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Delicate Arch – Arches National Park – Moab, UT

Photographs, possibly because they have ability, an illusion mostly, to be perceived as factual records have the power to make the most fleeting moments appear immutable.

Without qualification I can state that what appeared in my frame that evening lasted mere seconds. That is not an exaggeration.

Within 15 seconds, maybe less, after I took this image the sun dipped below the horizon taking with it the magic out of the atmosphere. Everything became flat and commonplace.

Let me assume for few moments, that we all go through similar stages of learning the various skills demanded by the medium with which we choose to express ourselves.

For me this image is the moment I learned, deeply, to see, and quite possibly even more important to anticipate, how light affects the subject at hand.

This later point taught me patience. More likely what I learned is how to be predatory waiting for the proper moment to take an image. Developing this skill never ends.

On this particular day I arrived at the Delicate Arch early in the day and found it be a wonderful piece of natural sculpture but nothing out of the ordinary when compared to some of the other formations in Arches National Park.

Later in the day, and about 3 hours before sunset, I scouted out a spot to set up my camera for some sunset shots. I did this out of necessity as there were quite a few other people at the site; I was concerned if I diddled about I would lose a prime spot. What is somewhat funny, is all this waiting was a bit silly because by sunset, there were only three of us left; it was damn cold sitting there.

What is significant about this, besides slowly freezing to death, is that I was tethered to one spot for hours. With nothing to do but sit there, guarding my equipment, I watched how the landscape was slowly being altered as the sun headed towards the horizon.

Slowly the dynamic range and color saturation began to increase, and what in hindsight was a remarkable experience, began to move the muddy color of the stone towards something else.

What is still with me is that my perception of this change for the most part didn’t occur continuously but step-wise. One moment I would see a certain color of redness in the rock, and then suddenly, it became more alive with new details revealed as the shadows became more pronounced.

My other two light travelers were experiencing exactly the same thing. As the evening moved closer and closer towards sunset, this step-wise effect became more pronounced and actually became leaps. Collectively and involuntarily, we responded audibly when this occurred.

At first these outburst left us, three strangers, feeling rather embarrassed, as we sneaked sideways glances at each other. After a few rounds of this we abandoned all pretense of decorum and oooh’ed, aaah’ed, and clicked away, with complete joy, cheering on these leaps of light with hopes of greater grandeur.

We were not disappointed. Near sunset the clouds finally eased into a perfected placed, the distant snow a light rose color, and the Delicate Arch glowed that brilliant orange to red color.

And then I glanced, for a few moments, to the west and watched the sun slide below that far horizon. Looking back everything had changed, had gone flat and commonplace. Dull. The Delicate Arch was no longer a princess but a washer woman looking for a missing slipper and her prince, the sun, to return soon.

Moments like these are why I love photography. This particular medium gives me a reason to be in places I might not go to otherwise and to have these types of experiences.

I can say with complete confidence it is not the pictures I take that are what is important to me, rather, it is the essays from life that taking them give me.

Copyright 2012 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved.