Text Reads: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

With the passing of his mother in 1986 and his father in 1987, their loss forced Howard to consider his own mortality, his spirituality and how to fill the void that was left in his life. For his mother, the church was the doorway to spirituality and held the answers to many of the needs we all share. For his father, nature was the pathway to a relationship with the Almighty. For Howard, it was both. While he found the formality of church services to be a necessity in his life, a small pocket Bible and nature became a source of greater inspiration. This Bible would accompany him on many of his runs; and, sitting in the park or cemetery afterward to read it, was a much needed and spiritually fulfilling experience.

As time passed, these inspirational resources became even more significant to Howard. Nature photography became the lens through which his professional aspirations were to redevelop and more importantly, how he began to see God more clearly. Photography became a mechanism for Howard to portray the beauty of our country’s vanishing landscapes. His hope was that these images might engender in others a deeper respect and commitment to their preservation. More importantly, he hoped to inspire others to contemplate more deeply the God who made it all possible…….that their encounters with God’s Word and nature would be a source of spiritual sustenance. Still, it was not until he himself faced cancer in May of 2001, that he deepened his commitment and urgency for them both.

In an effort to merge this relationship, Howard sought the thoughtful assistance of his friend Rev. Eric Park and selected certain photographs to be aligned with biblically-based messages of inspiration. Most people recognize the necessity of good stewardship when it comes to our natural environment and ultimately our survival. Protection and conservation are paramount. While that is a message of great value for this world, nature guides Howard to a message of greater value for the next. Nature has been for him a conduit to the One who makes everything possible. He writes:

“Whether in the wilderness or my living room, when I contemplate the awesome mysteries of nature, the existence of God is no longer in doubt. And, when contemplating Jesus, His sacrifice for us and the salvation He offers, my purpose in life is no longer in doubt.
My goal in ‘Combining God’s Word with God’s World’ is to create a palpable daily reminder of who He is (the omnipotent Creator) and how it is we should live. (by His Word) While I continue to strive to be the best I can be in life, I have also come to realize the most important things in life are not ‘things’ ..…rather, it is to please God. May it be that way for you”.

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This is one of those iconic locations that as a photographer, it is well known to you before you ever see it.  Any pre-trip research or onsite investigation of Moab, UT or Canyonlands National Park will no doubt include the discovery of Mesa Arch.  After that, good luck experiencing it alone.

I have been here more than a few times.  Initially, I scouted it just to make sure I knew where I was going and I could find it in the dark.  This was in February when it was the “off season” and presumably less crowded.

On my shooting day, everything went fine except, there was no sunrise.  Oh, there was hope with a crack of clearing at the base of the horizon for the sun to peak through but it quickly closed and that was the end of it and my hope for a shot of Mesa at dawn.  I had only one chance and it did not happen.  My plans at the time did not allow for another attempt.  It is often the case in photography.  It can take multiple attempts to achieve success.  Showing up and getting the image you seek (composition, lighting, subject, etc.,) is never a guarantee in my experience.  There is a lot of planning, a lot of patience and a lot of factors determining the outcome and you can’t control all of them…..particularly the weather.  Sometimes, it is your ally and other times your nemesis.

I would have to return another year. Fast forward to the following February and there I stood once again only this time reminding myself there were no guarantees.  Being there is a must but past performance is no guarantee of future success or failure.  You may wonder why I would go to the expense of returning to the same spot.  Hopefully, my image says enough but allow me to further explain.

If you are in to the beauty of natural arches, this is one of the best you’ll see even if you can’t be there at sunrise.  But if you can and as a photographer you must, then you will see the phenomenon I have entitled “Radiance”.

You arrive before dawn making your way up the trail preferably with a headlamp.  It is a short simple hike, about a ¼ mile or so each way.   If you are lucky, there may be a spot for you looking through the window of the arch with the LaSal Mountains in the distant.  Also beyond the arch is a large monument called “Washboard Woman” aptly named once you see it.

Even though it was a cold February morning and I arrived 45 minutes before sunrise, the window of the arch was already full of tripods and people who literally slept at the site.  They were from other countries and were all together.  Part of a group I think and they had staked their claim.  I paced back and forth looking for an opening and finally wormed my way in at the right end which turned out to be most fortuitous with the sun rising directly in front of me.  As I checked and rechecked exposures with the changing light, fine-tuned my composition and played around with possible secondary compositions, I waited for the light.  But be prepared, it is a fleeting event.

As you stand there and observe the landscape before you, everything looks pretty normal.  Darkness to predawn blue light gives way to a brighter light as the sun approaches the horizon.  Again, everything around you looks routine as the landscape becomes more visible with warming light.

Suddenly, a transformation begins.  As the sun breaks the horizon beams of light appear.  In a matter of seconds, the arch starts to glow.  As you begin shooting and adjusting exposure it gets hotter and hotter.  The landscape around you is bathed in warm like typical of golden hour….except for the arch.

Soon, it has taken on the appearance of a hot coal and it is extraordinary to witness. You can hear the “ohs and ahs” of people and cameras shuttering behind you like a White House press conference.  Thousands of camera clicks take place over a period of 2 minutes.  You don’t dare take your eye off what is in front of you for fear of missing any nuance of lighting nature has to offer.  In 5 minutes, it’s over.  Finally able to turn around I see between 50-100 people with tripods or without jammed into this location.  Definitely not my preference and probably the largest crowd I have ever had to share such an intimate setting in nature.

Even though I am not a hunter, I still felt like I bagged an elk.  Definitely one of the most unique lighting experiences I ever witnessed and an image well worth the effort.  So striking, it is always a conversation piece.