The image below was taken in 2006.
I visited again this spring and found that the formation is starting to crumble. The image below shows that the leftmost, red-capped rock has fallen from its perch and now lies at the base of the formation. In October 2009, everything was still intact (see picture in previous post), so this happened over the winter. It was an extremely wet winter here on the Colorado Plateau. It’s possible that the amount of moisture that saturated the rock along with the freeze/thaw cycles that accompanied the winter’s El Niño precipitation was enough to topple the rock. It’s hard to know for sure what actually caused the rock to fall, but it appears to be from natural causes as it would be very hard to reach this place to deliberately push the rock off its pedestal. While the iconic sense of the place remains, the character is definitely changed. The balance that this one rock provided to photographs is now quite obvious. Also quite obvious is the fact that the balance of the rock has been precarious for quite some time. Inevitable though it may be, it’s sad to see it go.
While I certainly wasn’t the first to photograph this place, I do happen to be aware of its photographic origins. I worked with Dr. Scott Lybrook (Google him) when I worked in Tuba City. He was an explorer and was the first to “find” this place and realize its photographic potential. He shared its location with Michael Fatali. Soon thereafter Fatali released Once Upon a Time, which quickly became the defining composition, though it was taken lower down and sort of hides the rock in back. Over the years the place has been sought and photographed numerous time. Dr. Lybrook, however, was the one who got it all started.