eden
Winter in the Garden of Eden
Arches National Park
Primitive Loop Trail
Sunset along the Windows Primitive Loop Trail
Arches National Park

Delicate Arch - Not Just for Photographers

Over one million people visit Arches National Park every year, and just about everyone wants to see all of the major views within the park.  One of the most heavily visited arches is Delicate Arch. As a result of its popularity, you should always expect to see people surrounding this world famous arch. Although it may occasionally happen, it is unrealistic to expect a solitary experience around Delicate Arch.  Be courteous to other visitors during your visit to the arch, and do not expect people to move away from this world famous landmark during your photographs. Remember that not everyone who visits this arch is a photographer. Most people simply want to experience the joy of standing next to such a beautiful landmark.  People can add scale to any photo of Delicate Arch, so make your visit a great shared experience for everyone involved. 

Try not to limit your creativity by simply capturing images of iconic places using the same composition as countless photographers before you. Arches National Park contains thousands of arches and vast expanses of breathtaking scenery just waiting for you to introduce your own personal style and interpretation. For those seeking solitude, Arches has much to offer. For example, consider a hike to Double O Arch, returning via the Primitive Trail, for some of the most spectacular scenery in the park. Just remember to bring enough memory cards to capture all of the great views!

Autumn Foliage

One of the best places to view autumn foliage in the Moab area is in the La Sal Mountains, located approximately 20 miles south of town. Foliage usually starts to change in mid-September and continues into early October. The La Sal Mountain Loop Road is the easiest way to view the foliage change.

The La Sal Mountain Loop Road, suitable for all passenger cars and RV's, features a wide variety of canyon country scenery. The 60-mile route begins by following the Colorado River along Highway 128. It then approaches the La Sal Mountains via Castle Valley. The route through the Manti-La Sal National Forest offers great views of the 12,000 foot plus peaks and the red rock canyons far below. Completion of the loop brings the motorist back to Moab via U. S. Highway 191.
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Photos and tips courtesy of Robert F. Riberia - utahredrocks.com

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