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Thread: How not to photograph Delicate Arch

  1. #1

    How not to photograph Delicate Arch

    Michael Fatali is one of the nation's premier large format landscape photographers, but he appears to have gone too far in attempting to create interesting lighting effects at Delicate Arch. The following is an article from Salt Lake City's KSL-TV. Any comments?

    Fires At Delicate Arch

    It's become the symbol of Utah. Delicate Arch, one of the state's most photographed and scenic wonders.

    But now a prominent landscape photographer faces criminal charges for starting four fires at Delicate Arch, and marring the landscape.

    Authorities have released little information about the investigation. But, Environment Specialist John Hollenhorst has learned exclusive details.

    We've been told the fires were set during a photo workshop or a class at Delicate Arch. We haven't been able to get there to see the damage, and we haven't been able to reach photographer Mike Fatali to hear his story.

    But he's accused of doing damage severe enough to be noticable in photos of Utah's most famous arch.

    Four years ago we went on a photography expedition with Mike Fatali. He specializes in scrambling through Utah's rugged and spectacular canyon country to take pictures.

    He runs a photograophy school near Zion National Park. His photos sell for high prices in his canyon-country photo shops.

    On our expedtion four years ago, Fatali expressed strong love for the landscape.


    A month ago at Delicate Arch, Mike Fatali was allegedly leading a photo workshop or class. On the slickrock and sand below the arch, four fires were allegedly set.

    It's not clear why, but one version of the story is that the fires were intended to create a special lighting effect.

    A tourist reported one fire still smouldering the next day.

    Flammable fuel apparently seeped deep into the slickrock and left three dark stains, which the Park Service has been unable to remove. The largest, we're told, is roughly 3 feet by 6, and shows up in photos of the arch.

    We've been unable to reach Fatali for his side of the story. He's on a photo expedition... presumably somewhere in the landscape he's built his career on.


    In the next couple of weeks, a rock-restoration expert will hike to the arch and assess the damages. After that, the U.S. Attorney intends to file criminal charges.

    A spokeswoman says the government has a responsibility to protect resources and Delicate Arch is very near the top of the list of resources that ought to be p

  2. #2

    How not to photograph Delicate Arch

    As I understand the situation, Mr Fatali has been suspended for one year by Arizona HIways magazine and his photos removed from their catalog and store due to this unfortunate situation. He was leading a Friends of Arizona Hiways workshop at the time.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 1999

    How not to photograph Delicate Arch

    One point on which we can all agree: The arsonist (let's assume the fire was intentional) should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of applicable state and federal law. He/she has marred and perhaps ruined one of a few special sites. If he/she is a photographer, amateur or professional, then he/she has given all of us who travel and make images a black eye. Bob

  4. #4

    How not to photograph Delicate Arch

    In a follow-up story on KSL last night, it was revealed that Fatali has apologized for causing the damage. Here is the story:


    Black marks now mar one of the state's most photographed scenic wonders. Now, for the first time, the photographer who faces criminal charges for setting four fires beneath Delicate Arch tells his side of the story.

    It happened a month ago, and enraged the Park Rangers who overseee Utah's most famous natural landmark. Environment Specialist John Hollenhorst broke the story last week, and now has details.

    As we suggested last week, the photographer says the fires were set to illuminate Delicate Arch during a photography workshop. The photographer is now apologizing for any damage that was done.

    Delicate Arch is not only spectacularly beautiful and world-famous, it's become the best-known symbol of the State of Utah. That's why many people are shocked that veteran canyon-country photographer Mike Fatali would have set fires just below the arch.

    We still haven't been able to speak with him because he's in an isolated location on a photo expedition. But he conveyed a message to an associate, who sent it to us.

    "There was never any attempt to cause damage," Fatali wrote. He went to Delicate Arch to conduct an Arizona Highways photo workshop and he says he had Park Service permission to shoot the arch at night.

    "Small fires were lit to provide additional light," Fatali wrote. "As a precaution, artificial logs were used and placed on aluminum pans."

    The park service later told us a tourist discovered one fire still smouldering the next day. Fuel from the fires seeped into slickrock, leaving three dark stains below Delicate Arch that have resisted cleanup efforts. The largest is three feet by six.

    When he learned of the damage, Fatali says he contacted the Park Service to share his concerns and apologies and offered to assist in any way. Fatali wrote, "I have spent 20 years photographing the Southwest, attempting to capture the glory of this land, to protect it, never to destroy it."

    Fatali and Park Rangers agree most tourists would likely not notice the stains. But they do show up in photos. The Park Service and the U.S. Attorney's Office are taking the case seriously and expect to file criminal c

  5. #5

    How not to photograph Delicate Arch

    HE SHOULD BE PUT TO DEATH!!!!!!!!!!!! How can anyone, who supposedly appreciates nature so much, could even consider doing such a thing?? I will now boycott his galleries and spread the same to anyone I can!!

  6. #6

    How not to photograph Delicate Arch

    I actually heard about this a while ago, as I was on a raft trip with Tom Till when it happened. Tom briefly returned to town during the trip, and heard about it through friends in the park service. Tom lives in Moab, Utah, across the river from Arches.

    What is not quoted in the paper, and something which *may or may not be true*, but which Tom heard, is that one of the workshop participants was quoted saying something to the effect of

    "what's the big deal? We did this in all the other national parks too!".

  7. #7

    How not to photograph Delicate Arch

    I am the wife of the previous Bruce Arnold and am completely sickened by this story. We frequently travel down to this area and relish in the beauty of the rocks. We have visited Fatali's Gallery on every visit and have looked in awe at the skill he has demonstrated. I feel duped and repulsed by ALL of his pictures. It is bad enough that ANYONE would do such a thing, but a proclaimed lover of nature, respectful of what has happened over centuries...makes me just plain sick. How could he do such a thoughtless act? Does he not care that perhaps I would like my grandchildren's grandchildren enjoy the beauty of that area? And to mar with fire is just too much to take. My husband is a hobby photographer and we have seen hundreds of awe inspiring areas. Anyone who is anything CLOSE to a nature lover just could not do such a thing. It saddens me greatly that someone could do this. I really cannot even put into words the feeling in my gut. Banning his photographs from all public display is not nearly enough punishment. I'm not a violent person, but could go ditto on kill the SOB!!!!!!

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Oct 1998

    How not to photograph Delicate Arch

    Gee, Cindy. I'm glad you found a fellow psycho like Bruce to travel down life's highway with. It sounds like you deserve each other. I just love it when you extremists come out of the woodwork and show your true mentality. I think the best place for the two of you would be up a tree somewhere. At least you couldn't harm anybody there. Go back and get in your hole. Personally, I think they ought to put a drill rig in that location [after they knock down that awful rock outcrop] so I can have cheaper gas for my SUV!!!!!!!

  9. #9

    How not to photograph Delicate Arch

    With all due respect folks, I do not think that capital punishment, official or unofficial, fits the crime. Lets keep things in perspective shall we. He did not knock over the arch, spray paint it black or some other such obvious heinous defacement. I fully agree that was is alleged to have been done, is qualitatively just as bad as far as most of us are concerned (myself included thank you), and that a complete investigation and disciplinary action (if justified) is certainly in order.

    I just really hate to see such needless emotional outbursts that do nothing but make this fine message forum a little bit more like usenet from which I thought to have found sanctuary. If we are to discuss this further, perhaps the subject of artifically manipulated vs pure representational landscape photography would be a better route to go! My surprise was as equally based in the bizarre idea Fatali was working on, which does not seem to be in accord with his work that I know.

  10. #10

    How not to photograph Delicate Arch

    I agree that it has become "emotional". But I guess I see it tied together....if you have a passion for Nature Photography, you have to have passion for what you are taking pictures of! And without a passion for right and wrong, issues like these go by without mention. And we send the message that it is ok...and it isn't.

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