Lightroom Tips

My Moab/Arches National Park Trip

First off, don’t forget to scroll down for today’s Lightroom tip. As for this post, I’ve had a few requests to see some photos from the Moab, Utah workshop I taught at last week. First off I have to say thanks to everyone who attended. It was an awesome workshop! I was fortunate to have an incredible group of photographers and, as always with these workshops, some of the nicest people I could hope for. I always go home with new friends that I keep in touch with for years after, and this workshop was no exception. Weather was great (but cold) for the most part and we all walked away with some breath-taking photos. Anyway, here’s some shots.

First off, click each photo to see it larger. Next each photo was taken with my Nikon D300 on the Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead mounted on a Gitzo tripod. All were processed with Lightroom, Photoshop, and sharpened with Nik’s Sharpener Pro 3. HDR (Photomatix Pro) was used in one of them as well. I’ve got a big space on my wall at home so I’m trying to decide which one to print large. I’d really appreciate a comment to let me know which one is your favorite.

Where? At Mesa Arch in Arches National Park
When? Sunrise
Lens? Nikon 70-200 mm VR
Settings? f/16
Processing? Lightroom for white balance, color saturation, and vignetting. Photoshop for some minor retouching. Photomatix to create HDR photo since there was no way to capture this in one photo.
How early did you get up? 3:35am and we left the hotel at 4am.

Where? At Mesa Arch in Arches National Park
When? Sunrise
Settings? f/16 and 1/60 second.
Lens? Nikon 14-24mm
Processing? Lightroom for white balance, color, exposure, vignetting. Photoshop for minor retouching and removing small distractions.
How cold was it? Very cold and very windy. No matter how many layers anyone had on it seemed we were all shivering. But well worth it.

Where? Dead Horse State Park
When? Sunrise
Settings? f/16 and 1/60 second.
Lens? Nikon 14-24mm
Processing? Lightroom for white balance, color, exposure, vignetting. Photoshop for minor retouching and removing small distractions. Nik Viveza to make the tree pop a little more.
Why did you shoot the tree and not all the other vast scenery out there? Basically, the sun had already come up. I had often shot so many photos of the same exact thing at sunrise, and end up with only one photo for the morning. So I forced myself to shoot sunrise for about 5 minutes and then switch spots as soon as the light changed. This is where I ended up.

Where? Delicate Arch in Arches National Park
When? Sunset
Settings? f/16 at 1/180 second.
Lens? Nikon 18-200mm VR (I got tired of changing lenses so I went for versatile over expensive)
Processing? Lightroom for white balance, color, exposure and vignetting. Photoshop for minor retouching and removing small distractions.
How long was the hike to this Arch? A little over an hour if you walked at a fairly brisk pace. But it was a lot of fun and well worth the result.

Where? Dead Horse State Park
When? Sunrise
Lens? Nikon 70-200 mm VR
Settings? f/11 at 1/45 second.
Processing? Lightroom for white balance, color, exposure and vignetting.
How did you end up getting this photo at Dead Horse as well as the other one above? They’re very different huh? Actually, I just turned around. Seriously, I was shooting in one direction when the sun was coming up. I turned around and this is what I saw. So I quickly changed lenses from wide to telephoto and got this shot.

Where? At Mesa Arch in Arches National Park
When? Sunrise
Lens? Nikon 14-24mm
Settings? f/16 at 1/60
Processing? Lightroom for white balance, color saturation, exposure, and vignetting. Photoshop for some minor retouching.
Did you really get up at 3:30 for this photo? Yep. If you don’t get there early it supposedly gets incredibly crowded. It didn’t for us because it was snowing that morning and the weather forecast was abysmal. But everything changed and we got some incredible photos.

Thanks for checking them out folks. Please let me know which ones you like best.



  1. Jones 8 May, 2011 at 20:22 Reply

    Nicely done. I like your telephoto of The Washer Woman and the warm diffused color of the light

    I’ve been to Mesa Arch once or twice and yes, you gotta get there at oh-dark-30 because it’s a popular spot

  2. Jonathan 21 May, 2009 at 14:34 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    I really like your moab-4.jpg photo. How did you get the photo to look identical (luminosity) in both IE and Firefox? My photo always look darker on IE (not color-managed browser) than on Firefox (I turn on color-managment option). Also your photo also looks identical (luminosity) in Windows preview, and IE, and Firefox. My photos always look darker when preview using Windows.

    By the way, I have calibrated ips panel monitor and export jpg from LR with srgb but LR always exports photos darker than if I use the print module to print to jpg.

    Again, really like your photo. Just wonder how did you get the many shades of orange so consistent in luminosity across Windows preview, IE, and Firefox.


  3. Kim 14 May, 2009 at 09:45 Reply

    They are all beautiful shots. I like Moab-4 best. I think it stuck in my mind because it is a bit different. I have seem similar arch photos before but the layers and colors in Moab-4 are just amazing. Thanks again for sharing!

  4. Larry Austin 5 May, 2009 at 14:17 Reply

    Hi Matt:

    Could you tell me what group or class that you went on this trip with? I am interested in signing up for a class like this.

    These are great shots I also liked the video on what you did in lightroom. Have you ever tried Capture NX2 for processing your raw files? I also use a Nikon camera and I am trying Capture to see how it works with NEF files.

    Thanks for your help.


  5. phillip moffat 29 April, 2009 at 13:57 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    My favorites are moab-8 & moab-11(tree). my eyes would feast on either one printed large (or any of the set). But if I had to choose one it would be moab-8. the composition is so great. it seems as if we are sitting in the balcony at the grand theatre of mother nature. the colors are stunning as well.

    the tree makes moab 11. it has very a nice curve, texture and shape. it also looks very old. the clouds, blue sky and orange sunrise make this a very nice image.

    I don’t know, I my have to choose the tree! I love trees anyway.

  6. Angel 28 April, 2009 at 19:35 Reply

    I love all the pics, and the tree was my choice also. It makes for an awesome conversation piece. That Nik Software used to make that tree pop rocks. Great shots.. all well worth it I’m sure. Congrats!

  7. Tommy Bjoerk 28 April, 2009 at 17:28 Reply

    Hi Matt!

    Oh lord, what a great set of pictures! If I had to pick just one, I would go for Moab-8. The view of those mountains is absolutely gorgeous!

  8. David Schoengold 27 April, 2009 at 18:24 Reply

    Really nice pictures. I’d also really like to see what you did with HDR. Coulod be really interesting.

  9. Jayce 27 April, 2009 at 18:21 Reply

    The one I keep going back to is Dead Horse Point State Park–but I think if it were my shot (o VERY wishful thinking!) I’d put it back in Lightroom and lighten the foreground just a bit, to get a little closer to what your eyes can see even when you’re looking at the splendid light flowing into the canyon and across the world. Such great colors and balances and the drama of the clouds–how can you resist?

  10. Larry E. Dodd 27 April, 2009 at 17:21 Reply

    I liked At Mesa Arch in Arches National Park
    best with Dead Horse State Park as runner up. Why? The other ones are certainly nice but more commonly seen. The first one is different and makes a person look close to reaaly see the image.

  11. Larry Loar 27 April, 2009 at 09:56 Reply


    The photos look GREAT!!!!!! It will be tough to choose from. I do like moab-3, followed by moab-1. I like the colors in moab-4 and moab 8. It depends on what your wife thinks will go good in the room too! See, your persistence paid off.

    Larry Loar

  12. Juan 26 April, 2009 at 19:07 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    I love all the pictures, but definitively the number 1 is my favorite, congratulations for your captures and thanks for sharing

  13. Sara 26 April, 2009 at 17:42 Reply

    The tree. I love the tree. They are all great… but I always like the great shot that no one else would think of taking to best. Thank you for sharing!

  14. Christina 26 April, 2009 at 12:00 Reply

    I love the tree at Dead Horse. It’s been a few years since i’ve been to Moab. Every summer it seems to be on the planned route, and every year it gets nixed from the road trip plans. Once my little one is a little older, I hope to make it to a photo workshop in the area.

  15. Jeff 26 April, 2009 at 04:00 Reply

    Those are some awesome photos! I really like all of the layers and haze in moab-4, but moab-3 is also really neat as well. I like the sunrays in it, composition, colors!

    Great work!

  16. Robert-Peter Westphal 26 April, 2009 at 03:17 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    very very nice picrtures, nearly the best I have seen from this location. Could you please give us a complete look to your workflow for one or two of these pictures, which would mean you show us a short film whcih shows the complete workflow from importing a picture into Lr, and ends with the export for web.

    Many thanks in advance !


  17. Mark 25 April, 2009 at 23:32 Reply

    Matt, Lovely shots!
    Not to be nitpicky, but I believe the correct name of the park is Dead Horse Point State Park. Gotta remember the “point”! 🙂
    I thought Arches was one of the nicest places to visit on this earth. I took many photos that look similar to yours, but of course yours are better!
    I didn’t have as much time to photograph as I wanted, because I was primarily there for mountain biking.
    You gotta go mountain biking in Moab!

    Next time, if you want a real treat, hike the Klondike Bluffs trail and head into Arches at the very top of the trail. The veiw is just unbelievable!
    Here is one of my pics from that hike:

    I hope to make it to one of your classes one of these days.
    Beautiful shots, and thanks for sharing!

  18. Ray Ketcham 25 April, 2009 at 22:58 Reply

    Great shots Matt I try to make a trip to Moab every other year and hit up Park Ave at sunrise. Morning is the best anywhere for a 100 miles around Moab. Can’t say which would be my favorite, I’d print them all and change them once a week. Thanks for all you do on this blog it is a real help.

  19. Cindy Smith 25 April, 2009 at 22:27 Reply

    Hey Matt, what lens did you take besides the three mentioned? And all the images are iconic, but I guess I vote for number 2- Mesa Arch. No HDR on this or fill flash? You deserve these shots- 3:30 A.M!! Thanks for all of the info very helpful. Cindy

  20. Phil C. 25 April, 2009 at 19:42 Reply

    Hi Matt
    I loved 3 pictures Dead Horse State Park, Mesa Arch in Arches National Park and last but not least Mesa Arch in Arches National Park.
    Dead Horse State Park is my favourite.
    Why did you make it so difficult?

  21. Rich C 25 April, 2009 at 11:34 Reply

    Great shots! Wish I could have gone along for that one. Been through Moab several times while traveling, and never had the time for the long stop over.

    I’ll be hitting Zion in a few weeks. We’ll see what fun stuff there is to shoot there. 🙂

  22. Zac Grimaldo 24 April, 2009 at 20:28 Reply

    When I saw the shots from Moab, I thought, “Oh cool, I’ve been there.” We went in the summer and it was crazy hot!! The hike up to Delicate was in the heat of the day…*whew* you forgot to mention that it was all uphill!!! Haha!

    My favorite is the tree after all, because with the others, you think oh yeah, Moab. But with the tree, it could be anywhere and yet, no where. It looks like it has a story, what it’s seen and what its been through. It makes you think more and it should bring up more questions.

    While at the park, I looked at all the old photos from the turn of the century and thought to myself, wow how many times do you think these rocks have been photographed?!!! Just my thoughts.

  23. Dave Hutchinson 24 April, 2009 at 18:08 Reply

    I like the shot at Dead Horse Park. It is different than the normal rock photos that you see from Arches, Dead Horse and Canyonlands. I would kill to have the kind of weather that you had. When I was there the parks were grey and cold. We never got sun. Those parks are beautiful and they are on the list for a return trip.

  24. mattk 24 April, 2009 at 15:53 Reply

    Todd – As a matter of fact, it’s looking like I’ll be there with the Lightroom tour on July 20th. Keep an eye on though but I’m sure I’ll mention it here as well.

    All – Many Thanks for the extremely kind words about the photos.
    I was planning a Q&A session next week to go over some of the questions I was asked.

    – Matt K

  25. Todd Klimek 24 April, 2009 at 15:41 Reply

    #2 and #3 do it for me! All great shots Matt; I hope that someday I’ll have the means to attend one of these “killer” workshops.


    Todd in Chicago

    P.S. When is the Lightroom tour coming to the Windy City my friend!?

  26. Barney Streit 24 April, 2009 at 15:23 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    I wish I could have been there with you, but hey, I’ll see you at the Vegas NAPP meeting. I like #3, with #4 a close second. Geese, you’re really getting good – choosing the best is tough! Say hello to the fam for Sandy and me, and keep up the fabulous podcasts and photography.

  27. Inge Skliros 24 April, 2009 at 14:35 Reply

    For a wall portrait, #1 is is the one! Fabulous image that you can view again and again without getting tired of it. The others are awesome also, but for my money it has to be The HDR #1.

  28. Jim Corkrum 24 April, 2009 at 13:56 Reply

    Mesa Arch is not in the Arches National Park…it is in Canyonlands National Park…specifically in the “Island in the Sky,” section of the park. Near Arches and Moab. On the one day I visited Mesa Arch, the sun came up behind clouds, so I didn’t get the glow. Despite you geographical error, you photos are very nice.

  29. Steve Eshom 24 April, 2009 at 13:49 Reply

    My two favorites are Sunrise At Mesa Arch in Arches National Park (#1) and Sunrise At Dead Horse State Park (#5).

    If I was going to put one on my wall I’d pick Sunrise At Dead Horse State Park (#5) due to the nice color range displayed. I would trim a bit of the dark area off the bottom but still show enough to make it a framing element. Obviously that’s my subjective viewpoint based on what I like but it is still a nice photo as is.

    Not a bad image in the lot Matt, nice work!

  30. Murat Arslan 24 April, 2009 at 12:37 Reply

    kudos to matt! wonderful photos.

    if i were to hang one of these on my wall, i’d go with #3, the one with the trees. beautiful image, different than the rest of them imho, and it stands above the crowd 🙂

  31. Bob Meade 24 April, 2009 at 12:06 Reply

    All are very expressive sots, but my favorite is the first one because of the layered aerial perspective. Incidentally, Mesa Arch is located in Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky District.

  32. Bob Meade 24 April, 2009 at 12:04 Reply

    All are very expressive sots, but my favorite is the first one because of the layered aerial perspective. Incidentally, Mesa Arch is located in Cayonlands National Park Island in the Sky District.

  33. Christine Morgan 24 April, 2009 at 11:55 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    Beautiful pictures – I’d be pleased with any of them on my wall! However if you have to choose I’d go for one of the first three – or as mentioned above print all three and rotate them monthly.

    Thanks for sharing them.

  34. GayleV 24 April, 2009 at 10:41 Reply

    Honestly–any of those would look great on your wall! My favorite is the Mesa Arch (moab-1). I also like the beautiful color in the shots from Dead Horse State Park. Hiked to Delicate Arch 2 years ago with 3 kids ranging from 10 to 3. I’ll just stay that it didn’t take us “a little over an hour!”

  35. Stacy 24 April, 2009 at 10:38 Reply

    Matt – Wow!
    I love two shots best. One is the #3 – the tree. It is just unique. I’ve seen many shots of the arches, but this is a nice change from something I’ve seen before. Witha a great composition, It is a standout.

    I also really like #5 – I opened them all up big and it is the one I spent the most time looking at. The colors are great and there is so much depth to the image. Layers of rock that lead you all the back into the the mountain range and then back in the valley and up to the foreground again. Same with the colors, is just an image full of layers.

    I was torn between the two at first, but given the amount of time I spent gazing into #5, it is the one I could seeing hanging on my own wall at home. Plus, I am with you, I have such a hard time picking out my own favorites. I know which ones stink, but sometimes I have a hard time picking out the best one from a couple good ones.

  36. Dennis Zito 24 April, 2009 at 10:31 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    I have a question for you. On pictures moab-1 & 3, you captured the “rays” of the sun. I’ve tried to do that several times, but it never comes out like your shots. What’s the technique to do this? Did you use a filter?



  37. Mollie T 24 April, 2009 at 10:29 Reply

    I think that the third picture with the tree in dead horse is the winner for the wall print. (that’s the one that I would put up in my house anyway!) Looks like it was a lot of fun. Great pictures!

  38. WT 24 April, 2009 at 10:25 Reply

    Numbers 2 (moab3), 3(moab11) and 5(moab8). I thought #2 was the handsdown winner, but #3 when viewed large is very, very nice. #5 is just majestic and awesome. I think 2 and 5 are more impressive than 3, but I love all 3 of them.

  39. Dennis Zito 24 April, 2009 at 10:24 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    Just fantastic captures! The lighting is superb! I have to vote for the Tree shot moab-11. I know the arches are what everyone wants to see and take pictures of, but the tree is unusual. Second choice would be the sunrise at Dead Horse Park – moab-8. Very nice captures, thanks for sharing all the info as well as the pictures.


  40. Mike Lao 24 April, 2009 at 10:02 Reply

    hey matt! i’m torn between moab-11 (the one with the tree) and moab-4. the different shades of the latter just calls out to me!

    Print both! 🙂

  41. Brad Grabowski 24 April, 2009 at 09:56 Reply

    Wow!!! Great pics! I would have a hard time deciding which one to print for my wall. Have you messed around with B&W at all? I can see a couple of them really looking good in B&W.

    I have to say the first 2 are my favorite out of all of them. Good luck with your decision.

  42. Tim Chaney 24 April, 2009 at 09:45 Reply

    Hi, Matt:

    Looks like you all had a fantastic workshop! My favorite image is the one of the tree but they are all outstanding. Hope to join you on a future workshop.


  43. Seinberg 24 April, 2009 at 09:45 Reply

    Hi Matt —

    Nice photos. I would recommend against printing the 2nd, 3rd, and last ones. The reason I say this is that when you took the sky’s luminance down it created small halos around the rock and tree. Once you see the halo, it’s distracting because the post-processing becomes too much the focus instead of the otherwise beautiful photos.

    My preference is the second-to-last one, with the purple canyon, or the first one cropped to not include the rock across the top of the photo (the rock across the top feels claustrophobic!).

    Great work, and I hope the constructive critical feedback isn’t entirely unwelcome!


  44. Andy Klafter 24 April, 2009 at 09:23 Reply


    Outstanding photos.

    Question: Are you using any filters for these shots, polarizer, etc.



  45. Mike 24 April, 2009 at 09:21 Reply

    Moab-4 and Moab-1 were my Fav’s

    Now for the killer (pun intended) question, since Lightroom is nondestructive what would be REALLY nice is to see the before picture and compare it to the after picture, say for Moab-1 or any for that matter. I would really like to see how much you dared to enhance the saturation, vibrance, exposure etc. and maybe even the actual numbers you changed. I always wonder how far I dare go. How far is too far.
    I have been to arches at least 25 times and absolutely love it every time I go, including the times it snows on me.

  46. Gary Chisolm 24 April, 2009 at 08:48 Reply


    If you want to print only one of them, my vote would be for tree as it is fairly unique. However another consideration is to print them all and rotate them every month or so. Thanks for posting them, lovely images! Regards, Gary

  47. Phillip 24 April, 2009 at 08:31 Reply


    All of them are wonderful pictures. My vote for your wall is #5, Sunrise at Dead Horse State Park.
    Thanks for sharing!

  48. Heather 24 April, 2009 at 08:15 Reply

    Thanks so much for posting these shots and the information on your settings and processing used. I’ll be starting a roadtrip to NM, UT, CO and AZ in just two weeks and I’ll actually be at all these places.

    My vote is for #2 if you want more of a ‘classic’ southwest image, I love that sunrise bursting through the arch. But I also like #3, the comp is wonderful and that tree is so unique!

  49. Holger 24 April, 2009 at 07:49 Reply

    Hello Matt,

    awesome shots!
    #1 (Mesa) is my favorite.
    The colors are so great. I’ve never shot it with a telephoto lens. Good idea! Hope I can say “Hello” again in the Headquarter as I could in 2006.
    Check out the “Southwest” portfolios on my site.

    All the best,

  50. Marcel 24 April, 2009 at 05:56 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    I’ve never visited Moab, never even have left Europe, so I can’t tell for myself what location is most beautifull, but from the shots above I really like the 2nd shot name moab-3.jpg.
    But contrary to your comment isn’t that the one processed using HDR techniques?
    Seems to me like the perfect candidate for that.

    Anyway thanks for sharing these and your other info.
    Great stuff!

  51. Gavin Seim 24 April, 2009 at 04:09 Reply

    I’d say totally put that 1st one one your wall. Super moody. I’m not partial to the rock lining the top though. To me it’s too little to frame the shot and too much to be ignored.

    Just my thoughts, but still I love the shot. They all look really good but that one jumps out. Then again I’m an HDR fanatic 😉

  52. Peter 24 April, 2009 at 03:58 Reply

    Matt, really great shots – I vote for the tree – it has real character in shape and texture and composition is stunning

  53. David Hanrahan 24 April, 2009 at 03:24 Reply

    What a beautfiul range to choose from – well worth the cold and early morning efforts. If it was my wall, the second last image at Dead Horse State Park would already be on its way to the printer! I love the way the color seperation at each level gives such a sense of depth – both into the distance and of hight as well. My second choice is the tree. I love the curve of the trunk back into the light and found my eye travelling around the image -following the light and curve rather than being drawn only to the tree itself.

  54. Fredrik Setterberg 24 April, 2009 at 03:03 Reply

    Wow! That’s all I have to say. These shots are just amazing. I am from Sweden and actually went to Joshua Tree National Park last year. You have some amazing sceneries over there. Your photos are incredible, and I must say your post processing is very subtle and just right.

    Have a great weekend!

    / Fredrik

  55. Jase 24 April, 2009 at 02:41 Reply

    great shots Matt but a little scary too…. why?

    sunrise… arrrghhh that means getting up early
    i so want to capture the views with that light but getting up before sunrise has to be the hardest thing in the world 😉 hehe

  56. Tomi 24 April, 2009 at 02:29 Reply

    Matt, these shots are just amazing! I’ve been in Moab a couple of times but have never been able to get such awesome shots.

    As for your open spot on the wall, I would go with the HDR shot of Mesa Arch.

  57. Steve Kalman 24 April, 2009 at 02:13 Reply

    The tree is my favorite. I’ve seen hundreds of photos of Arches and they all show the same few, majestic, scenes. The others you posted are in this category: very well executed, but not particularly original.

    The lone tree is the exception. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people have been in the vicinity of your tripod marks, yet few think to make that composition. That why it is the best; it shows that you have the vision to see what’s in front of you when it isn’t what you were expecting find. (And, of course, it is a stunning picture!)

  58. KC 24 April, 2009 at 02:03 Reply

    Vote for Large Print: #2 (moab-3.jpg).

    I have a shot like this (sun peeking out of the clouds at sunrise, with some glare) on top of the Hale-a-ka-l? volcano at 10,000 feet at 6.30a.

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