Sandstone Sunrise

image-Sandstone Sunrise - Arches National Park

Sandstone Sunrise – Arches National Park

The Hike

On my final morning at Arches National Park I was up at 4:00 am lacing up my hiking boots. Destination today is Delicate Arch for sunrise. From what I had read, the trail is moderate to strenuous and, in the dark, might be difficult to follow when traversing the smooth sandstone on the upper half. Well, I had two bright LED flashlights and was ready to go. There’s no way I’m  going to leave this place without paying a visit to the iconic landmark the park is famous for.

The moon had set so it was mondo darko when I arrived at the parking lot where the alleged trailhead to Delicate Arch begins. Just finding the trailhead took me one false start and 10 minutes because , well… it was dark, no coffee consumption yet, and the fact that I had never been here before. Once found, navigating the trail was super easy for the first half mile on a well established trail.

Then I reached the sandstone. What I had read about the sandstone portion of the trail was true. There was no way to see the trail and I had to rely on spotting trail ducks, those piles of rocks that mark the way.

Having bad eyes didn’t help, I’m sure. Half a dozen times I veered off the trail because I couldn’t detect any ducks ahead of me, not even a faint distant “quack.” None of my wanderings lasted more than a couple of minutes because I could actually feel the energy of the path fade away when I wasn’t on course. It’s a hard thing to explain and sounds a little Woo Woo. I know. The trail was a little steep and, for an out of shape old guy burdened like a burrow with my photographer’s backpack, I had to stop a couple of times for water and a breath.

Forty five minutes on the trail so far.  Surely I must be close. Now there was enough light in the sky to reveal details inside of shadows so the flashlight was pocketed.  Still ahead, the legend declares, still lies a narrow trail cut out of the slippery sandstone as it traverses a steep cliff.  I’m beginning to feel like Indiana Jones must have felt near the end of his quests.  I was relieved when I reached that portion of the trail to find the legend living larger than life.  The reality is that the trail in that spot isn’t uncomfortably narrow.  Feeling like I’ve conquored it now I’m hiking gallantly upwards while surveying the amazing sandstone formations towards the East.

It got even better than that. At the end of that narrow part of the narrow trail, in a flash of morning mystical swirling light, the beautiful form of Delicate Arch unexpectedly popped into view!  I was energetically alone with it as we regarded each other in a silent mutual sizing up.  Just checking each other out to see if we are worthy of each other.

Catching My Breath

I scampered up onto a rocky ridge, dropped my pack and just took in the sight while catching my breath. It was stunning!

Even with the false starts and misguided wanderings, I had managed to arrive before sunrise. In the rosy glow I setup and took a couple of shots of the arch, then got curious about all these really awesome rocks completely surrounding me.

The geology here is amazing. On top near, the arch, there are several rather large rock formations I call turrets or turbins. They are shaped sort of like an ice cream cone you get out of a machine and these are about 40 feet tall. Sitting right at the top of the one next to me was another man. He sat cross legged facing east where the developing sunrise was gracefully budding. Since I had a couple shots of the arch already I decided to find a nice spot to watch the sunrise myself. This photo of sunrise and the incredible sandstone formations below me I took while sitting in a private niche between two of those large puffy turret formations.

Delicate Arch

HDR photo of delicate arch at arches national park, utah

Okay, I finished it – Delicate Arch

Although the destination and intention was to photograph Delicate Arch, I am having a bit of trouble processing a photo that I like. That’s why I’m not including a photograph of the arch here. When the inspiration comes and I do the arch justice with a worthy photograph, I will post it here and on Google+.  The RAW files of this shot of Delicate Arch I sent out to my Private List peeps today to give you all some fun playing with this image. Please feel free to join my Private List for more future cool stuff like this



Creating Sandstone Sunrise

This HDR photo is a three shot bracket with my Nikon D-90 on a tripod. I used the Perfect HDR Workflow to merge the files and make basic adjustments in Lightroom. Then, using the new Topaz ReStyle plugin, applied the “Desert Bronze” preset to achieve this dramatic final look.  I really like how ReStyle worked so easily on this image, taking it from ho-hum to gorgeous in 1 click.  This is a new product just released by Topaz and here is my review of ReStyle you might find interesting if you like the look of today’s photo.

Showing 6 comments
  • mark Alper

    Very cool work
    They would make for cool wallpaper
    Im creating a site
    Maybe you are interested..
    Let me know…

  • Richard Thompson

    Absolutely stunning, it’s pretty cool what HDR photography allows us to capture, especially after a little bit of editing. Great work!

  • Joe Martin

    Great photo/ I would love to go there some day and set up my tripod. Must put this on the bucket list. thanks for he great post.

  • Harry Schmieder

    Amazing work.

    I´m also happy to use topaz restyle. And it´s true, often times it can push an image a lot with just one click.

    Kind Regards.

  • Harry Schmieder

    Hello Keith,
    thank you very much.
    Although my website is far away from the mood of your great website. But I´m working on it ;-).

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Contact Captain Photo

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from my readers.. Cheers!

image three gossips at arches national parkhdr photograph Snow Pillows - Yosemite National Park