“Lone Cone & Wild Flowers”

Lone Cone & Wild Flowers, near Groundhog Reservoir, SW Colorado (c) Mike Utley

The Lone Cone is a local icon in southwest Colorado. Located in the San Miguel Mountains about 24 miles from the town of Telluride, its 12,618-foot cone can bee seen from many miles in all directions. It resembles a pyramid on the horizon, and was clearly visible from the farm on which I was raised in southeast Utah. It’s a favorite local attraction of mine and I have several images of this peak. This particular image was made just beyond Groundhog Reservoir, about an hour and a half from where I live. It was early summer of 1995 and the wild flowers (mule’s ears, monkshood and lupine in this case) were just beginning to proliferate in the mountains. This vast meadow leading to the Lone Cone was awash in yellow and purple, and the late-afternoon sun warmed the flowers and the peak while a host of perfect summer clouds caressed the the sky.

This image was selected by the Bureau of Land Management’s Anasazi Heritage Center near Dolores, Colorado for the cover of an archaeology textbook and accompanying CD in the late-1990s. Art Director Wayne Rice used the image as a background and layered several graphic elements on top. The original cloudy sky was removed and replaced with a gradient fill to allow the text to stand out more effectively. I was given proper credit for the use of my photograph on the credits page inside the book.

Textbook Cover–Wayne Rice, BLM

In 2001, this same image was again chosen by the BLM’s Anasazi Heritage Center for a poster commemorating National Archaeology and Historic Preservation Month in May of that year. Once again, Art Director Wayne Rice replaced the sky with a gradient fill and added graphic elements to the image to convey some of the historic aspects of Colorado’s past. A total of 7,000 posters were printed for this project and distributed throughout Colorado. After the release of the posters, I was told that Gale Norton, then-U.S. Secretary of the Interior, had one of the posters on display in her office in Washington D.C. What a thrill this was for me! It’s next to impossible to see, but the last two lines in the credits at the bottom of the poster list my name as the photographer. As a perk for contributing to the project, I received five copies of the poster.

Poster–Wayne Rice, BLM

It was a pleasant experience to work with Wayne Rice at the Anasazi Heritage Center on these two projects, and I was honored to be recognized in the credits of both projects as the creator of the image. Seeing up-close the process of a single image making its way into a finished product was intriguing and satisfying. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

37 thoughts on ““Lone Cone & Wild Flowers”

  1. Wow. This is breathtaking . Congratulations on having this photo acknowledged so many times, I can see why. It is gorgeous. You are a true talent, I am such a fan of your work. You are blessed with a wonderful eye for photography, my friend.πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•

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    1. Aw, you’re too kind, Grace! Seriously, your comment has made my day! It was so cool to have this image used like this and to be recognized for it. As someone who was just starting out (I had only begun shooting nature images in the spring of 1995, and this image was on one of the very first rolls of pro slide film I ever used), it was such a thrill to contribute to these projects. After having given away some of the posters, I still have two left. Glad you enjoyed this one, and thanks so, so much for your enthusiastic support for my photography (and writing). I’m glad you’re here, Grace. πŸ™‚

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  2. The picture is simply breathtaking, even a glimpse of it keeps you at ease.
    Wow such a huge achievements you had Mike, you deserved it all and many more. You’re photography skills are beyond words can describe. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks to you, Daphny. Your comments always bring a smile to my face. I’m so happy to know you enjoyed this photograph. I had so much fun making the image that day in the meadow, and the process of submitting a selection of my images for the projects and having one of them chosen was both humbling and exciting. The people at the Anasazi Heritage Center–a museum for Anasazi (also known as Ancestral Puebloan) artifacts and history–were so kind. I really didn’t do much at all–I submitted my images and the art director did the rest. Thanks as always for such an enthusiastic and wonderful comment. I appreciate you and your presence here. πŸ™‚

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      1. You’re most welcome Mike, I am glad to have put a smile in your face. 😁
        It definitely looks so much fun, it is clearly seen in the picture itself. I wish you much more success my friend, your photography deserves so much more recognition πŸ€—

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Xenia. I was just thinking about the similarities between the haiku about yellow flowers you posted today and all the yellow flowers in this image. They really do paint a meadow in a golden light, don’t they? πŸ™‚ I appreciate you and your wonderful comments. Thanks again. πŸ™‚

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    1. Hey, Jay. Thanks for the nice comment. I’m rather fond of the image. When I was a kid, we’d go fishing up at Groundhog Reservoir now and then, as well as another lake called Miramonte Reservoir. The Lone Cone was prominently visible at both lakes. From the farm where I was raised in southeastern Utah, the peak looked like the Great Pyramid on the eastern horizon. In the early 2000s, a local medical clinic ordered a large print of one of my other Lone Cone shots for their lobby. It’s a cool landmark. I appreciate your kindness, good sir! πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Cindy. Your words of kindness are so welcome and appreciated. It was a pleasure to take part in those two projects. Lots of fun and gratitude. Glad you enjoyed this one. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks so much. I haven’t seen this meadow in many years but I can imagine it hasn’t lost its charm. Hopefully there was enough moisture this past winter to produce wild flowers (it was so dry). Glad you liked this one. Much appreciated as always. πŸ™‚

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    1. Many thanks, Kirsten. The whole process was sort of thrilling, from photographing the meadow and peak, to submitting the image, to having it accepted and then seeing the results. It’s a special memory for me. Thanks for your kind words–much appreciated! πŸ™‚

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  3. Seems like a cool project to do. I’m still fond of posters. I’m old school and like tangible things I can grasp. These sort of experiences shape us. It’s nice to be appreciated and recognized.

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    1. Thanks so much. I agree with you completely. Seeing the physical representation of that photo in the form of a poster was just so cool. I have a couple of the posters in a protective cardboard tube and every once in a while I’ll take one out and look at it. Memories of when life was better and much more simple, you know? It really does feel good be be validated in such a way, recognized for something you’ve done, even on a small scale. Thanks for such a kind comment. I appreciate it. πŸ™‚

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  4. The image is so beautiful, Mike and deserving of all the attention it received. Must have made you so proud. I could read your name at the bottom of the poster. To be recognized and appreciated is a feeling that’s out of this world. Similar to the feeling I get when I admire your beautiful work. Bravo! πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks so much, Terveen. It certainly was a wonderful experience, and all the folks at the museum where the project took place were so friendly and kind. Recognition of any sort feels good, even if it’s merely a nod or a simple “Hello!” or someone treating you to a couple of pepperoni pizzas (I haven’t eaten yet today, can you tell? πŸ˜€ ). I’m so glad you found this image to your liking. I loved making my images, and sharing them is a lot of fun. Thanks again. Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Gary. I have an image from later in the summer when the mule’s ears were in full bloom, but the snow on the Lone Cone was gone by then and the image doesn’t work as well as this one. The snow on the peak adds so much personality to the shot. It was a fun experience, indeed. Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Pepper. It’s a special place, for sure. From my apartment, I can see mountains in all directions in four different states (Four Corners area), but the Lone Cone has always been sort of special to me. As an adolescent just introduced to Tolkien’s works, I always envisioned the Lone Cone as being the Lonely Mountain (Smaug the dragon’s lair), and the nearby La Plata Mountains as being the orc-infested Misty Mountains. I half-expected to see a dragon circling the peak whenever I saw it. Fun memories. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Jeff. It was an honor to be selected and a thrill to see the results. I appreciate your enthusiastic support, as always. Very much appreciated. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Michelle. I was excited, for sure. Hearing that one of these posters was hanging in the Secretary of the Interior’s office in Washington D.C. was so cool! Her name was Gale Norton and she was from Colorado (former Colorado Attorney General), so I’m sure that’s how it ended up there. It was a thrill and an honor. πŸ™‚ A year or two after I photographed this scene, I revisited this place with my little sister and her two young sons. The eldest, who was about 8 or 9 at the time, photographed this same scene with an inexpensive camera and his image was pretty good. I showed him how to design his own custom cardstock template on the computer and he made a few custom greeting cards with his image on them. Fun times. πŸ™‚

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