I went out to Arches National Park to photograph sunrise on Sunday morning. The conditions looked perfect – clear to the east, dramatic skies to the west and a thunderstorm on Saturday night that dumped heavy rain in town was certain to have filled sandstone potholes to the brim, leaving them ready to catch crystal clear reflections. I arrived at the Courthouse Towers area with plenty of time to find just the right pothole. I wandered out onto the slickrock and was disappointed to find that the rain we had in town never made it to Arches. The potholes were all bone dry. I scurried about and found some yucca plants to use in the foreground just as sunrise light washed over The Organ and the Three Gossips. My images were good but certainly not stellar.
Disappointed, I packed up and drove through the park toward the Windows area. I’ve been to Arches hundreds of times but this time two unnamed sandstone towers caught my eye as they were spotlighted against an angry sky. I knew the light wouldn’t last long. I quickly found a place to park, grabbed my tripod and camera and dashed across the desert to compose an image – just as the light on the towers faded. Clearly, I wasn’t meant to make any dramatic images today.
Dejected, I began the walk of shame back to my truck below overcast skies. Almost to the road I spied a collection of small fallen oak leaves at the edge of a sand dune, some of which retained their rich brown color while others had faded to grayish-white. Ah, the contrast. But wait, that texture! Oh, and the patterns created by the veins snaking through each little leaf! Could there be a photo hidden in that mish mash of leaves? I’d better stop to examine them, just in case. Hmm, all I’ve got with me is my trusty 16-35mm lens. I’ve got a few minutes to kill. Lens cap off, camera on, ISO cranked up to 400 to enable handholding the camera. Click. Click, click, click. Just a few frames before one tiny raindrop, and then another, and then a few more fell from the clouds. I made it back to my truck before a brief but intense downpour quenched the thirsty desert.
I went out looking for a dramatic grand landscape. I kept an open mind, as I always endeavor to do, and when an even sweeter opportunity presented itself, I was able to see it.
Image was made using a Canon 5D Mark II with Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II lens, handheld. Photographed in RAW, imported to Adobe Lightroom 3 for initial editing and finished in Nik Software Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 3 before being sized for web and then sharpened using Nik Sharpener Pro 3.