“Sandstone Cliff & Tower”

Sandstone Cliff & Tower, Big Spring Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, SE Utah (c) Mike Utley

NP4-1(S)–Sandstone Cliff & Tower, Big Spring Canyon, Canyonlands Natl. Park, SE Utah
Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah is known for its expansive canyons, sprawling mesas and towering sandstone pinnacles. It also has an infinite variety of more intimate landscapes such as this rock formation standing sentinel above a small canyon. Not everything has to be immense to hold beauty and meaning. I like the contrasting colors, rugged textures and the hint of towers in the background, as well as the sky which seems to go on forever. On this day, two of my young nephews accompanied me (babysitter Uncle Mike) and I had to keep an eagle eye on them as all they saw were rocks and all they wanted to do was climb them. I had the boys nestled in an alcove off to the left to ensure their safety while I composed this image, then we explored some more and had a fun time. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

31 thoughts on ““Sandstone Cliff & Tower”

  1. Sounds you had quite some good fun indeed! This picture speaks to me in many sweet ways. Look at how that stone stands on top of the others and at the edge of the cliff as if saying, “I rule over my territory and do not fear the unfathomable deep. Come ye all and make war against me. I’ll still remain standing here rooted while ye all fall.” Haha. Then the others in the far end, stand still too looking at him with sobriety and patience as if saying “keep trying us”. What if they match against him and fight against his pride and arrogance? But I know they’re saying, “No. War is a nasty bad thing, and we’d not want to put our subjects’ lives on the line for because of your pride and arrogance.” It’s hardly believable how the smallest things in nature can speak volumes. This is a beautiful sight to behold, carrying a thousand messages for a writer. Thanks for sharing. πŸ‘ We pray for peace.

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    1. Thanks for your truly imaginative interpretation, Lamittan. When I look at this image now, I can certainly imagine a figure standing atop that cliff, puffing out his chest in arrogance and hubris, as those distant towers convene to discuss what to do about the stony despot. Fortunately, in this case, that rocky madman still stands alone atop his cliff and has not deigned to suppress or invade anyone (which, one could interpret, means that rocks are smarter than humans, and they’d be pretty close to the truth). Nature holds infinite symbolism. It’s always a delight to see how others react to my images. People see things I’ve never noticed and offer uniquely personal interpretations. It’s a learning experience for me to see how others think, and it’s enjoyable to see these old images through new viewers’ eyes. I love your take on this shot, Lamittan. It’s definitely the sign of a creative soul and storyteller! πŸ™‚

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      1. Oh sweet, I’m glad you loved my creative view of it. The stone will certainly fall off the edge of the cliff into the abyss ’cause it focuses on its ego rather than kindness and love.

        It’s true, one image can speak to one person in one way and to another in another way. It’s an amazing aspect of good photograph; it stimulates the viewer’s inner perception of the reality around them. Many thanks for your kind compliment, and feel most welcome too. 😊

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    1. Thanks, Mark. The desert sky is famous for being clear and deeply blue. I’ve lived in other parts of the country (Oregon, South Carolina, Louisiana, California, among others) where the skies looked much different due to humidity and haze and smog and other atmospheric particles. In my extremely rural area of southwest Colorado, the skies are always so clear, and add so much depth to landscapes such as this desert image. There’s such simplicity in this scene, too, with just stone and sky and a few trees. There’s symbolism a-plenty, too, as Lamittan offers in his comment above. I remember the heat of the day and how it radiated off the sandstone as my two nephews sat fidgeting in the cool shadow of the alcove, waiting impatiently for me to finish making this image. This particular spot isn’t even close to representing the majesty of Canyonlands, but it has a personality all its own and it’s a place I’ve visited a few times simply because of its obscurity in the grand theme of things. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Grace. It’s sort of hilarious when I recall this moment. I had to keep glancing over at the boys to make sure they weren’t halfway up some rock spire or halfway down some canyon wall. I was like, ‘ Okay, I’m almost done, hold on a second!” It’s hard to accomplish anything when you’re in charge of a couple of energetic kids in a place filled with nothing but adventurous-looking rocks! Now both of those nephews are in their early 30s. Hard to believe how quickly times passes. πŸ˜€

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    1. Thanks, Daphny. It’s an amazing place, indeed. This entire area is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. It’s also a nature photographer’s nirvana. There are red rock deserts and 14,000-foot tall mountains within a few hours of each other, with rivers and lakes and forests and lots of farm land and a few tiny towns. It’s really an underappreciated area, but I think that makes it even more special because it’s not overrun with tourists like some places, and you can find magical locations where people have never been. It’s peaceful and contemplative, whether you find yourself in the desert or the mountains. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks so much, Xenia. One reason I got into nature photography was the bold colors of nature. I appreciate the classic black-and-white nature photography of masters such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, but color speaks more loudly to me. My own personal nature photography hero is the late Galen Rowell, who was famous not only for his photography but also as a pioneering mountain climber and an environmentalist. His color nature photography was my inspiration and he was my “phantom mentor.” Even in the desert, there is brilliant color, and the contrasts are breath-taking at times. And yes, memories attach themselves to every single image I’ve ever made. It’s strange how that works, and how vibrant those memories are after so long, but I can look at an image of mine and I’m transported back to that time and place and it’s so vivid. As a photographer yourself, I’m sure you know what I mean. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Jeff. It’s been too long since I spent time in the desert. I hope I can make it back out there soon. The solitude under that endless desert sky is healing and refreshing. Silence for as far as the ear can hear (well, in my case, that’s not very far, being deaf! πŸ˜€ ). I hope you can visit the desert again. It’s good for the soul. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks so much! I totally agree–nature scenes such as this one are so inspiring and really provide perspective with regards to our place in the universe. The desert landscape has so much personality in its simplicity, a kind of harsh beauty. πŸ™‚


  2. Mike, this somehow reminds me of the Great Sphinx of Giza. I love the angle, the lighting and the depth of the colors. You must’ve had your eyes full with keeping an eye on your nephews and also on the beautiful scenery. Lovely! πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Terveen. I totally get this–it really does have a Sphinx-like feel to it. I think I’d have a blast in Egypt, to be honest. πŸ˜€ This area is so rugged and untamed. There are places in Canyonlands National Park were people have never set foot due to the extreme terrain. A quick google search reveals many of the grand vistas found there. There really are no words to describe such vast, wild beauty. Some of the vistas appear unreal because one’s eyes are not accustomed to such vastness, so you find people just staring into the distance as the canyons recede into the horizon and the Colorado River and Green River cut their grooves into the sandstone and lazy clouds watch from above. I sound like a travel brochure! πŸ˜€ But seriously, the Colorado Plateau, which covers a wide swath of the American Southwest, is brutal and primal and unforgiving and beautiful beyond imagining. If you ever find yourself in this area, be sure to spend some time in the desert. (Sunscreen and lots of water recommended!) And I’m pretty sure my nephews had as much fun as I did that day. We made sure to climb around on some safe and gentle sandstone dunes. Fun times. πŸ™‚

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      1. I could listen to you all day, Mike. Seriously! I wish and hope I can see something like this myself. I’m sure I’ll just stare and be lost for a long time. Sounds like heaven. πŸ™‚

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