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Photographing Natural Arches

Updated on April 8, 2014

Jacob Hamblin arch

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

"An arch is a structure that spans a space and supports structure and weight above it. Arches appeared as early as the 2nd millennium BC in Mesopotamian brick architecture and their systematic use started with the Ancient Romans who were the first to apply the technique to a wide range of structures.An arch is a pure compression form. It can span a large area by resolving forces into compression stresses and, in turn eliminating tensile stresses. This is sometimes referred to as arch action. As the forces in the arch are carried to the ground, the arch will push outward at the base, called thrust. As the rise, or height of the arch decreases, the outward thrust increases. In order to maintain arch action and prevent the arch from collapsing, the thrust needs to be restrained, either with internal ties, or external bracing, such as abutments." Wikipedia

I recently wrote an article dealing with over 300 photographic ideas for those that seem to have run out of ideas about what subjects to photograph.

So I decided to do as I preached and will go down the list and write one article per subject on this list, with the exception of those on which I have already done one.

I came to the A's and immediately recognized that I have not written anything dealing specifically with arches.

Natural or man made some arches can really be quite pleasing to look at and they can become very good photogenic subjects to capture on film.

Arches National Park, Moab

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

Start by researching any possible natural arches near where you live. Natural arches are specially good subjects or photography because they attract the eye of the beholder as it were by their simplicity and their magnificence.

Many will wonder as to the power of nature in creating these structures and this is where your photography comes in to play.

You should capture views that lets the viewer see how the arches could have been naturally created and how some of nature's designs are not only beautiful to look at but how many has taken a page form nature and adapted man made structures to follow suit.

Be sure to also take some shots that include a piece of the surrounding area, specially if these arches are found in inhospitable locations. This adds more dram to the overall shot.

Planning on photographing some arches and do you prefer natural or man made?

See results

Be sure to seek some information about the best times to photograph such as during dusk, dawn or any other time when the Sun may cast some unusual shadows and create inspiring views. Also plan how to get there and how to get back.

A good tip is to pay attention to how others have photographed the same locations and gather ideas from there. But keep in mind to add your own artistic touch and make your images different from the rest.

Sometimes all you need is to use different perspectives and angles and this is not difficult if you take the time to really look at your subject. It is better to pause and snap that to snap and then pause.

Make a note of any special piece of equipment that you may need such as wide angle lenses, tripods and telephotos. Even though telephotos may not seen like a requirement remember that some arches can only be photographed from a distance simply because of the terrain.

Nathan Phillips Square,Toronto, Ontario

CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

For man made arches it is best to explore several ones and concentrate on those that provide you with a nice look and are unusual.

Look for samples that have good composition elements surrounding it and it is also advisable to include people or other elements that can help the viewer set a reference as to the arch's size.

With either man made or natural occurring arches a good tip is to include the name, location or any other information that helps set the location.

All man made arches do not have to be those that are entirely outside or even large ones. Often some of the best samples are those that are part of a much larger piece such as the ones used as interior support structures.

Many churches and corridors feature some very nice examples and they are worth exploring for interesting angles.

Also keep in mind that photographing portions of the arch can sometimes be better than photographing the entire structure.

Vaulted Cellar Tunnel Arches Keller Cellar Speed

CC0 1.0 (public domain dedication)
CC0 1.0 (public domain dedication) | Source

This is not only an exciting project that is sure to provide with plenty of opportunities, but it can also be an exercise in photographic techniques such a discovering and trying several angles, perspectives and lighting situations, not to mention the chance of traveling to various exciting locations.

Use your images for landscape photography publications, traveling publications and general photographic ones as well as displaying some pieces in fine art galleries.

This particular photographic opportunity is also very adaptable to use in a piece that focuses on a single location, to highlight opportunities per region and from an architectural stand point.

You can even add some spins on the project such as paring arches ( natural and man made) that seem to resemble each other.

CC BY-SA 3.0 DE | Source

© 2014 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Rchrdsnc; Thank you

    • Rchrdsnc profile image

      Carl Richardson 

      5 years ago from Midwest USA

      I love both Moab and the Arches National Park. I'm very impressed by these photographs, obviously a cut above.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Ericdierker: Thanks again

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Your photos were/are awesome. but there is a transcendency here that brings our soul to light.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Ericdierker: Yes, some are truly breathtaking

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I just cannot express my love for these "things" enough. Somehow they are more than we.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Ericdierker: Thank you. Your comment is appreciated

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Whether be a key stone or all natural. An arche is the thing. From Navajo Bridge to Arch du Triumphe I love the arches. Be of good cheer for you have brought us here!


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