The Print: Moonrise, Mesa Arch

Moonrise, Mesa Arch

Moonrise, Mesa Arch

Some prints just want to be difficult. This is one.

I made this image after four years of planning: a full moon at perigee and rising as close to the end of the blue hour as possible; an arch in Canyonlands National Park or Arches National Park which provided a miles-long and layered view toward the Lasal Mountains in the distance. Oh, and clear weather and a January night. No big deal, right? Except it happens only once every eight or nine years with all the elements in order.

And yet, everything came together on January 16, 2014. The moon. The stars. The snow. And the arch.

But such an image is very, very difficult to master, and I spent months–MONTHS–fighting with its substantial dynamic range and challenging colors. Why the problem? The arch is red, and to show its natural color, needs a white balance temperature of 7000 Kelvin at night. The stars? 4000 Kelvin. And that was just the start.

But nearly a year later and after a lost grand prize in a show (for a failed version of the print), I reached my breaking point. “Trash it, reshoot it, or figure it out,” said I.

So I trashed it and started over. And figured it out.

And so here is Moonrise, Mesa Arch, an edition of 50. I hope you find it inspiring, for I certainly did while shooting it.

Juniper No. 1, Moab

Juniper No. 1, Moab

Juniper No. 1, Moab

I led a group of students on a photo trip in January to the Southwest, and our last stop was Moab. On a scouting excursion one morning, one of the students (an emerging capable photographer in her own right) asked why I spent so much time with trees, since “they all seemed so alike.”

They’re not, I told her. Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, John Shaw and Brett Weston–to name just a few–spent time with trees. They have a spirit, I said, and to find the personality and the essence of a tree means taking time to talk with it. She proceeded to focus a lot more on trees for the duration of the trip, and by the end, admitted she had a new respect for the allure of trees.

Mesa Arch Moonrise, Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch Moonrise, Canyonlands

Mesa Arch Moonrise, Canyonlands

It had been a magical evening: Clouds on the horizon had allowed a perfect rosy-pink light to illuminate Mesa Arch, while snow on the distant Lasal Mountains had created just the right amount of contrast.

And then a nearly-full moon rose on the horizon, wispy clouds moved through the frame, and the stars came out.

A magical evening, indeed.