Photograph of the Week

The Butte

by Rick Dumiak | March 29, 2021
Photograph by Rick Dumiak copyright © 2021

What is the most photographed landmark in the world? Paris’s Eiffel Tower, followed by the Houses of Parliament in London, if you go by a recent Sony Mobile survey of Instragram images. In New Mexico, one might reasonably guess it’s Shiprock, the iconic monadnock located on Navajo lands in the northwest corner of the state. But, in Sierra County, there’s no competition. Elephant Butte—the eroded core of an ancient volcano, not the city—has to be the most popular subject for local and visiting photographers.

Not all of them do it justice, because of its massive size. Even when viewed in person, the Butte challenges the viewer to make out the outlines of the pachyderm from which its name is derived. (Hint: the “elephant” is lying on its side.) But the photographer who ventured up last week to the relatively unfrequented upper park at the Dam Site Historic District found just the right vantage point to capture the entirety of the formation and the vastness of its otherworldly setting.

Had he positioned himself at edge of the park to be nearer his subject, the photographer would have missed this image’s perfect framing of Sierra County’s iconic natural landmark afforded by the strong diagonal lines of the retaining wall, the two benches and the white high-water mark on the far shore of the Elephant Butte Lake.

But I still can’t see the elephant.

—Commentary by Tom Hinson, editor, Photograph of the Week

Editor’s Note: Click on the photograph to view it in a light box for even greater clarity.

Professional, amateur and phone-camera photographers alike are invited to submit images to the Sierra County Sun for possible publication in the Sun’s “Photograph of the Week” feature. The deadline for consideration is every Friday at 5 p.m. For further information, click on the Help Us Report button on our home page and then check the box labeled “I want to submit a photo to Photograph of the Wee

3 thoughts on “The Butte”

  1. EXCELLENT shot! Since it is so often photographed, it’s hard to find a fresh way to see it. Good job, Rick!

  2. So after 40-plus years of being able to CLEARLY see the elephant, now I’m told that the elephant is lying on its side, which is something I NEVER saw. I see head and top of his/her trunk on the left side of the hill. The elephant positioned as if it’s lying down on its belly—rump on righthand side of the hill. Now I’m really confused….

  3. Hey, Val, Photograph of the Week editor Tom Hinson says you should take up your complaint with Wikipedia, whose entry entitled Elephant Butte Reservoir is the source of the tip about the formation resembling an elephant lying on its side.

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