Every once in a while I get lucky on my first visit to a spectacular location. The clouds, the light, the composition…everything just comes together magically and a beautiful new image is born. Such was not the case with False Kiva. I made the hike to this somewhat enigmatic ruin time after time, and while I enjoyed every visit, the conditions each time just never quite panned out. That is, until they did.
I made this image nine years ago in May, while hosting an informal gathering of photographer friends from an online forum in which I’d participated for many years. It was a weekend, and any weekend in Moab in May is guaranteed to be a busy one, this one included. We’d already visited a few spots before we decided to trek to False Kiva, and each location was pretty packed. Still, the general mood was cordial and everyone we ran into was friendly. That is, until we met Klaus.
In all fairness, Klaus wasn’t really unfriendly, he just exuded a sort of European arrogance and elitism - the kind you usually see depicted by a bad actor in a bad movie. Also, I don’t know if his name was Klaus but he was definitely German. Apologies to all the cool dudes named Klaus - no offense intended. At any rate, my group and I were headed down the trail when we came upon Klaus and his companion, both of whom wore heavy camera packs laden with tripods, and who were just starting the stiff climb out of the canyon from the ruins. We exchanged pleasantries, at which time Klaus decided he should inform us in the most haughty tone he could manage, that we had missed the best light and were wasting our time. I kind of blacked out for a second (not really) and don’t remember what happened next, but pretty soon Klaus was behind us and we were all standing in the alcove with the ruins before us, each photographer jockeying ever so politely for tripod space.
Time passed quickly with friendly conversation shared amongst the group, clouds building and threatening to prove Klaus’ prediction right. The canyon before us was blanketed in the soft, overcast light that is so perfect for macro photography, or waterfalls, but not grand landscapes. Even though it might be a bust, it was still a better way to spend an afternoon than working or running errands. And then, just as we were all about to give up hope, a beam of light pierced the clouds, illuminating a sliver of the landscape before us. Suddenly, the alcove went silent but for the sound of shutters opening and closing, one right after the other, until the light disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared. Looking around the alcove, I saw faces beaming with the same kind of light that had just splayed out on the landscape.
Moments in nature like this one are not common, nor would I want them to be, or we’d end up taking them for granted. Fiddy Cent probably isn’t the first person you might turn to for words of wisdom, but a couple lines from his hit song “Many Men (Wish Death )”, come to mind:
“Sunny days wouldn't be special, if it wasn't for rain
Joy wouldn't feel so good, if it wasn't for pain”
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), access to False Kiva has been restricted by the NPS and the location is no longer accessible to the general public. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to visit and enjoy this incredible location.
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Canon 16-35mm Lens @ 23mm
f/13 @ 1/20 second
Fill flash from Canon off-camera flash, model not known
RAW, processed in Adobe Lightroom and Nik Software
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