Monday, November 16, 2009

Photographing Arches National Park

Wow! Utah's parks are simply spectacular. Arches is about 250 miles south of Park City. The entrance is only two miles north of the town of Moab, which has a lot of hotels and restaurants to chose from.

This area has more natural arches than any other place in the world. This is North Window right at sunset.



And there are arch wanna-be's. It was amazing how many arches you could see in different stages of their development. The rule is that an arch has to be at least three feet across to count. This one is more like 200 feet.



Pine Tree Arch isn't a big one. However, double click on the image and then look at the woman standing below the arch.



One thing you need for a good arch is a slab of rock thin enough that you can get all the way through it. For this, we have "fins". This is The Courthouse at sunrise.



This gives you a better view of how thin it is. Keep in mind it is hundreds of feet tall, so "thin" is relative.



Here is collection of fins on the edge of the Fiery Furnace. This area is so convoluted that you can only hike there if you are with a ranger or get training and a hiking permit. There are no trails. It is just wandering through miles of fins and spires.



In the distance is Delicate Arch. This is one of the more famous arches in the park. It's featured on Utah's license plates. Wasn't one of my favorites, so I didn't bother to hike to it. I thought the dead tree was more interesting.



Much more interesting and attractive is Landscape Arch. This is the longest natural arch on earth (for now) at 306 feet. Back in 1991, some sightseers were at the arch when they heard it start to crack and pop. It dropped 180 tons of rock, much of which is visible at the bottom right. No one is allowed to go close any more.

Now you tell me: shouldn't this one be called "Delicate Arch" instead? I stopped at the visitor center and suggested to a Park Ranger that they switch the names for Delicate and Landscape arches. Didn't sound like it would be done any time soon.



I didn't get a picture of it, but another arch in this same general area, Wall Arch, collapsed last year. When you consider that arches have lives of tens of thousands of years, having a "major" one collapse in our lifetime is pretty cool.

My favorite things weren't even arches. This is Balanced Rock. It is the size of a house. Ask yourself: "how did that happen?"



This one didn't have a name, but I like how Mother Nature can stack a big cairn so neatly. The white cap makes it even nicer.



Spires at sunset. I had the Park Rangers add the mountains and snow for contrast.



This area is called the Petrified Dunes. They aren't actually petrified, but are sand dunes that set up like concrete over the millenia.



A slightly different view of the Dunes.



I think this is one called The Organ, but to me it looks like a hand coming out of the ground.



The best name goes to one called The Gossips. It really looks like three women (each hundreds of feet tall), with dresses and some form of hat.



The Fiery Furnace



Sometimes looking down was more interesting than looking up.



The plants were very different. I would love to catch a spring when the wildflowers are blooming.



And the trees seemed to always be struggling to survive. There were twisted, gnarled trees everywhere.



This tree wasn't as lucky.



In this picture, most of the differences in color aren't from different soils. The color changes are from a cryptobiotic soil crust. It is a very fragile living mixture of algae, fungi, moss, lichen and bacteria.



I named this formation Monument Gnads. I doubt that will be added to the park brochure.



Even after the sun went down, there was still a lot to look at.



One day I took a scenic bypass around Moab. It's an hour wander around a mountain pass. It was obvious that a fairly large fire had come through in the past decade. There were acres and acres of burnt trees. Even they were pretty though.



Heading back into town, you near the Colorado River. This huge tower was visible for many miles. It is still difficult for me to imagine a river eroding thousands of feet of rock and soil. Makes you wonder why it got everything but those two slabs.



Ever hear stories about a GPS sending someone into trouble? I was very happy with my new Garmin 255 GPS. I got it on sale a week ago for $130. When I took this picture, I was impressed that it was showing every little curve, with 100% accuracy, on a little road WAY back in the mountains.

Later, it was telling me how to get back to Moab. It suggested I make a left turn on Sand Hills Rd. I could have, but it was a very steep, very curvy, dirt road, 6 inches deep in snow. It could have been quite the ride. I drove off, confident that at some point, someone will make that turn because the GPS told them to.



I'll take a few more pictures tomorrow morning before driving back to Park City.

If you want to take up photography as a hobby, I really suggest finding somewhere as scenic as southern Utah.
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