“Rocky Mountain Columbine Cluster”

Rocky Mountain Columbine Cluster, Taylor Mesa, SW Colorado (c) Mike Utley

F39-1(S)—Rocky Mountain Columbine Cluster, Taylor Mesa, SW Colorado
One long-ago overcast summer afternoon I wound my way along a lonely dirt road on Taylor Mesa in the mountains of southwest Colorado. I was looking for wild flowers, and it was the height of the season for columbines. I came upon a lush meadow which was liberally sprinkled with these flowers and others, and as I stopped and began to walk around, this cluster fairly screamed at me for attention. It was as though they had expected my arrival and had dressed up in their Sunday-best and posed for me. I was more than willing to oblige them. The lighting was perfect for wild flower photography—high overcast, no shadows, brilliantly saturated colors—and the verdant green of the meadow provided an ideal background to make the flowers’ colors pop. Columbines are beautiful, but being long-stemmed, they tend to move around in even the merest suggestion of a breeze. Fortune smiled upon me that afternoon, however, and the day was calm and tranquil. In a strange way, the manner in which these four flowers are posed reminds me of a choir, and I can imagine them singing nature hymns in voices only mountains and trees and clouds can hear. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

“Fleabane & Dead Log”

Fleabane & Dead Log, Taylor Mesa, SW Colorado (c) Mike Utley

F43(S)–Fleabane & Dead Log, Taylor Mesa, SW Colorado
I’ve always liked the stark contrast between the small flower and the “eye” of the dead log–sort of a counterpoint of life and death, color and a lack thereof, softness and the dry, almost bone-like texture of the wood. There’s a sense of longing in this photograph, a loneliness, as though the flower is looking skyward in search of hope and compassion, and the “all-seeing eye” is perhaps blind to its supplications for love and mercy. This image was probably my late-mother’s favorite of all of my nature photography. She kept a framed 8×10 of this image on the wall for decades. It brings back a lot of memories. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

“Spruce Cone & False Hellebore”

Spruce Cone & False Hellebore, Taylor Mesa, SW Colorado (c) Mike Utley

F64-1(S)–Spruce Cone & False Hellebore, Taylor Mesa, SW Colorado
A cluster of false hellebore was growing beneath a tall spruce and this cone was nestled within the folds of this particular plant. This was a “found image”–the spruce cone wasn’t placed there by me but arrived there of its own accord, via gravity. I liked how the lines, curves and soft color palette of the false hellebore contrasted with the rough texture of the cone, as well as how the plant seemed to gently and protectively cradle the lone cone. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

“Rocky Mountain Columbine”

Rocky Mt. Columbine, Taylor Mesa, SW Colorado (c) Mike Utley

F38-1(S)–Rocky Mt. Columbine, Taylor Mesa, SW Colorado
This is my favorite flower. It grows up in the mountains where it’s cooler and shady. In the summers you can find meadows covered with columbine of various colors, including variations of purple, yellow and even red. This columbine was found growing beneath the lower branches of a dying conifer, whose brown needles serve to magnify the brilliant purple, white, yellow and green of the flower. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)