Butler Wash Ruins, Cedar Mesa
Southern Utah

Edition Size: 95
11" X 14"
16" X 20"
20" x  24"
24" x  30"

'Indian paintbrush, juniper and yucca dance to the rhythm of life'

ne of my favorite places to photograph is the Four Corners area, where the borders of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico all join together. A friend I had been photographing with earlier told me about a very special place in southern Utah called, Butler Wash Indian Ruins. The 20 room cliff dwelling was occupied from 1060 to 1250 AD and had been inexplicably abandoned about 1300. I had to see it!

So, in May of 2001 I headed for Butler Wash. I arrived in the late afternoon and hiked to the ruins. They were impressive: a large alcove at the base of a half mile tall, moderately steep hillside of slickrock. The next morning I arrived back at the ruins before sunrise and photographed them in morning twilight. As soon as the sun came up, the scene became too high in contrast so I packed up my gear and began walking up the hill. It was an extraordinary landscape. Solid rock for a half mile in any direction. As always, I kept my eyes open for wildflowers.

I fanned my way back and forth across the hillside as I climbed. Once in a while I would see a speck of color and investigate. I envisioned what this area would look like with water flowing down the hillside after a rain storm. Amazing, I thought! Soon I decided to climb to the top to see the view looking off to the west. As I approached the ridge top, I spotted a small splash of color to my left. As I got closer I felt a tingle inside. Anticipating something special, I worked my way around to the opposite side of the flowers. I became flushed with feelings of wonder and awe. There before me was the composition of ‘Desert Rhythm.’

As I admired this gift, I realized I would have to come back in the evening to experience the proper lighting required to capture my image. A question arose: “Would the flowers wilt under the intense midday heat and lose their essence?” I spent the rest of the day in 90 degree heat doing domestic camp chores and resting. Occasionally my mind would drift to the image I had seen earlier that morning, wondering if all the conditions would align that evening.

About an hour before sunset, I began climbing back to the ridge. The landscape took on a entirely different look and feel from the harsh sunlight of morning. The rock had softened. When I arrived, I was excited to see the west facing flowers glowing in the last rays of sunlight. My pulse quickened as I set up my camera. Fine tuning the composition, my anticipation of a great image was confirmed. Wisps of wind interrupted the silence. Would the wind shut me out or relax in twilight? When the sun finally set, the wind settled down and I began exposing film. Six second exposures gave way to eight then twelve seconds. Before I knew it the light dropped and I was finished.

I felt a warm glow of gratitude and literally danced a little jig on the ridge top, celebrating my success.


(Worth the wait!)