The Lathe and Mobius Arches are the two most famous and most photographed arches in California. With a bit of planning and a little time, you can get your own photo of these unique structures. Here’s how.
These arches are located just outside Lone, Pine, CA…Gateway to the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, White Mountains, Mount Whitney, Mammoth Lakes, and Mono Lake (see our blog on the the Eastside). As you enter town from the south on CA Highway 395, make a left turn at the light which is Whitney Portal Road and go up the hill for 2.5 miles. Make a right on Movie Road and proceed exactly 1.4 miles (this road changes from asphalt to dirt). The road continues left, but you need to go into the large parking lot on the right. There are two trails out of the parking lot. One on the east side and one on the west side. Both lead to the arches, but take the one on the west side. It is much shorter and straight forward.
I have never seen a photography workshop group here, probably because there is really only room for one person at a time to make their photo. It is a tight and awkward position. If you want to be here for sunrise, you better be the first one here and be ready to defend your spot. Two very good friends (or a couple) MIGHT be able to share this spot, but I doubt it. I think it better to come late or mid-morning and even hand-hold with a high ISO (which is what I do).
Mary was shooting infrared and needed the stability of a tripod. I also planned to make the final photo black and white anyway. The key to this composition is creating space above the arch for some sky and between the mountains and the arch. That is why you have to get into the tight space or lie down. We had a bald sky, so I used a red filter to turn the sky black and really pull out the texture of the arch.
The Mobius Arch is a just a few yards away down the trail walking east. There is a lot more room to work with, but I still don’t think you can get more than three people in the right position to get this composition where you have both Lone Pine Peak and Mount Whitney in the arch. When Mary and I were there, we had to fight it out with a few people. Most tourists want a photo of themselves in the middle of the arch, so some sharing and patience is required.
This is pretty straight forward shooting. You just need a wide angle lens ( I use a 24-105) or a point and shoot You need a small aperture to get the arch sharp and still get the mountains in focus. The sky is so blue that you do not need a polarizer, but use a UV filter, if you have one.
The best time to come to this area is Fall and Winter. The best photos of these arches have the Sierras covered in snow and have sunrise light that creates an orange alpen glow. This whole little excursion will only take you about an hour once you turn on Whitney Portal road. This is a nice little side trip as you drive up to Mammoth to ski.
To see more of our photos, please go to www.pamphotography.com.