Thursday, October 18, 2007

Photographing Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch,UT - Craig Wolf
After an hour drive from Moab and a short hike I arrived at the famed Mesa Arch. It was 45 minutes before Sunrise and I wasn't alone. At least 8 other photographers were already in place. In what was likely the very best spot was a Italian photographer with a 4x5 and to his left were 2 other pro photographers. By the time the sun came up the total had doubled (mostly Germans), but everyone was polite and I was able to get a good spot. Thanks to one and all.

Mesa Arch, UT Med Wide - Craig Wolf
I had seen many photos from this very spot. When sailors finally cross the equator they get a tattoo of Neptune. I believe with this shot you earn your right of passage, but instead of Neptune it'll be Ansel Adams. (Lovely thought huh.) Anyway, I thought that the sweet light would be right at Sunrise and last but for a few minutes. The light was good at that time, providing a red glow underneath, but the rest of the Arch was very dark, so I zoomed in a little to capture the under glow and valley below. I stopped down f22 and focused on the far lip of the arch which gave me enough depth of field to reach from the front face of the arch to valley below. I just let the sun peek through in order to get a sun star. (Make sure you use a small f-stop. I used f22.) I shot a few more and then I waited for the sun to really come up. About 15 minutes later the Arch had enough ambient light to show detail and the glow was just as bright. I angled my shot to show more of the Arch and a little sky.

Mesa Arch Panorama - Craig Wolf
About 40 minutes after Sunrise the glow was just starting to fade. Most of the photographers had left but a few die hards were still up front. (Including me.) I wanted to get the entire arch in so I did a quick pano group. I set my camera up in the portrait position (Vertical - an L-Bracket really helps here). I made sure that my focus, aperture and shutter were all on manual. I wasn't using a polarizer, but if I had I would have taken it off to ensure a even sky. Then I loosened the base of my ballhead and took about 8 shots with plenty of overlap. (That's not what hangs over my belt, but about a 50 percent overlap of each frame.) I just rotate the camera using the base. The tripod was fairly level, but not prefect.

Back at the ranch I stitched the frames together with ArcSoft's Panorama Maker 4. I thought the perspective would be off since I was so close, but it was fine. Not bad for one morning's work. As for the tattoo well...

Tech Info: Canon 1Ds Mark II, Tamron 28-75mm Lens, Gitzo Tripod, No Filters.
For more on Panoramas see my previous article A Stitch In Time
More more photos see my gallery - Latest Additions