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Shoot like a Pro: Arches National Park

Six tips to make your travel photos stand out – here and elsewhere.

The widely recognized (and photographed) Delicate Arch frames Utah's La Sal Mountains 35 miles to the southeast.
The widely recognized (and photographed) Delicate Arch frames Utah's La Sal Mountains 35 miles to the southeast.

With summer ending, this is a great time to head out to our national parks. The kids are back in school, the crowds have dispersed and the fall colors are brilliant.

Arches National Park in Utah is a great little park to photograph. Unlike Yellowstone, which requires miles of driving, Arches is a manageable park with most of the classic sites within easy reach.

Photographing Arches is also made pleasant, since nearby is the handy gateway town of Moab. This also makes it a great base to photograph nearby Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park.

Get landscape shots like these...

Some photo and travel tips regarding Arches National Park and vicinity:

1) Think small. Fly into a smaller regional airport. Rather than flying into a big airport hub like Salt Lake City and driving five hours to get to Moab, fly into Grand Junction, Colorado, and drive an hour and half along a scenic highway to get to your destination.

In addition, the much smaller regional airports are a breeze for travelers, as opposed to the behemoth airports that require lots of walking and can pose travel headaches.

2) Get an alarm clock. How do you get brilliant colors in your photographs? Get up early and stay out late to photograph at sunrise and sunset, when nature's light returns the favor of your early rising with deep saturated colors.

3) Read before you see. Before you even click the shutter button, do extensive research on the places you want to photograph. Read guidebooks, magazines and photo website forums for advice on the best shot locations.

Also, check out books that feature your trip destination to gain a better appreciation of the places you'll discover. For example, for my trip to Savannah, Georgia, I read John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. For Arches, I read the classic Desert Solitaire: A Season In the Wilderness, by Edward Abbey.

4) Rock steady. To get those super-sharp photos, you'll need a tripod. I travel with a very lightweight carbon-fiber tripod that's small enough to fit into my carry-on luggage.

Good landscape photography requires shooting in weak light (sunrise and sunset) and small apertures. Professional lenses will deliver some great shots for you, but if your camera isn't steady, you'll get blurry photos. Invest in a good tripod before you invest in quality lenses.

5) Seek inspiration to be inspired. In downtown Moab, you can visit Tom Till's photography gallery. Yes, you can duplicate his classic shots – but it will inspire you to search deeper to find your own "classics" while improving your photography skills.

6) What a bargain: Invest in the $80 National Parks Pass.

If you want to meet Europeans, there's no need to go to Europe – just visit your closest national park. I have met many more Europeans than Americans in the many national parks I've visited. There's a reason why so many foreign travelers visit our parks: the wondrous beauty of our national treasures is unparalleled. Visit our national parks before some of these national treasures are gone.

Turret Arch: an iconic Arches Nat'l Park shot.

The photograph to the left is a sunrise shot of Turret Arch looking through the North Window.

Photo tip: Get here early to catch a spectacular light show. In the Windows section of the park, take the trail toward the North Window and hike right under it until you see a trail that you can scramble up on to get to a ledge. From here you can shoot the classic photo that you see above. That little white speck you see on the upper left hand side is the moon.

Above all, be a traveler, not a tourist!

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The widely recognized (and photographed) Delicate Arch frames Utah's La Sal Mountains 35 miles to the southeast.
The widely recognized (and photographed) Delicate Arch frames Utah's La Sal Mountains 35 miles to the southeast.

With summer ending, this is a great time to head out to our national parks. The kids are back in school, the crowds have dispersed and the fall colors are brilliant.

Arches National Park in Utah is a great little park to photograph. Unlike Yellowstone, which requires miles of driving, Arches is a manageable park with most of the classic sites within easy reach.

Photographing Arches is also made pleasant, since nearby is the handy gateway town of Moab. This also makes it a great base to photograph nearby Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park.

Get landscape shots like these...

Some photo and travel tips regarding Arches National Park and vicinity:

1) Think small. Fly into a smaller regional airport. Rather than flying into a big airport hub like Salt Lake City and driving five hours to get to Moab, fly into Grand Junction, Colorado, and drive an hour and half along a scenic highway to get to your destination.

In addition, the much smaller regional airports are a breeze for travelers, as opposed to the behemoth airports that require lots of walking and can pose travel headaches.

2) Get an alarm clock. How do you get brilliant colors in your photographs? Get up early and stay out late to photograph at sunrise and sunset, when nature's light returns the favor of your early rising with deep saturated colors.

3) Read before you see. Before you even click the shutter button, do extensive research on the places you want to photograph. Read guidebooks, magazines and photo website forums for advice on the best shot locations.

Also, check out books that feature your trip destination to gain a better appreciation of the places you'll discover. For example, for my trip to Savannah, Georgia, I read John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. For Arches, I read the classic Desert Solitaire: A Season In the Wilderness, by Edward Abbey.

4) Rock steady. To get those super-sharp photos, you'll need a tripod. I travel with a very lightweight carbon-fiber tripod that's small enough to fit into my carry-on luggage.

Good landscape photography requires shooting in weak light (sunrise and sunset) and small apertures. Professional lenses will deliver some great shots for you, but if your camera isn't steady, you'll get blurry photos. Invest in a good tripod before you invest in quality lenses.

5) Seek inspiration to be inspired. In downtown Moab, you can visit Tom Till's photography gallery. Yes, you can duplicate his classic shots – but it will inspire you to search deeper to find your own "classics" while improving your photography skills.

6) What a bargain: Invest in the $80 National Parks Pass.

If you want to meet Europeans, there's no need to go to Europe – just visit your closest national park. I have met many more Europeans than Americans in the many national parks I've visited. There's a reason why so many foreign travelers visit our parks: the wondrous beauty of our national treasures is unparalleled. Visit our national parks before some of these national treasures are gone.

Turret Arch: an iconic Arches Nat'l Park shot.

The photograph to the left is a sunrise shot of Turret Arch looking through the North Window.

Photo tip: Get here early to catch a spectacular light show. In the Windows section of the park, take the trail toward the North Window and hike right under it until you see a trail that you can scramble up on to get to a ledge. From here you can shoot the classic photo that you see above. That little white speck you see on the upper left hand side is the moon.

Above all, be a traveler, not a tourist!

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Comments
2

Thanks for the wonderful information you provided and the beautiful photos! I'm inspired to visit one of our National Parks in the near future.

Sept. 11, 2012

Thanks! A winter trip to Arches would be a great time to visit. You could get a great shot of Delicate Arch with no people around and some white snow contrasted against the red rocks.

Sept. 11, 2012

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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