Photo Assignment: Capture Sunrise on Balcony House
At 4:45 A.M. and about 1 1/2 hours before sunrise I arrived on location to photograph my favorite place in the Mesa Verde, Balcony House. I’ve been granted a permit from the Chief Ranger’s Office to photograph sunrise at one of the Mesa Verde’s two best preserved cliff dwellings. Unlike the other two cliff dwellings open to the public, this ruin requires a sense of adventure and is physically challenging to reach, especially on a morning like this when I’m carrying 36 pounds of camera gear.
Balcony House rests 600 feet above the floor of Soda Canyon. To reach it you climb down 130 metal stairs, hike a 1/4 mile long path, then climb a 30 foot tall wooden ladder and finally squeeze through an 18 inch wide, ten foot long opening that’s been carved between two boulders. At that point however, you step foot onto a courtyard where you can literally feel the spirit, energy and ingenuity of the people who constructed it 900 years ago. And today, as I stand on its main courtyard with the eastern sky turning a kaleidoscope of colors, I’m experiencing (and photographing) a sight very similar to what the Ancestral Puebloan’s witnessed in the 13th century. Here is one of those images.
Built of sandstone blocks and standing two stories high Balcony House contains 38 rooms and two kivas. Constructed in various stages between 1180 and 1270 A.D. the entire structure is nearly 300 feet long, 20 feet high and 39 feet deep. The people who lived here were farmers who grew corn, beans, and squash on the mesa top. While their lives clearly involved much hard work, it was also filled with spiritual ceremonies, customs and rituals. Standing here alone this morning hundreds of feet above the canyon floor while watching the sun crest the horizon, I can’t help but feel a deep connection to these people and their beliefs. I hope the photographs below help to convey those feelings.
Sunrise on Balcony House
(Click Any Image Below For An Expanded View)