First in a series of my favorite images of 2014, this is a late April sunrise at Mesa Arch in Utah's Canyonlands National Park.
This shot was particularly rewarding to me, not because it was a hard hike or took lots of effort or is a rare shot, as it's none of these things, but rewarding because of the unexpected obstacles I encountered after arriving.
It was a dramatic morning, and I'm talking not only about the view, gorgeous though it was. Mesa Arch is a scene that beautifully and practically composes itself, attracting photographers both professional and amateur from all over the world. The drama of the arch, the layers of canyon, and the distant La Sal Mountains make for a landscape that could be imagined right out of a science fiction novel. I couldn't pass up the chance to see it at sunrise while we were staying in Moab. On a Tuesday morning I expected, though I don't know how I got to this assumption, to find maybe a dozen other photographers at most. After driving for a few hours from our hotel, our sleepy selves instead found a large van in the parking lot with a photography company's name on it. I started to get worried I wouldn't find a spot to set up. After the short walk to the arch, we found the class of about twenty people, and a few other photographers as well. I found the best spot I could, certainly not the spot I would have chosen had I had the view to myself, but I thought it would suffice.
I set up my equipment, and was relatively happy with the spot. The arch, and the view behind the arch, is absolutely jaw dropping from many angles. The class was crowded around the "ideal" spot, but this was the best I was going to get, so I decided to compose the best I could and get ready for the sun. Sometimes a different angle of a subject is fresh and welcome.
Around fifteen minutes before sunrise, more people started to trickle in, then a few more, then droves more. There must have been a hundred by the time the sun came up. They began to crowd around me, even holding their iPads in front of my lens. Not only was I frustrated that I had set up here, arriving an hour beforehand, but I was holding on to my tripod for dear life.
Despite it all, the result was this beautiful scene, an experience I hadn't had before, and a challenge I haven't had since.