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Picture story
One man's cliche' leaves another one speechless
As stunning as “Morning at Courthouse Butte,” might appear, I confess to being a little less enamored with the image.

Why?

Courthouse Butte is an icon of the Southwest. Siting in one of the most popular tourist locations in Arizona, it may be among the most photographed red rock landmarks around.

Do a Google search and you will see hundreds of perfectly acceptable photos of the mountain AND one of those detailed panels, complete with another photo, information on the height of the mountain (5,454 feet), reviews from tourists and quotes from an entry in Wikipedia. A slab of rock with a Wikipedia entry, really?

Hence, I could argue that as gorgeous as Courthouse Butte is, it has become a visual cliché of the southwest.

Which is why, as much as I tried to make my image true to my vision that morning—it still left me feeling a little less satisfied than I had with other images I had made during my weeks in the southwest.

Here's why.

Courthouse Butte, with its magnificent shades of red rock resting gently against the blueish-pink sunrise, is already beautiful. So making a beautiful image from an already beautiful mountain is far less satisfying than, say making a beautiful image of a prickly Saguaro surrounded by scrubby desert plants.

As I reflected on this dilemma, I remembered a small Scottish woman named Angelica, who I met in that morning. And I felt a bit better.

Wearing a black nylon parka and a baseball cap in the early autumn temperatures of Sedona, Angelica said she was traveling the southwest with a friend she had met sailing.

They were touring in one of thse really long RV's parked near the trail head that led to the mountain.

I marveled at her accommodations. She didn't seem impressed.

“Living in an RV is a lot like living in a boat,” she said.

Angelica had home in Gibraltar, Spain, and this was her first visit to the American Southwest. She had already seen the Grand Canyon, and after a stop in Sedona she planned to visit Phoenix and Scottsdale.

As the sun rose over the mountain and the soft light of sunrise turned a bit more harsh, I asked what she thought of Sedona and Courthouse Butte.

Speaking eloquently and shaking her head amazement, she seemed in awe, almost speechless and unable to find the right words.

“What I feel, what I think and what I can say, are three different things,” she said, offering no further explanation.

Her words came back to me as I edited the images from that day and put the finishing touches on “Morning at Courthouse Rock Butte.”

I was pleased by the image, but still felt a bit less satisfied with the experience of making it.

However, if the same beautiful slab of red rock left someone else speechless, I guess I can deal with the difference.



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