BOBBY MAGILL

Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a senior science writer for Climate Central in New York and a journalist who has covered fracking and the environment in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001. 

Anatomy of an Image: Delicate Reflection

Delicate Arch is Utah's most iconic natural landform and, almost without a doubt, its most photographed. I have a gazillion Delicate Arch images stashed away, most of them similar to what you'll see in countless other photo galleries and tourist brochures. I've visited Arches National Park more than 50 times, and it's one of my favorite places in the world.

I took a week-long photographic expedition to Utah and western Colorado in March 2010, and I thought I'd really timed the trip badly because most of eastern Utah canyon country was under two feet of snow. But Delicate Arch wasn't buried under snow. The slickrock around it was, however, sopping wet with meltwater, and that allowed me to luck into the perfect photography scenario for Delicate Arch.

I've been trying for years to capture Delicate in the perfect reflection. It worked marginally well another time back in 2006 after a heavy October rain, but the potholes weren't quite as full then as they were last year. When I arrived at the bowl beneath the arch, this is essentially what the scene looked like:

A mud pit. So I started looking around for the perfect pothole...

Not quite.

I was walking all over the place (careful not to track through the mud as other people had) looking for the right puddle and the correct angle. And the damn wind just kept blowing. But just as I was about ready to call it a day (the way it usually works), I found it:

That still wasn't quite right, but a little more experimenting with camera positioning produced the final image, which was rotated 180 degrees to appear upright.

This also begs the question: How many times can you photograph an arch? I probably won't spend much time at Delicate the next time I visit Arches, but it's been fun to photograph over the years: