Photograph the Milky Way at North Window Arch
Utah › North Window Arch
Added by Jake Hougaard
- Catch the Milky Way at the perfect angle through the arch
- Smaller crowd than anywhere else in Arches at night
- Super short hike (0.25 miles one way) to the arch, no need to pack in your gear for miles
Arches National Park is a must see for all photographers, but especially for astrophotography. Many of the most common places to shoot are balanced rock, and Delicate Arch and there's a good reason, these are beautiful places. North Window Arch is much less common, and even on a moonless night, you might get the spot to yourself - I did! The north window arch in Arches National Park is really close to double arch, the south window and turret arch are right next to it as well. The turn off is just past Balanced Rock, and the parking lot is about 9.5 miles from the visitors center. The hike roundtrip is just less than 1 mile so it's a very short and easy hike. The elevation gain is minimal, about 150 feet, and there are steps up to the arch as you get closer to it.
To get the shot of the Milky Way you have to wait until about 2 in the morning and you can shoot it for about an hour before you miss the window and the milky way is no longer in the arch. You have to hike through the arch and down to the other side, there are a couple of rocks to set up on behind the arch to make sure you're facing south-west to see the milky way. Because you are so close to the arch when you take the shots, it's easier to take 3 or 4 photos across and merge them into a panorama in Photoshop or Lightroom. This also adds to the detail of the photo. The best settings that we found, depending on the focal length were between 15 and 25 seconds, f/2.8 and ISO of 3200. The white balance depends on the camera but the best bet in general would be to put it in tungsten.
Staying up late can be hard but this is something that is well worth staying up for, the quick hike and easy accessibility makes this a must do on my list, and the best part is you can have it all to yourself. One last note, I would highly suggest scouting it out during the day just so you are familiar with the area, it would be hard to stumble around in the dark to find the right angle.
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So much better at night
The Windows are mobbed during the day but the crowds head out after the sun goes down. North Window in particular is a pretty good spot for night photos or just to hang out and enjoy the stars. It's a completely different and much more serene experience if you head there in the dark.
Worth a Visit
If you are over looking at Double Arch then you should definitely stop over at North South Window and Turret Arch. Short loop hike with 3 different photo spots. Shooting at night is still the best though as it is crowded during the day like most arches in the park.
Best time to see the parks
I've long held that the best time to see the parks is at night with a camera - no crowds, and inspiring photos to be had. Exposure times do vary depending on your focal length - I've employed the "Rule of 450" which is to divide 450 by your focal length to give you the maximum amount of time you can be open without star trails (ie. 450/16mm=28 sec).
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