Sunset at Arches National Park

On our last evening in Moab, we drove to Arches National Park to photograph during the golden hour, our only sunset photos at Arches NP due to the park’s nighttime road closures. We returned to Balanced Rock and the Windows, which have interesting rock formations close to a parking lot.

From our time-tagged photos, we can observe how light changed as the sun set. Above, the sun just before sunset makes the rock glow red.

One hour before sunset, the low sun lights one side of Balanced Rock. The reddish light and dark cracks and backside show off the shape and depth of the red rock against a blue sky.

sidelight on Balanced Rock shows off its shape

We drove to the Windows area. We walked toward Double Arch, which has two huge arches — see the people under the arches to appreciate the size of the arches. A half hour before sunset, the underside of one arch is turning red.

Double Arch

I wanted to walk into Double Arch, but I turned around to hike toward the Windows to catch the sunset there. At 15 minutes before sunset, the low sun lights the other side of Turret Arch.

nearing Turret Arch

I continued through Turret Arch for photos of North Window framed by Turret Arch. Seen below, the light becomes more red as the sun sets. For this comparison, the settings for the two photos are virtually the same — the white balance, exposure, and aperture, as well as the postprocessing settings, are all the same. The sunset photo on the right has less sunlight, so the camera used an ISO of 1600 instead of 500 for the left-hand photo.

Five minutes later, after sundown, the Windows were no longer red.

The Windows, five minutes after sundown

From these photos, the sunlight makes the landscape more attractive during the golden hour and even more dramatic the last ten minutes before sundown.

During our three full days around Moab, we spent only one evening at Canyonlands NP. When planning our road trip, we expected to spend more time in Canyonlands NP, but Canyonlands NP is farther from Moab, and we found the arches and fins of Arches NP to be more accessible and compelling than the canyons of Canyonlands NP.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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