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Moab Photography

Tips for Capturing the Beauty of Red Rock Country


The Moab area is truly a photographer’s paradise, offering a wealth of captivating landscapes waiting to be captured through the lens. With its ever-changing light conditions, the red rock landscapes of Moab present endless opportunities for stunning photography. In fact, the key to transforming an average photograph into an exceptional one often lies in harnessing the power of good lighting.

Moab’s distinctive rock formations, bathed in the enchanting glow of the sun, create a mesmerizing interplay between light and shadow. From the soft hues of dawn to the vibrant colors of sunset, each moment in Moab brings a unique ambiance that can elevate your photography to new heights. The juxtaposition of deep canyons, towering cliffs, and sweeping vistas against the dramatic sky adds depth and dimension to your compositions.

To capture the essence of Moab’s beauty, keep a keen eye on the ever-changing light. The interplay of light and shadow can transform a simple scene into a work of art. The warm, golden light during the golden hour, when the sun is low in the sky, casts a magical glow that enhances the natural hues of the red rocks. Pay attention to the direction and quality of light, as it can dramatically shape the mood and atmosphere of your photographs.

As you explore the Moab area, take the time to scout different vantage points and experiment with composition. From iconic landmarks like Delicate Arch and Mesa Arch to lesser-known gems off the beaten path, Moab offers a vast array of subjects that can ignite your creativity. With patience and an observant eye, you can capture the subtle details, textures, and patterns that make Moab’s landscapes truly extraordinary.

Whether you’re an amateur photographer seeking to refine your skills or a seasoned professional looking for new inspiration, Moab’s ever-changing light and mesmerizing landscapes provide an endless playground for your creative vision. Embrace the power of good lighting, and let the unique beauty of Moab guide you to capture exceptional photographs that will stand the test of time.

National Parks Photographer Frank Lee Ruggles talks about photographing the Moab area, including Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

Evening light paints the rock with colors much more vivid and rich than would be seen in the middle of the day.


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 and the interplay of shadows can bring depth and dimension to your photographs. When the sky is adorned with scattered clouds, any time of day becomes an opportune moment for photography in the Moab area. If you find yourself blessed with the presence of a passing storm, consider yourself fortunate, as stormy weather often leads to exceptional photo opportunities.

Capture the awe-inspiring panoramic views when a sunbeam breaks through the clouds, unveiling a spectacle of nature’s beauty. Furthermore, the wetness from rain intensifies the color of the sandstone, adding richness to your compositions. Embrace the dynamic nature of the weather and the visual impact it can bring to your photographs, creating memorable and captivating images.

Be ready to seize these moments of atmospheric drama and leverage them to convey the raw beauty of the Moab landscape. Let the elements guide your creativity and enhance the impact of your photos.

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

An overlook provides the perfect vista for a breathtaking photo.

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

In the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park, the low sun angles during sunrise and sunset bring a remarkable infusion of color and depth to the scenic views. The morning views from the overlooks benefit from calm atmospheric conditions, resulting in reduced haze compared to later in the day. Additionally, scattered clouds play a significant role in adding depth and dimension to your images through the shadows they cast. Keep an eye out for passing storms, as they can introduce dramatic lighting that elevates the visual impact of your photographs. Embrace these natural elements to create awe-inspiring compositions that showcase the beauty of the area.

Arches National Park

Arches National Park offers unparalleled photographic flexibility among the parks in southeastern Utah. You have the freedom to capture stunning photographs at any time of the day. With numerous colossal sandstone formations to explore, you’ll often discover favorable angles for optimal lighting. Keep a keen eye on the interplay of shadows, as they contribute depth and visual intrigue to your photos. By leveraging the unique lighting conditions and observing the dynamic interplay of light and shadows, you can unlock the true potential of your images and create remarkable compositions that showcase the awe-inspiring beauty of Arches National Park.

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

Time of Day

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:

  • Moab Fault
  • The Three Gossips
  • Sheep Rock
  • The Great Wall
  • Turret Arch
  • The Spectacles
  • Double Arch
  • Cache Valley
  • Wolfe Ranch
  • Landscape Arch
  • Double O Arch
  • Park Avenue
  • Courthouse Towers
  • Petrified Dunes
  • Balanced Rock
  • The Garden of Eden
  • The Windows
  • Tower Arch
  • Fiery Furnace
  • Skyline Arch
  • Fins in Devils Garden
  • Delicate Arch (at end of main trail)

Delicate Arch – Not Just for Photographers

Arches National Park attracts over one million visitors annually, all eager to explore its remarkable landscapes. Among the park’s iconic features, Delicate Arch is particularly popular and often surrounded by people. While it’s unrealistic to expect a solitary experience at this world-famous arch, it’s essential to be considerate of fellow visitors. Respect their presence and don’t expect them to move away for your photographs. Remember that not everyone visiting Delicate Arch is a photographer; many simply want to revel in the beauty of this landmark. Embrace the opportunity to capture the arch with people, as they can add scale and perspective to your photos, creating a shared experience.

Don’t confine your creativity to replicating compositions used by countless photographers before you. Arches National Park boasts thousands of arches and vast scenic wonders, inviting you to infuse your unique style and interpretation. If solitude is what you seek, explore less crowded areas such as the hike to Double O Arch, followed by the Primitive Trail, offering spectacular scenery off the beaten path. Just ensure you have enough memory cards to capture all the incredible views that await you. Embrace the diversity and vastness of the park, and let your imagination roam freely.

Delicate Arch is one of the most photographed of Utah’s natural wonders.

Autumn Foliage

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

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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Moab 360

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