It’s no surprise to those who have followed me over the years that the Moab Desert is one of my very favorite places in the world. Having lived in wet, damp and foggy places all my life like SW Florida (hurricanes and 100% humidity), Nova Scotia (fog and rain) and now Seattle (rain and more rain on top of rain) any desert climate to me seems magical and otherworldly. Any chance I get when I’m travelling through Eastern Utah, I will always stop at Arches National Park for a couple of nights of sleeping under the stars while spending my days stalking wildlife and perfectly-lit landscapes.
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Moab Desert at Night
Towards the end of this summer I was traveling from Salt Lake City to Aspen to shoot a wedding and things worked out where I had about 20 hours alone to go wild into the wilderness. Because I was too excited to sleep, and because the shockingly big, bright moon unexpectedly appeared that night, I decided to just stay up all night, leaving the rental car behind and hump it out on foot with minimal gear with three or four lenses and my old heavy trusty & crusty tripod that I call “Gatorproof” (it once withstood a full thrashing from an alligator’s tail with no damage). The moonlight was so bright that I could easily navigate around the many cacti and jagged rocks without a flashlight from about 11pm to 4am with no difficulty whatsoever.
Desert Waning Gibbous Moon
Balanced Rock in Silhouette at Night
The settings were a bit tricky, and I wanted long enough exposures with minimal star movement, but I also wanted minimal grain, so every shot was overly time consuming. Often times I had a timer on my phone set so I could time the exposures while I was sitting on the ground listening to the distant coyotes and enjoying the dry, sweet desert air that smelled like sage, juniper and minerals. Occasionally a giant sphinx moth would bump into me or a barely audible species of bat would swoop close enough to hear its wings. Pure bliss under the midnight sun.
North and South Window Arches
Moab Desert in Moonlight
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