How not to photograph Delicate Arch : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

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

-- Stewart Ethier (, October 22, 2000


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.

-- jim McGlasson (, October 22, 2000.

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

-- Bob Moulton (, October 23, 2000.

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

-- Stewart Ethier (, October 23, 2000.

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!!

-- Bruce Arnold (, October 23, 2000.

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!".

-- Lloyd Chambers (, October 23, 2000.

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!!!!!!

-- Cindy Arnold (, October 23, 2000.

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!!!!!!!

-- Alec (, October 23, 2000.

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.

-- Richard Ross (, October 23, 2000.

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.

-- Cindy(tree-hugger) Arnold (, October 23, 2000.

Never was a "flame war" more aptly named.

-- David Goldfarb (, October 23, 2000.

Good reply Alec!!! May the photography debate carry on....

-- Cindy (, October 23, 2000.

No, Michael Fatali should not be put to death. But if you would like you can lobby the Governor to bring back the death penalty by firing squad as it was just phased out..(this is a joke, though the firing squad death was legal here until just recently).

The negative press and the suspicion we will all be under now when walking by with view cameras will follow us for a long time to come.

Stupid or not Michael was trying to get "the shot", and we all know how that goes at times. Apparently he didn't think any fire scars would result & seems to have tried to keep things under control by using aluminum pans to contain his fires. (per the news accounts so far) If he had used strobes gelled to match firelight no one would have said a thing.

But... he didn't.

He set fires in a National Park and allegedly violated a host of Federal laws in the process. He allegedly did this while leading an Arizona Highways photo tour. What a publicity stunt?!?

All for "the shot".

Hope it was worth it personally & to his career. Now we will have to walk even more carefully when carrying our view cameras as the anti- access crowd will parade this one out more than the anti-pornography crowd does Mapplethorpe. ONE incident and a black eye forever.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

-- Dan Smith (, October 23, 2000.

Since Fatali has been quoted in several accounts as admitting to having set these fires using Duralogs and aluminum roaster pans. All for the very dubious reason of photographing Delicate Arch at night perhaps we should dispense with the debate about whether he did or did not do something this stupid and distructive for his personal gain or perhaps because as he has claimed " his love of the land".

The important thing it seems to me is to band together as photographers who love this land and work to head off any forth coming restrictive regulations that may come from the National Park Service or BLM because of Mr. Fatalis total disregard for the rules already in place or more importantly his total disregard for the fragile land he has made a very nice living photographing.

Perhaps we should also urge the National Park Service to seek full and complete sanctions against Fatali as required by law and make our feelings known to the publisher of Arizona Hiways magazine as well. After all they too have some responsibility being his employers at the time of this incident as he was leading their photo workshop at the time.


-- JDMcglasson (, October 24, 2000.

Come on - this is a bizarre discussion. For all I know, the fire stain was accidental. Fatali didn't intend to harm the arch! How about the climbers who drill holes into the face of El Capitan - shouldn't they be prosecuted instead?

-- Andreas Carl (, October 24, 2000.

Acidental or not the result is the same. Afterall he did intend to set these fires in an area where fire if not totally forbidden requires a special permit. This is the same defence the captian of the Exxon Valdez should have used after creating the most disasterous oil spill in history. As for the climbers on El Capitan what they are doing is legal and they file the appropiate permits etc prior to making their climb.

Finally, accident or not we are all responsible for our actions.When you acidentially drive over the posted speed limit (speed) and the officer gives you a ticket you also must pay your fine. The judge doesn't care if you intended to speed or not, only, that you did and guess what the result is the same with your insurance carrier they don't say ah we won't raise your rates since it was really an accident and you didn't realize how fast you were going.

The unintended result from Fatalis little accident may well be onerous new restrictions on everyones ability to freely access and photograph this beautiful wilderness of ours. No matter what his ultimate penalty is we as photographers will also pay a price for his actions.

-- JDMcglasson (, October 24, 2000.

I'm not condoning Fatali's stupid and over-zealous attempt to get just the right light. However, this act pales in comparison to the rest of the crap going on in Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce and other national parks and scenic sites in the area.

Every single time I've been to Arches NP to photograph any of the more well known spots the place has been literally crawling with fat-butted tourists in their motorhomes and minivans. The steady stream of huffing and puffing, gasping walkers on the trail to Delicate Arch is enough of a downer; half way there you feel like packing it in and turning back. And the crowds of people sitting around the base of the arch around sunset, teenagers crawling all over the rocks, parents screaming at their children, spoiling all the sight lines.....well, it's enough to make you sick.

And it seems that every stretch of river in that area, with even the slightest hint of "fast water", has been completely taken over by these opportunistic rafting businesses, with their lumbering school buses clogging the roads, their ugly yellow or orange inflatable boats, teeming with howling, drunken idiots. I used to fish these waters years ago; now it's a foregone conclusion that any cast is likely to snag one of these rafts.

And how about the crazed Jeep crowd that gets together every Easter in Moab, racing their 4WDs up and down the main drag, with beer-guzzling assholes hanging off the damned things. Can the town of Moab possibly get any tackier? Just go into any part of Canyonlands NP and these nimrods are everywhere, too busy trying to figure out some new way of rolling these things over to worry much about the scenery, stained by Fatali's fires or not. And let's not forget the mountain bike folks, either.

Why don't we just kill all of them? It seems to me that the place was ruined long ago. Maybe we photographers are to blame...we took too many beautiful photographs and attracted all these idiots.

-- Sergio Ortega (, October 24, 2000.

One point that has been missed so far in this discussion is that as deplorable as Fatali's actions were, the worse part is that he was "teaching" a group of photographers the same lack of respect for nature that he probably has been practicing most of his life.

I can't imagine being part of his workshop and witnessing this event. The fact that no one in the group took any action to stop Fatali says something about the breed of "new" photographers that are going to go after the "perfect" photograph with no regard to their impact on the landscape.

I believe that the entire group should be punished to the maximum extent allowed by law. Notice I backed-off my death penalty stance from yesterday. Now that I have "cooled off", I can think rationally! However, I still can't comprehend Fatali's actions!!

I encourage everyone to e-mail Arizona Highways, The National Park Service, and Fatali Galleries at the following e-mail addresses to voice your concerns with Fatali's actions. Thanks!

Fatali Gallery:

Arizona Highways:

National Park Service:

-- Bruce Arnold (, October 24, 2000.

I have never heard of Arizona Highway photography workshops. Are these serious photography workshops or the kind intended to bilk a few hundred bucks from novices to give them the honor of being taught to operate their new Nikons by some professional? My guess is the latter which would explain some of this. I don't want to jump to any conclusions of course ;-)

-- Richard Ross (, October 24, 2000.

Two years ago, I took a photo class at a local community college so I could get some outside feedback about my images. During one critique session, I was floored when the instructor praised an image then went on to explain how it would have been greatly improved if I simplified the composition by pulling out a few of the flowers that were messing up the background.

I explained that so far as I am concerned, Nature is what it is and I take pictures of what I see, not what I'd like to see. While I don't have any problem with picking up garbage or removing leaves that will blow away in few minutes anyway, I wouldn't dream of cutting branches off a tree, moving rocks or pulling flowers out of the ground.

Needless to say, he disagreed with me and proceeded to show the class all of the "gardening" tools he carries in his camera bag so he won't ever find himself stuck photographing Nature looking anything but its groomed and manicured best.

To my surprise, with only one exception, everyone in the class agreed with him! I was stunned, at least until I realized that at 39, I was at least a decade older than everybody else in the room. Clearly, my formative years as a nature photographer occurred in a different time and frame of mind than theirs and it showed ... for them, photography appears to be a competitive endeavor whereas for me, it's an artistic one.

If Nature shuts me out today, then I'll just try again tomorrow ... I have no need or desire to improve my results by altering my subjects, as Michael Fatali and other professional photographers sometimes feel pressured to do. And on those rare occasions when I do manage to get a truly spectacular image on film (about every other year or two!), I will enjoy it, humble and unpublished though it may be, all that much more as a result.

-- Jeffrey Goggin (, October 24, 2000.

First of all, fires are not even allowed in Arches NP, so the act was wrong...period.

Climbers do not (and have not been allowed for quite some time to) drill holes in the face of El Capitan. All climbing in national parks is limited to permanent routes (i.e. using existing protection) or with temporary (or no) aid where designated. This method of managing routes and monitoring climbing makes the activity safer and promotes responsible ways to enjoy parks.

Mr. Fatali's actions did neither.

-- Chad Jarvis (, October 24, 2000.

Drilling is actually legal in Yosemite, provided it is done by hand. Frivolous bolting has always been frowned upon in the climbing community. Bolts are essential for climber's safety and being impossible to spot from a distance, are a neglectible distraction.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, October 24, 2000.

I don't see what all the hubbub is about. Some turpentine and gray paint will have the rock looking like new in no time. Did you know that Algore was the first to photograph Delicate Arch.


-- Willie Jefferson Clinton (, October 24, 2000.

Well, I'm really glad I took photographs while I was at Delicate Arch!

Yes, there will be more restrictions, because this incident shows that the more people who have access to wilderness, the more likely it is that someone will cause harm, if only through a momentary lapse of common sense or judgement as seems to be the case with Mr. Fatali.

Let a million photographers in over 10 centuries, all with the best of intentions not to harm the land they love, and there WILL be permanent damage done. Its a statistical near certainty.

Of course, by then the several billion regular tourists would have reduced these spots to fine dust !

Wilderness is forever only if you keep yourself off of it forever.

The only sensible idea I've heard for long term preservation was a lottery system for access.

-- Mani Sitaraman (, October 24, 2000.

I think some of you are missing the point!! Allow me to disect the last posting.

1. There may or may not be more restrictions at Arches National Park. Only time will tell. If there are more restrictions, it will not be because more people have access to wilderness. Arches National Park is NOT wilderness!! It is only a 5 mile roundtrip hike to Delicate Arch; not wilderness by any stretch of the imagination! If there are more restrictions, it will be a result of Fatali's actions and other people like him that have NO respect for the land!

2. Can YOU actually categorize Fatali's actions as a momentary lapse of common sense or judgement?? Are you one of the "new" breed of photographers that witnessed the event during the workshop?? I hope you realize that setting 4 fires would take some time and effort!!

3. The terrain in Arches National Park can be preserved if people treat it with respect; i.e. stay on trails or on bare rock. Yes, a little bit of erosion will occur with all the little feet tramping on the rock, but it will pale in comparison to nature's erosional forces that are acting on the same rock every day! Treating the landscape with respect prohibits scaring the rocks by fire!!!!

-- Bruce Arnold (, October 25, 2000.

Below is the news release sent out by Arizona Highways magazine due to the arson of Michael Fatali at Rainbow Arch.



For further information contact: Arizona Highways Publisher, Win Holden Office: 602-712-2023

PHOENIX, ARIZ. (OCTOBER 23, 2000) - -

Michael Fatali, who is under investigation for setting fires that scarred an arch in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks near Moab, Utah, on September 18, has been suspended for one year from conducting photo workshops for the Friends of Arizona Highways, a nonprofit support group of the magazine.

In addition, said Arizona Highways Publisher Win Holden, FataliBs posters of slot canyons have been removed from the magazineBs gift shop. "We are exceedingly disappointed in FataliBs completely careless action. Arizona Highways always has been a powerful voice for protection of the environment and preservation of our natural landscapes."

Fatali set the fires in small aluminum pans to light Delicate Arch during an unauthorized nighttime photo session while conducting a workshop sponsored by the Friends of Arizona Highways. The magazine itself was not involved in the workshops.

"This was a totally unsanctioned activity by Fatali," said Barbara Hornor, executive director of the Friends. "We obtained permits to go into the park to photograph as part of a 11-day photo workshop through northern Arizona and southern Utah national parks and other scenic locations. We did not know he planned on setting fires. The permits specifically prohibit the use of fires."

The Friends have conducted photo workshop in Arizona and surrounding areas for 16 years, Hornor said, and nothing like this has ever occurred. "We have always worked to promote appreciation of the environment, and this incident is offensive to us."


-- Dan Smith (, October 25, 2000.

This is from Fatali's site ( "No computer imaging, artificial lighting, or unatural filtration were used as tools in the creation of my photographs. I work exclusively with the natural light of nature. To me there is no other way to express the beauty of natural phenomena."

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, October 25, 2000.

Bruce: In response to your dissection (ouch!) I should say

1. I don't know Michael Fatali from Adam, aside from what little I've read. I gave him the benefit of the doubt because he seems to have been a responsible Western landscapes photographer prior to this incident. At this point no one knows whether he lost his good sense for a day, was pressured into doing it by commercial need, was greedy and a bad guy etc. etc.

2. Arches NP is not wilderness, as some else pointed out. As I responded, it sure is from the viewpoint of someone like me, who lives in Tokyo :-)

But the point is that it would be wilderness, but for our Government happily making it a "park". To me, what's the point of wilderness preservation, if, in any given period in history, you carve out the bits you happen to like and designate it as "non-wilderness". Tastes change over the centuries, and before another 1000 years of human history, there will be access roads to everything.

I completely disagree about human impact being less than nature's erosion. Its simply not correct. Natural erosion, though very great over millenia, is no match for the steady grind of feet. I observe, unscientifically, that the stone steps in the temples in Southern India have been worn six or eight inches over the space of a few centuries.

As for staying on the trails, you've got to figure that human nature will cause (lets say) 1 in a 1000 to stray. Over the centuries, that's enough to do significant damage.

Equal access for all who wish to go is simply not the answer to long- time preservation.

-- Mani Sitaraman (, October 25, 2000.


You make some worthwhile points. But, think about how much planning had to occur to be able to bring all the accessories required to start 4 "chemical" fires. I propose that Fatali graduated to such a heinous act by doing smaller destructive acts to the landscape over the span of many years. You just don't wake-up one morning and decide that you are going to Delicate Arch to start a few fires!

Also, people can stray off trails and keep the damage minimal if they don't follow in each other's footsteps. In my opinion, you never find true wilderness unless you leave the trail. Leaving the trail requires greater dedication to the preservation of the landscape. It should only be done legally with all no-trace precautions practiced.

Today I learned from Arches National Park that the fires at Delicate Arch were chemical in nature, i.e. a chemical residue was detected in the stone. Also, they are bringing in experts to determine how to remove the stains from the rock. They may end up actually "sanding" it off!

-- Bruce Arnold (, October 26, 2000.

Sure sounds awful, Bruce, and not particularly innocent...

As for access, I stand by my point. Even if you have a policy of no- trace, given enough time, there will be some proportion of Michael Fatalis and worse people than him who will get in, even if the good guys greatly outnumber the bad ones, and the effects of bad behaviour would accumulate.

-- Mani Sitaraman (, October 26, 2000.

I believe that most people in search of a true wilderness experience are the same type of people that will show respect to the land. People like Fatali are lazy. After all, it took a fair amount of muscle just to carry the fire-starting accessories the few miles to Delicate Arch.

Think about it, how could anyone be so jaded as a photographer to think that you would have to resort to starting fires to get the kind of light you want! I have seen nature put on some fantastic light shows; much better than anything man could produce. Granted, Delicate Arch is probably one of the most over-photographed icons in the United States, but isn't it just enough to stand in it's majesty and just view it?; let alone photograph it?! And, I still have yet to see it photographed with a rainbow over it. Wouldn't that be nice?! I am sure Fatali is dreaming up some scheme to produce one!!!!

-- Bruce Arnold (, October 26, 2000.


I've been away from the internet for the last three weeks, and this thread hit me like a ton of bricks when I read it!

I am amazed that Fatali was able to go so far down a destructive path without stopping to think, or without a small voice in his head telling him that this might not be good. Clearly this was very well planned, since the typical photographer does not bring duralogs, etc. with them on photographic expeditions. Therefore, I won't accept any rationalization that starts with 'momentary loss of reason' or 'spontaneous lack of judgement'...

What's worse, if he wanted to teach participants about artifical light techniques, he should have been thinking about a jelled flash unit! They are much smaller and lighter than a bunch of duralogs, and they have no permanent negative impacts on the subject.

Ultimately, Fatali did so many things wrong in this incident that I don't believe that he will have an easy time gaining back the trust of the publishers and other people in environmental circles.

I, for one had considered going to an extended workshop with him because he is an ultra large format shooter that works in general subjects that I am intrested in (the southwest, canyon country, but please, not Antelope Canyon!). But no more, because I cannot think about supporting a photographer who is capable of such destructive and contradictory behavior.

His actions seem to be as reckless as those of Art Wolfe, but clearly in a more destruction manner. Where Wolfe lied to the viewer and betrayed their trust, Fataly has 'violated' the subject, and has shown that he cannot be trusted as a voice of reasonable environmentalism among the photographic industry. All for the sake of the shot, what a shame.

-- Michael Mutmansky (, October 26, 2000.

I'm with Sergio - let's off all those people messing up our sight lines.

-- Brian Ellis (, October 26, 2000.

BRAVO Michael!!

-- Bruce Arnold (, October 26, 2000.

Just a quick reminder to people that what Fatali did, though unconscionable, is a violation of our aesthetic values, which rather pales in comparison with what is not only occurring but actually condoned on millions and millions of acres of public landscape every day. For example, livestock grazing on public lands does an astonishing amount of damage, much of it permanent (for example the extinction of native fish species due to stream trampling and the destruction of streamside vegetation), and all of it funded by the American taxpayer. There are other examples: logging and mining come to mind.

Those of us who are all sanctimonious about Fatali ought to engage in protection of all public landscapes, not just the pretty ones. (I'm not making any accusations here -- just being a bother.)

-- Erik Ryberg (, October 26, 2000.

Well you succeeded in being a bother. No logical comparision between what Fatali has done and what the farmers, ranchers, miners lawfully do with land they either own or lease for the operation of their lawful business pursuits supporting their families and providing jobs. You cannot make a comparision between what is now lawful and a premeditated act of distruction like Fatalis. You could however work to change the current laws and put all these others out of business. Of course that would cause mass starvation and an economic collapse. Other than that a perfect solution for our perfect world.

-- JDMcglasson (, October 30, 2000.

Hi everyone, Just my 2 cents worth. I am an amateur large format photographer and have enjoyed several visits to the beautiful spots in our west. I have my techique down pretty well as well as my own vision. I photograph because I love to do so. If I don't always get a masterpiece or a keeper and that's OK. I think the episode in question is in keeping with the attitude I frequently come across back here in the East. "I can do anything I want as long as I don't get caught and besides I'm the only one on the road, in the park, on the planet etc." This is by no means restricted to photographers. Somewhere along the line many people seem never to have learned to respect the people or places around them. They don't get it- we are guests on this planet for limited period of time. We don't own the place. Let's all act like mature & responsible guests whose host would be delighted to welcome us for another visit. Eric Lohse

-- Eric Lohse (, October 30, 2000.

I wrote to _Frends of Arizona Highways_ to ask for information on the incident. This is what they sent to me. I have recieved permission from _Frends..._ to post the press release in the forum.


Jason: Barbara Kramer Hornor, Director for the Friends of Arizona Highways forwarded me your e-mail. I have attached the Press Release that Arizona Highways has released to the media hoping that this will address your questions and concerns. If you cannot open the attachment, please let me know and I can fax or mail you a hardcopy. However, if you have specific questions regarding the incident please address them to Win Holden, the publisher of Arizona Highways. Sincerely, Catherine Coughlin Arizona Highways ( Public Information Officer 2039 West Lewis Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85009 602-712-2020 ______________________________________________________________________




For further information contact: Arizona Highways Publisher, Win Holden Office: 602-712-2023

PHOENIX, ARIZ. (OCTOBER 23, 2000) - -

Michael Fatali, who is under investigation for setting fires that scarred an arch in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks near Moab, Utah, on September 18, has been suspended for one year from conducting photo workshops for the Friends of Arizona Highways, a nonprofit support group of the magazine.

In addition, said Arizona Highways Publisher Win Holden, Fatali's posters of slot canyons have been removed from the magazine's gift shop. "We are exceedingly disappointed in Fatali's completely careless action. Arizona Highways always has been a powerful voice for protection of the environment and preservation of our natural landscapes."

Fatali set the fires in small aluminum pans to light Delicate Arch during an unauthorized nighttime photo session while conducting a workshop sponsored by the Friends of Arizona Highways. The magazine itself was not involved in the workshops.

"This was a totally unsanctioned activity by Fatali," said Barbara Hornor, executive director of the Friends. "We obtained permits to go into the park to photograph as part of an 11-day photo workshop through northern Arizona and southern Utah national parks and other scenic locations. We did not know he planned on setting fires. The permits specifically prohibit the use of fires."

The Friends have conducted photo workshops in Arizona and surrounding areas for 16 years, Hornor said, and nothing like this has ever occurred. "We have always worked to promote appreciation of the environment, and this incident is offensive to us."


-- Jason (, November 02, 2000.

I have been very sad reading what happened to Michael and also seing how little sympathy he got from the photographic community through this test. From the little I knew about him, I could not think he had done this arm willfully. There is now a page of explanations on his website from which I picked a few words and I invite each one to read the full story from his point de vue. Thanks. Paul

My view on the mishap at Delicate Arch by firelight

Dear Friends,

I know that many people have been disappointed and upset over what they have heard about the fires set near Delicate Arch during the Friends of Arizona Highways photo-workshop on the evening of September 18, 2000. The state landmark of Delicate Arch is loved by many and I understand the natural instinct for protecting this wonder.

I am extremely remorseful about the incident ever taking place. If I could turn back time I would have never conducted that evening photo session. In taking responsibility for my part of this mishap, I plan to make proposals of various solutions that will benefit the future of all public lands and thus bring resolution to all parties involved. This whole incident quickly spiraled into a chaotic interpretation of the facts. However, it's time to share what has happened and put the spreading rumors to rest.

Please go to

for the entire text.

-- Paul Schilliger (, November 24, 2000.


that url leads nowhere. And whatever Mike has to say on the subject pales in comparison to how he tried (in his explanation in another part of to lay the cross on the Friends of Arizona Highways rep who held the permit for the class. Mike claimed that he did not see the permit, perhaps implying that he had Carte Blanche(!) in our national parks.

On another point, the incident has led admirers of his photography to wonder where else he has manipulated the light with fire, etc. They have specifically questioned the light source in photographs which include Ring of Fire [ ] and Flaming Arch [ ] I have gone to both places and know that Velvia is totally capable of giving the light found in those photographs without any augmentation whatsoever. You will find photos of the former at which I took and of the latter at (taken by Tony Kuyper). Unfortunately for Fatali, few will anymore believe his claim of "only natural light" and "no filters" due to his lack of judgment at Delicate Arch. I don't think Mike did much artificial lighting before then, but he did have a rather clever darkroom magician for many images. Springdale gallery may still have a Fujix print on display, so there goes the "no digital" claim, too.

If Mike had used his photographic brain he would have remembered that the intensity of light from star trails would not have registered on a light meter. Now, comparing that to the light from a Duraflame log- -well, you get the picture. Star trails and Delicate Arch calls for several weak battery operated camp lanterns/gelled electr flash and some polaroids! Add that to his flagrant disregard for the "no fires outside of campground firepit" regulation and the OOPS gets bigger. Beyond what the Feds will charge him with, he has brought upon himself the disrespect of a great number of nature photographers as well as buyers of his art.

On the lighter side, perhaps Mike would accept as penance the task of altering every Utah license plate to match the damage done, irrespective of the speed of the vehicles bearing the plate?

-- jeffrey wong (, December 04, 2000.

The best thing about Delicate Arch is that you can actually walk right up to it, sit & stand under it, marvel at it upclose, & photograph it without any fence-like barriers around it. My fear is that Fatali's goofy action will be the catalyst for removing unfettered access to the arch, like what happened with Landscape Arch & other natural landmarks. Walking to a barrier-free Delicate Arch is always the highlight of any trip to Moab & I'll be really pissed if Fatali's folly ruins that experience for me & my family.

-- Marc Thomas (, February 14, 2001.

Well I see Mr. Fatali has made it to the cover of View Camera 3/4/01. No mention of this incident in the article....

-- Sean yates (, March 27, 2001.

Wow! It's a wonder he didn't burn the whole thing down! Let's get a rope and throw it over the arch...

-- Patric O'Kelley (, March 30, 2001.

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