Lining up Mesa Arch with an iPhone #IGTravelThursday

Mesa Arch

The famous Mesa Arch near Moab, Utah is the most photographed sunrise location in the 337,500-acre Canyonlands National Park. It’s easy to get to — a quick 1/4-mile hike to the arch from the parking lot — and gives you a great view of the sun rising over the La Sal Mountains.

If you go during the spring or summer, be sure to arrive at the arch at least an hour before sunrise because space in front of the arch fills up fast on most mornings. My brother-in-law, his friend John and I left Moab at 4:45 a.m. and there were already two photographers at the arch before us and three others who arrived at about the same time.

At about 20 minutes before sunrise, there were at least a dozen photographers and tripods lined up in front of the arch and no good spots left for the stragglers who continued to show up.

However, this is one of those amazing locations that even if you showed up a few minutes before sunrise and all you had was your camera phone, you could still walk away with a stunning a photo.

I took the photo at the top of the page with my iPhone5 and processed it with Instagram’s HDR option (the sun-shaped icon on Instagram’s edit page) and the “Hudson” filter.

Let me repeat: That’s an Instagram photo and it’s stunning. It actually makes me pretty excited about getting around to processing the photos I took that morning with my Olympus E-M5.

I can’t imagine that I’ll ever go on a trip without my “real” photo gear but the quality of today’s camera phones and filter apps make it entirely possible that one day I will.

Photo of sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park by Joe Newman.

This post is part of Instagram Travel Thursday, a blog collective that promotes the great travel experts on Instagram and uses Instagram as a source for travel inspiration. 

Official Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosts:

Skimbaco Lifestyle
Destination Unknown
Child Mode
Hines Sight Blog
House of Anaïs
Luxury Travel Mom

Joe Newman

I'm Joe Newman, multi-media story teller, non-profit do-gooder, international street photographer, serious poker player, intrepid traveler. Bourbon drinker.

  • Reeta @houseofanais

    September 5, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Yes, it is a stunning photo! Look forward to seeing more from that trip!!

    • Joe Newman

      September 5, 2013 at 6:11 pm


  • Nicole

    September 5, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    VERY COOL!!!!!

    • Joe Newman

      September 5, 2013 at 6:11 pm

      thanks, Nicole!

  • Shanna Schultz

    September 5, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Wow, I can’t believe that photo was taken on a cell phone! Beautiful!

    That whole area of the country is so photogenic…so many things to see down there, beautiful colors in the sandstone and beautiful blue skies. Makes me want to go for a visit….

    • Joe Newman

      September 5, 2013 at 8:40 pm

      I totally agree, Shanna. It’s easy to take great photos there because Mother Nature has done all the heavy lifting.

  • Lisa Goodmurphy

    September 5, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Stunning photo – I don’t think anyone would suspect it was taken with an iPhone unless you told them. Is that the moon still visible above the arch as the sun rises? – love the detail!

    • Joe Newman

      September 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm

      Thanks, Lisa! That is indeed the moon, though there was also a guy there that morning flying a remote control hovercraft around the arch, so it could be that….but let’s say moon.

  • Leigh Powell Hines @Hinessightblog

    September 6, 2013 at 2:29 am

    Joe, that is a gorgeous photo. Just beautiful. I know you must have had a fabulous trip.

    Thanks for linking up. Leigh

  • Jess

    September 6, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    I can’t believe that’s an iphone picture – that’s amazing!

    Also, I’m embarrassed to admit, I never realized what the sun icon did.

  • Satu VW

    September 7, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    I loved this picture already in Instagram, although I have to say, I did wonder then whether it was iPhone photo or not! 🙂 I always forget about the HDR option on my phone, I don’t really know when to best use it. Any tips…? (other than glorious sunrises!!)

  • Elena

    September 8, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    That is truly stunning. I have never used the HDR option- I usually just use the regular camera app and then add them to my instagram. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Joe Newman

    September 9, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Thanks everyone! So, I really think the HDR option is sort of personal taste thing. A simple way to look at it is that it’s going to “light up” the under-exposed areas of your photo. A lot of times this is great but sometimes it gives the picture an unnatural glow. I use it a lot when either my foreground is to dark or the background is washed out because of back-lighting. The great thing is if you click it and it doesn’t look right, you can just unclick it. The other time it comes in very useful is to add contrasts to your clouds. Who doesn’t like a foreboding sky?

  • […] Today, Dead Horse Point is part of a Utah state park that bears its name. You get there from Moab by taking the same road that leads to Canyonlands National Park. […]

  • […] in Utah but, at this point, it’s probably time to concede that it’s not getting done. Mesa Arch at sunrise is an iconic shot that almost every photographer who visits Canyonland gets. The one thing that you […]