Thunderstorm Arch

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

April 16, 2016valley of fire-030-HDR-Edit.tif 218 mm: ISO 200: f/13: 1/500 sec.

This image was made mid-afternoon in a somewhat remote part of Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.  Valley of Fire is located about one hour north of Las Vegas and offers a large amount of red rock structures and easy hiking in a relatively small geographical area.

There are a number of small arches in the park, but this one apparently has not been photographed much.  After a quick google search, I only found two images.  One person called it Thunderstorm Arch so that is the name I will go with.

This specific image is a composite of nine images employing hdr process in lightroom and focus stacking in photoshop.  I focused one exposure on the front of the arch, one on the back of the arch and one on the mountains in the background.  For each of those images, I took three different exposures.  I blended the exposures in lightroom using the hdr process.  I took the three resulting hdr images and blended them in photoshop to ensure maximum depth of field.

How to Get There

Valley of Fire State Park is located in Nevada, a bit over an hour from Las Vegas.  To get there, head north on the I-15 out of Las Vegas.  Forty or so miles, depending where you start, north of Las Vegas, you want to take exit 75 heading east towards Valley of Fire and Lake Mead.  There is a little gas station that is your last chance to get gas or food, although I would plan ahead for food as their choices are very limited.  This road will take you all the way into Valley of Fire State Park.

To find this arch, drive into the park and then turn North on the road to the White Domes.  You will want to park at the last parking lot before the White Domes area.  It is the same parking lot as the fire wave (there are signs for the fire wave).  Instead of going toward the fire wave, walk the direction of White Domes and drop down on the west side of the rock area in front of the parking lot.  You will be up against a large rock on your west side for most of the hike.  Before you reach the slot canyon that takes you over to White Domes, you should see this arch.  It is out in the open so it is not too hard to find.  After saying that, however, I still have not been able to find Crazy Hill, which is supposed to be in the same area.

Things to Know about Valley of Fire State Park

  • There is an entrance fee of $10 per vehicle. As this is a state park, your national parks pass will not get you in for free.
  • Much to the annoyance of photographers, the park is only open from dawn until dusk.  The only exception is if you are camping, and then your movement is limited to the campgrounds.  While the campgrounds to have some nice features to photograph, most of the park is off limits for astrophotography.  I have tried to get past this rule, but the rangers patrol heavily after dusk and will find and kick you out.
  • There is a lot to see in Valley of Fire, and many of the best places, like Thunderstorm Arch, are not on any maps or park literature.  Have fun exploring and finding all kinds of unique structures.
  • While there can be small crowds at the most popular spots, you can expect relative solitude most of the time in most of the park.
  • It gets wicked hot in the summer.  I once got lost for four hours trying to find a certain spot on a summer afternoon.  Luckily, I had a gallon of water on me.  I drank it all and was still thirsty by the time I found the road.

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