“Balanced Rock & La Sal Mountains at Sunset”

Balanced Rock & La Sal Mountains at Sunset, Arches National Park, SE Utah (c) Mike Utley

Balanced Rock is one of the most notable features in Arches National Park. Rising 128 feet above the desert floor, this curious rock sits precariously atop a sandstone spire, sentry-like, watching over neighboring red rock fins, pillars, arches, and the distant La Sal Mountains. For this image from March 1996, I isolated Balanced Rock and its accompanying tower against the pale winter dusk sky to portray the silent, lonely feeling this icon has always instilled in me. From varying angles, this rock looks remarkable different, and one could almost say its personality changes depending upon one’s vantage point. It inspires contemplation and awe, and speaks to both the tenacity and fragility of this planet. Erosion will eventually topple this rock, but for now it stands in defiance of gravity and the weather. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

38 thoughts on ““Balanced Rock & La Sal Mountains at Sunset”

    1. Thanks, Peggy. You’re right–balance is so important, and this rock exemplifies how delicate that balance can be at times. I appreciate your insights and kind words so much. πŸ™‚


  1. Is the rock naturally red or just a reflection from the sun? The big rock kind of looks like giving a thumbs up 😁 You captured it all so perfectly Mike, it looks stunning. “its personality changes depending upon one’s vantage point” I agree with you on this, I think looking at the rocks we all see a different personality come to life. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Daphny. Much of the red rock sandstone of the Colorado Plateau (which encompasses a great swath of the American Southwest) is a brownish-red color, along with lighter shades of tan and other brown hues), but in early morning or late evening light, when much of the blue spectrum has been filtered out by atmospheric haze, dust particles and moisture, the rocks suddenly glow in incredible shades of orange and dark red. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are prime examples of this. There was no color manipulation done on this image (or any of my images), just natural lighting at the “magic hour” of early morning and late evening. It’s breath-taking to behold. The sun that evening was shining through a thin hazy layer on the ho4rizon and had a rich red tone to it. The rocks in the park just glowed. Overall, it completely depends on the lighting conditions. In overcast light and midday sun, the rocks are very dull, so most photographers try to capture them in the mornings and evenings when the lighting conditions are more flattering. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Mark. The lighting that evening was gorgeous. I didn’t want to leave, but it eventually got dark so I had to head home! πŸ˜€ Thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Jane. I did some searching and found some info that answers your question about the composition of the sandstone in the Colorado Plateau region:


      This article would delight a geologist, but it’s easy enough for laypersons to understand, too. It also shows how dull the rocks can appear in overcast and midday lighting. The rich red and orange tones occur in early morning and late evening, particularly when there is haze, dust or smoke in the atmosphere which renders the sunlight deeply red or orange.

      This article also has some info on sandstone composition:


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      1. This is amazing, if its color changes due to fog and dust or smoke, then the visit time should be according to its color change. Watching live should be a great experience., Mike πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Kirsten. I was fortunate that evening to have that rich red lighting. It makes all the difference, turning what is otherwise a bunch of drab reddish-brown and tan rocks into a fiery inferno. The difference in color between early morning/late evening lighting and midday or overcast lighting is startling, so most folks tend to do their photography during the magic hours when the light is rich with reds and oranges that make these rocks come alive. Glad you liked this one! πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks a bunch. There’s so much we can learn from the natural world that can inform our own lives and put everything into proper perspective. The delicate strength of some of these sandstone formations is awe-inspiring. Thanks for your kind words–much appreciated. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your kind appraisal, Reena. It was always such a joy to use my camera to impose order on my chaotic world and create images that resonate peace and stillness and beauty. I’m so glad you found this one to your liking. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. I always considered nature photography a form of poetry, and aimed to instill meaning into my images. Years later, I can look through them and remember exactly what I was feeling when I made them, as well as see things I didn’t notice before. It’s surprising sometimes how these decades-old images can speak to me through the years. Glad you enjoyed this one. I appreciate it. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Lamittan. Glad you liked this one. Balanced Rock is a sight to behold. Knowing it will eventually fall makes it more beautiful now, and gives it more meaning. πŸ™‚


  2. What a stunning photo, Mike. It almost looks alien. When I saw it, I said to myself. “I know that rock.” It brought a smile, that’s for sure. I love the perspective and the way it stands (almost) alone. It will be sad day when it falls, as all things do with time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Diana. I thought you might recognize this place. I have a few other images from different vantage points and the rock looks unique in each one. I wanted to capture the sense of silence and solitude and stillness this place gives me. It’s so quiet there, especially after the daytime tourists have gone home. At that point, it’s all earth and sky and silence and a good perspective on where we stand in the universe. Glad you liked this one. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Terveen, for your enthusiastic response! πŸ™‚ So happy to know you liked this image. Yes, it sort of makes me nervous looking at that rock, too. I read recently that it weighs roughly the same as 55 blue whales… When it eventually succumbs to erosion and gravity, it’s going to make quite a ruckus on its way down! It’ll be a sad day when that happens, though. It’s a beautiful, contemplative formation. I hope it outlasts me. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Scarlett. Oh, the lighting that evening was a rich red and it lit up the entire landscape. I was fortunate in that regard to catch some evocative illumination. πŸ™‚


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