Roadside Photographs - Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

Landscape photography in the United States is often the most fun way to enter photography.  Who doesn’t love to be outside in the fresh air, waiting for the golden light of sunrise and sunset…20 miles from a trailhead, with minimal equipment because you had to backpack in essentials such as food and a stove, and with your head throbbing slightly from a high-altitude headache.  Wait.  Perhaps this is not what you were envisioning when you wanted to photograph the landscape.  Isn’t there an easier way?  Of course, there is, for better or for worse.  Many people have slaved for decades now to make it easier for you to photograph some of the nation’s best views.  This is what is referred to as roadside photography.

Roadside photography is just as it sounds: fresh photography is just a warm car ride away, a few minutes in the cold, and back to your comfy hotel.  Sound nice?  Of course it does, although like heli-skiing and snowcats, not all believe that we should be making it easier to get to some of these places.  I agree, but I also recognize that there are currently roads to these places and therefore you should use them while you have the chance.  John Powell, John Muir, Ansel Adams, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition have done all of the work, along with the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.

You just need to do a little homework, save up your pennies, and get up on time.   The location of Mesa Arch as well as future tips on these "road kill" photographs have well-worn paths to them and finding them may just be a few Internet clicks away anyway, so here is the first image and location in a series for the Pictureline blog.


Ah yes, Mesa Arch, the first on our list of over-photographed but stunningly beautiful places to photograph.  Simply travel into Canyonlands National Park from I-70, about 45 minutes west of Moab, Utah.  You’ll easily spot the sign for Mesa Arch near the end of the road on Island in the Sky and the parking is on the east side of the side.  From there, take the obvious trail about five minutes and you’ll find what you’re looking for…along with 20 other photographers.  Mesa Arch is classically a sunrise shot as the sun rises from the east and lights up the underbelly of this beast.  The light is basically reflected up from the curving sandstone walls beneath it.  Tom Till (a Moab native), has done some very nice variations on this theme, and not just the standard, bread-and-butter cool close-up of it (like mine).  A tripod is must for this shot, since you may need a longer exposure in the low light.  This image was taken on Canon 5D Mark II with a 24 mm Tilt-Shift lens, with no tilt or shift.  A wide-angle lens is preferable for this location, as you will be shocked that the setup is lower to ground and quite close to the arch.

Hint:  Visit at different times of the year to watch how the sun changes the look of the Arch as it pivots from one side of the underview to the other.

Where to Stay/Eat:  If you are not camping out, try the Aarchway Inn, which is the best value in Moab and eat at their sister business, Zax Pizza (and try the Mozzerella Honey Pizza).  No, I don’t have stock in their company, but the businesses are good and seem to be well run.


Roadside Photographs - Stonehenge, England
Roadside Photographs - Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Roadside Photographs - Yosemite National Park 

Canon 24 mm tilt shift lensCanon 5d mark iiCanyonlands national parkDesertFebruary 2012Joel addamsLandscape photographyMesa archMoabNaturePhotographyPicturelineScenicSunriseTipsTravel photography