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Late August, Canyonlands National Park, 4:30 AM at the Mesa Arch parking lot.

It’s empty!

If you’ve never been to Mesa Arch, you might be thinking, “Well, duh! 4:30 in the morning is insane! Of course it’s empty!”

Ahh, but this is a real hot spot and the early photographer gets his pick of the view. On a typical summer morning you can easily have over 100 people crowded around the area. Not only is there a battalion of photographers jockeying for position, you also have a flock of tourists that want a genuine Mesa Arch Sunrise experience as well. In fact, they can literally come by the busload.

And after scouting the arch out the day before, I had come to the conclusion that there was only room for a single tripod in what I felt was the “sweet spot”.

It was actually for those reasons this shot almost didn’t happen. My 9 yr old son wasn’t too fond of the 4:30 AM idea, and I dreaded the thought of fighting for a place in the pack to setup my tripod.

If this was going to work, we HAD to get there first. Yup, that empty parking lot was a welcome site for sure.

So, happy to be alone, my 9yr old son and I broke out the flashlights and made our way to the arch (enjoying the stars as we stumbled along).

It’s funny, as we approached the arch, what had been such an easy place to locate by the light of day was proving a little more difficult with the sun still well below the horizon. At one point I was actually worried we wouldn’t be able to find the thing before someone else showed up. Fortunately that wasn’t the case and we rediscovered it after a few minutes of head scratching.

Upon arrival I set up my camera and tripod – the photographer’s way of marking his territory – and we sat and enjoyed the stars in solitude. Well, only for about 20 minutes – it wasn’t long before the inky darkness gave way to the telltale bobbing of headlamps and flashlights as other photographers made their way down the trail. But hey – at least we had our spot.

Sunrise was amazing, and I must have shot 200 photos. Of all the shots that morning, this was my favorite.

After we wrapped up, it was back to the car – and back to the camper for a nap!

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