American Southwest Day 2: Shooting the Milky Way at Delicate Arch 精緻拱門健行拍銀河

Being featured on Utah license plates, Delicate Arch is probably the most recognized landmark and most photographed natural wonder in the Arches National Park.

猶他州的車牌是這個紅色砂岩精緻拱門(Delicate Arch),大概是拱門國家公園最著名的地標也是最多人拍的景點。

On the second day of the road trip, we drove around the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway and then cooked dinner at the bnb. Later in the afternoon, we drove into the Arches National Park to hike the Delicate Arch trail and shoot the Milky Way.

During our three-day stay in Moab, we kept racing with time. There were so many beautiful sites around Moab and sadly, only one sunset, one sunrise and one night time per day. It was impossible to squeeze in my photography wish list in less than three days. Being greedy myself and traveling with my overly ambitious dad, we pushed ourselves and I was sleep deprived the whole time. After a full day of traveling and hiking, we shot the Milky Way, got back to our place at 1:30 am, and then turned around to head out for sunrise at 4am! I wished I had 48 hours a day. There was not enough time to space out in our lovely Airbnb!



Delicate Arch is a 46 feet (14m) high natural arch in the Arches National Park. The only way to see this arch is by hiking. You could walk 100 yards (91 m) to see the arch from one mile away at the Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint. But to see the Delicate Arch closely, you’ll have to hike a 3-mile (4.8 km) roundtrip uphill trail that climbs 480 feet.

Delicate Arch is most popular around sunset. Parking next to the trailhead at Wolfe Ranch can fill up during busy hours in the summer months. Overflow parking is available at the Delicate Arch Viewpoint parking lot but parking there adds two miles to your hike. Some people opt for hiking this trail at sunrise to avoid the crowds.

We made it to the Wolfe Ranch parking lot at about 7pm in early June when sunset was at 8:38pm. The parking lot was busy but there were some spots left.

精緻拱門是個十四公尺高的砂岩拱門,要到這個景點朝聖只能乖乖爬山,雖然有只要走九十公尺就到了的觀景點 (Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint),觀景點離精緻拱門超遠,大概1.6公里,想近看就只能爬4.8公里(來回)的步道,這個步道有不少上坡路,爬升146公尺。

精緻拱門是個非常熱門的景點,步道口的停車場在Wolfe Ranch,夏天的傍晚時分常常會停滿,停滿的話車子就要停到Delicate Arch Viewpoin的停車場,走到步道口要1.6公里,有些人會因此選擇一大清早來走,避開人潮。我們六月初來訪,傍晚大概七點到步道口停車場 (夕陽是8:38pm),停車場車子蠻多,但是還剩幾個位子。

The first part of the trail was a easy walk on gravel paths. This trial is only three miles but heat and high elevation can affect your condition. This steadily uphill trail has no shade. It can be a slightly difficult hike in a scorching hot summer afternoon.


The middle section was an uphill hike on slickrock. I never handled heat well and I never worked on muscles I need to carry a heavy backpack. It was killing me to hike this trail in the heat while carrying my camera gear, tripod and water bottle. Slightly thinner air drained my energy. I was struggling with the weight on my back.


The last bit of the trail was quite level. The very last part of the trail hugged a sandstone wall.

Remember to look for the Frame Arch or Twisted Donut Arch as you approach the Delicate Arch. I missed it. Even though I knew this spot existed, I was awed by the incredible scenery at this last stretch and so eager to get a spot for sunset that I forgot to look to the Frame Arch. The Frame Arch / Twisted Donut Arch gives you an opportunity to frame your shot of the Delicate Arch.

最後一段路頗平坦,快登頂之前的步道沿繞過一片超大的紅色砂岩,轉彎之後就是精緻拱門。這裡有個小拱門 (Frame Arch or Twisted Donut Arch),可以把精緻拱門框起來拍,記得注意一下,我明明知道這個點,但是走到這裡太陽都快下山了,急著去卡位,還有這一段路實在太美,完全忘記也來不及爬上這個點。

Looking across, the valley and rock formation looked like a scene out of Star Wars.


Right around the bend, when the highly anticipated Delicate Arch popped up in front of my eyes, I was shocked. It was so crowded up there. Most of the flat surface was occupied. We carefully walked down the rim and found a sliver of a ledge to sit on. Not far behind me was a cliff. Right in front of me was a steadily downward slope whose end I could not see.

Having a serious fear of heights, I was petrified.

There was limited space to set up a tripod. Looking at the steep drop-off, I braved the few steps to find a ledge and then never moved again the whole night. Walking around to look for composition was not an option for me.


The sunset was uneventful that day. We sat — well, for me, it was more of a uncomfortable squat — up on the edge of the bowl, watching the arch with La Sal mountains in a distance. We reached the top at about 8:15 pm. The milky way would not come up until 10:30 pm. It was a waiting game.

Most people left after sundown. Looking back, it would be smart to move around and find a spot to set up my shot. However, the visibility was getting low. I could not get the image of the steep drop out of my head. I was too scared to move.

At 4,606 ft (1,404 m) in an open space, it was freezing even in June. Although I asked everyone to bring warm clothes and my husband carried a blanket with us, most of us did not pack enough to stay warm.


銀河中心要到晚上十點半才會出來,接下來就只好慢慢等。太陽下山之後,氣溫降得很快,雖然叫大家帶保暖衣物,又背了一條毯子上山,幾乎每個人都帶不夠,精緻拱門海拔 1,404 公尺,又開闊,晚上的真的很冷!

As the blue hour came, heavy clouds moved in, covering the sky right around the area where the Milky Way would come up. At one point it was so much cloudier than the PhotoPills screenshot above. We were worried. We might have waited around for nothing. Looking at clouds moving in while our poor family members holding their pee and shivering in the cold, we had to make a decision to leave or wait.


We were lucky. The clouds got out of the way at the end. We shot from roughly 10:35 to 11:25 pm. My dad probably could have stayed up there all night if everyone were not begging him to leave.

Another problem with shooting the Milky Way at a popular spot is that there were so many cooks in the light-painting kitchen. Most of them were horrible. We ran into several people who stayed right in front of the arch pretty much the whole time. They were experimenting with light painting, but most of their lights were straight up white light that was too strong.

Finally there were just my dad, two experienced night photographers, and me. My dad and I knew nothing about light painting aside from a few online articles we read. I brought my Lume Cube with orange warming gels. We used the Lume Cube at 1-2% with one or two warming gels stacked. My dad had to walk along the edge of the bowl and hold the light as high as he could for enough time that everyone got a few exposures. Surprisingly it worked well enough that most of us were happy with the lighting.

Shooting at the Delicate Arch was up on my Milky Way wish list. I was excited to edit my photos only to find out that most of them were out of focus with slight movements in between shots! The arch was a bit far from where we set up. I changed from the wide angle with which I shot a few Milky Way to my 50mm. I failed to get a good focus. I got several sets of the Milky Way and dark frames, but none of them stacked! There were slight movements among most of the shots. (Probably because it was quite windy and I was so scared that I shivered a lot. lol) My Delicate Arch Milky Way attempt had a tragic ending. The shot below was the only one that turned out. I guess I’ll just have to go back to Moab one day….

還好最後很幸運,雲散了,我們從大概 10:35 拍到 11:25,要不是所有人拜託我爸下山,我爸應該可以在上面拍一整個晚上。

攝影人多的另一個缺點都是好多人在打光,打得不好就帶你一起下地獄,我們這天遇到好多個衝到拱門正前方好久的攝影團,練習打光又打得很直很強很死,在後面拍就只能心裡翻白眼。好不容易等到那一團走了,只剩我們家兩台相機和兩位實戰經驗超強的路人,最後變成我爸手舉高高拿著我的 Lume Cube 打光,Lume Cube加了深橘色gel又只開大概2%亮度,沒想到我爸打的光還頗受好評。


Walking back in the dark can be treacherous. It can be difficult to find the trail. You don’t want to do it alone.

I schedule the trip around the moon phase to shoot the Milky Way so of course it was pitch black on the return trip. We hiked back using a few headlamps and flashlights. Following the trail was not a problem in daylight. In the dark on the other hand, there were not as many guiding rock cairns as I would need. I was thankful that I got to travel with people who had a good sense of direction. I would have been so lost in the dark.



Delicate Arch 
NPS Delicate Arch Intro
Parking: Wolfe Ranch
3 miles / 4.8 km round trip
2-3 hours
What to bring: Headlamp, warm clothes, sunscreen, hat, plenty of water (we each had at least 1.5 liter), rain gear
裝備: 頭燈、保暖衣物、防曬、帽子、足夠的水(我們一人至少1.5公升)、雨具
Use caution. Sandstone can be slippery especially when it’s wet. Severe injuries and fatalities have happened here.

A very helpful photography guide: Fire Fall Photography. “Delicate Arch Photo Guide and Tips…an Icon that lives up to the Hype” 詳盡攝影指引

This blog gives you an idea of hiking the Delicate Arch at sunrise: The Mandagies. “Delicate Arch Hike During Sunrise (Beat the Crowds!)” 想考慮日出去走可以參考這篇

Day 2 Itinerary

9:00 Drive from Rifle, CO to Moab, UT (2h30m) → 11:30 Lunch at El Charro Loco in Moab → 12:40 Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway U-128 → 15:45 Grocery shopping (City Market, 425 S Main St, Moab, UT 84532) → 16:45 Our incredible Airbnb → 18:30 Leaving for Delicate Arch at the Arches National Park, Delicate Arch → 19:10 Parking lot at the Wolfe Ranch → 20:15 Reaching the top of Delicate Arch → Shooting sunset and the milky way → 00:35 Back to the parking lot

* Sunset 8:38 pm; Visible GC 10:33 pm – 4:03 am


9:00 出發,開車從Rifle, Colorado到Moab (2h30m) → 11:30 午餐 El Charro Loco in Moab, Utah → 12:40 科羅拉多河景觀道路 Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway U-128 → 15:45 超市買菜 (City Market, 425 S Main St, Moab, UT 84532) → 16:45 超美西南沙漠風格民宿 → 18:30 從民宿出發前往拱門國家公園精緻拱門步道 (Arches National Park, Delicate Arch) → 19:10 步道口停車場 Wolfe Ranch → 20:15 登頂 → 拍夕陽和銀河 → 00:35 回到停車場

* 日落 20:38 pm; Visible GC 22:33 pm – 4:03 am



One thought on “American Southwest Day 2: Shooting the Milky Way at Delicate Arch 精緻拱門健行拍銀河

  1. Pingback: American Southwest Day 3: Milky Way at the Balanced Rock 平衡石銀河攝影 | Near and Far

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