“Textured Boulder & Big Indian Rock”

Textured Boulder & Big Indian Rock, Lisbon Valley, SE Utah (c) Mike Utley

Lisbon Valley is a red rock desert region in southeast Utah which lies a few miles northwest of the farm on which I was raised. Compared to other nearby desert areas such as Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, it’s rather nondescript, lacking the dramatic deep canyons, arches, pillars and rivers of its neighboring kin, yet it holds a special place in my heart. To me, the valley’s stand-out feature is Big Indian Rock, a blade of sandstone reaching above the sage- and boulder-strewn floor below. During my first visit there with my camera, I was fascinated by a huge, angular slab of red rock which had apparently broken off from Big Indian Rock in the distant past and tumbled to the flats below. This boulder was covered in an incredible array of pits, gouges and mottled patches of lighter and darker tones. My first reaction was to juxtapose this weather-etched pattern with the rock tower in the background. A 24mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens was used to exaggerate the distance between the boulder and the tower, and allowed me to get close enough to the boulder to record its dramatic textures while keeping everything in sharp focus. A polarizing filter was used to eliminate glare from midday rock surfaces in order to better record the colors of the stone, as well as to darken the sky for a more contrasting effect. This image was made in late-March of 1996 and there were patches of snow below the tower (barely visible in this shot), but I recall the day being delightfully pleasant, not just because of the weather, but because it was my introduction to Big Indian Rock and this intriguing β€œillustrated” boulder. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

44 thoughts on ““Textured Boulder & Big Indian Rock”

    1. Thanks a bunch. The colors in the desert can be so stark and dramatic, and they change throughout the day according to where the sun is in the sky. There’s beauty in the harshness of the desert that a lot of people miss, but there are wonders everywhere for those who seek them (boy, do I sound like a philosopher or what? πŸ˜€ ). πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Kirsten. I was actually pointing the camera at a high angle to get the proper perspective of the corner of the boulder and the rock formation nearby. The polarizer filter really darkened the sky and gives it an otherworldly appearance. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks. You know, the pattern does resemble a wasp’s nest… It’s quite a striking pattern, I think. Sandstone can really surprise you with the way it erodes, not to mention its colors (especially in early morning and evening lighting). πŸ™‚

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  1. This site looks amazing. From the view you’ve taken, the clump in the middle looks like delegates who have come forth from the community behind them, now splintered and wrecked due to war, to approach the master in front of them for a peace talk. It’s sad to think of it that way, but pictures are worth a thousand words, and this one’s full of meaning. But naturally as captured here, Lisbon Valley is both an amazing and wondrous place.

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    1. Thanks, Lamittan. Once again, your vivid imagination has conjured up an appropriately symbolic image here. I can definitely see what you mean. I love how both beauty and symbolism are in the eye of the beholder. There’s so much more in an image than first meets the eye, and that’s the wonder of nature photography. I’m glad you liked this one, good sir! πŸ™‚

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  2. The rocks looks incredible and what a marvelous sight to see, there is so much to places to visit must be quite an adventurous journey. Ah also thanks for the information on Big Indian Rocks, I myself didn’t know before haha… Neways you always capture places so brilliantly for us Mike. 😊

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    1. Thank you kindly, Daphny. I’m pleased that you like my photos. I have such good memories of making these images, so when they resonate with others, it makes me feel a special kind of joy. I have more to post in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned! πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you so much, Xenia. I remember this one like it was yesterday–the warm sun, the scent of sage and dirt, the cool air, the quiet of the valley…even the rough texture of the boulder. These images are imprinted not only on film, but on my heart and soul, too, and mean a lot to me. I’m so glad you liked this one. Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks a bunch, Pepper. It’s a rather ordinary location, but the ordinary can produce some extraordinary moments sometimes. I had fun making this image. I’m glad you found it pleasing. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Scarlett. Glad to know this one appealed to you. You’re right–both warm and cold colors in this one, and the contrast is quite dynamic. That’s what I love about the desert. It may seem like a dry,. dead place, but it’s teeming with life of its own and brimming with unique and stunning landscapes for those who seek them. I appreciate your kind support as always. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks as always, Cindy. Glad you liked it. The desert awaits you with open arms! I love the peace found in such a stark landscape…it fosters contemplation and renewal. And if you’re a fan of sage brush, hey, you’ll be in heaven! πŸ˜€ Seriously though, thanks for your kind words. I appreciate it. πŸ™‚

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      1. You’re most welcome! It sounds delightful and you have added even more imagery and reason to visit. I think I’ll find you there in the sage brush. πŸ˜€ sounds heavenly and you’re most welcome! πŸ’•πŸ₯°

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  3. I really love the angle. Mike. It brings out the textures so vividly. And the warm colors project hot weather. So I’m surprised to know that there were snowy patches. I like how you always explain your images with a story like pattern. Makes them so much more personal and meaningful. Great job! πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Terveen. I really do like to add my thoughts to my photos. I learned photography by studying books by nature photography masters such as Galen Rowell, John Shaw, Tom Till, David Muench and others, and they always included background stories about their images. I always found it fascinating to get inside their heads to understand their thoughts and approach to their art, and sometimes they had some fantastic stories behind their images (like Galen Rowell’s tale of his famous photo of a rainbow above Potala Palace in Tibet and how he created that iconic image). I’m glad to know you enjoy these little stories. They add to the image, and hey, I can’t seem to shut up anyway so there’s going to be some writing no matter what, right? πŸ˜€ Anyway, thanks so much. I appreciate it. πŸ™‚

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  4. Those are some beautiful rocks, Mike. I love that rich color against the deep blue sky. And I wouldn’t have known that your “close up” rock was a boulder from the tower in the distance. You really did expand the perspective. A cool spot that I’ll remember.

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    1. Thanks, Diana. There really is a glorious color palate in the desert, and it intensifies during the magic hour lighting of morning and evening, when the sun’s at a lower angle and the lighting is warmer. I have other images of this valley in late evening where the rocks just glow with an orange fire, or subtle coral and peach tones. I always considered this area “my valley” as it was such an out of the way place, so going there–even on days when I didn’t expose a single frame of film–was always a peaceful and introspective journey. I appreciate your kind words and I’m glad you liked this one. πŸ™‚

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      1. Utah is quite spectacular, Mike, and for all the time I’ve spent ogling the scenery, I still don’t think I’ve experienced the deep awe that would come for just “being” in that rocky wilderness through the hours of the day and night. But I do know what you mean about the light during those magical “between times” of dawn and dusk. It’s beautiful.

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    1. Thanks, Jay. Glad you enjoyed this one. I always loved reading about how my nature photography idols created their images and the stories they shared of their adventures, so I suppose it’s just a natural thing for me to add some background into what I was thinking when making my own images. These little mini-stories are fun to share and bring back a lot of good memories for me. Thanks for your kind words, good sir! πŸ™‚

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