I was on my way in Arches NP in Utah with a friend to shoot the classic sunrise shot of Turret Arch as seen through the North Window. The sunrise was close to 7am if I recall correctly, so that called for a 5am wake up and a 5:45 departure out of Moab so as to get up into Arches in time. Upon arriving, we were early still and we sat in the Jeep just talking for a few minutes when collectively we both decided to head on up there. We both had a feeling that maybe we could still get some star shots. I knew from having researched earlier that the moon would be setting an hour or so after sunrise, so I had dismissed the idea of capturing it.
So we set up first just taking some star shots, it took a shot or two to get the exposure dialed in. We ended up at f8 with a 20 second exposure, shooting at ISO 800 for most of the star/moon shots. Watching the histogram is key on these shots, it’s easy to get fooled by the LCD as it makes everything look brighter than it really is when it’s dark outside. After a couple of star shots, I noticed that the moon was positioned pretty cool in the sky. I knew it would get blown out, that these would not be shots where one could see the man in the moon! But I also knew that since the moon was so much brighter than the sky that it could also do a nice little moon star look… and sure enough it did. It gets taught a lot that in order to get the sun or moon to flare like a star, that you need to be shooting at f16 or f22. As you can see here, thats not always true. And while I had thought that the moon would not be a viable option to shoot, but staying open, and being flexible I was actually able to incorporate the moon into several of my shots.
After a few shots, we realized time was running short as the horizon was getting brighter and brighter to the east as the sun was making it’s steady roll towards sunrise. But it’s then that I thought that perhaps the moon would line up nicely behind Turret Arch. But I knew I had to hurry, so off I ran with my gear in tow along the snowy path. I got to a good spot, and the moon was dropping pretty fast. It was actually lower now in the sky than I would have preferred, but I thought it still offered a very nice composition, especially with the way the snow had draped itself across Turret Arch. We both took a few shots, and then we wrapped it up to get back on the trail to our original goal.
Looking back, I do like the shots of Turret Arch through the North Window at sunrise that we were able to shoot. But in reality, I think these unexpected shots, these getting there early shots, are my favorite from that morning. So the lesson? Get to a location early, and be ready to shoot the unexpected. If the idea of shooting stars or the moon seems a little daunting to you, be sure to check out my workshops. I have many group workshops, and also very reasonably priced one on one personal workshops for you to choose from.