The Photos of the November Contest and their Photographers

The photographers of provided me with a great collection of photos for the red, rocky desert and the lush, green canyon in my November Contest story: “A Forest of Blue Eyes.”

[Warning: This post contains spoilers. I recommend you read the story first and then enjoy the art below in its full glory.]

Let’s start with the main image for the contest story page. I actually altered this photo from the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area by adding some red tint. Here’s the original beauty by Olenka Kotyk.

Red desert rocks in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Photo by Olenka Kotyk (

I actually used the photo twice. It’s the background behind the story title and the main image for the entire page. I used it again to set the mood as Shim is shuffling down the canyon trail thinking about how he got lost in the red desert.


Formation of red rock with precariously balanced tower of rock
The Toadstools Trailhead at Grand Staircase Escalante near Kanab, Utah, USA. Photo by
Joshua Sukoff (

Joshua Sukoff captured this great shot in an area of Utah that would be perfect as the setting for the red rock-covered planet where Shim’s family lands. According to, this hike is a “south-facing route with little to no shade.” They recommend bringing “plenty of water and sunscreen.”

Here’s a great explanation of how these toadstool-looking rock structures form, as provided by

“The trail climbs to the top of a knoll, where it opens into a landscape of hoodoos, alcoves, and balanced rocks. These ‘toadstools,’ or hoodoos, form because Dakota Sandstone boulders perch atop pedestals of softer Entrada Sandstone. As the Entrada erodes away, the harder Dakota forms a cap, and leaves a rock column sheltered from water and wind.”

Here’s where I used it in the story.

Desert Texture

Close-up detail of rough rock textures
Close-up photo of a brown cliff at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Photo by John Schnobrich (

Natural Rock Formations

Natural rock arch
The Delicate Arch at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, USA. Photo by Mike van den Bos (

Mike van den Bos captured this great shot of the Delicate Arch, which arguably is the world’s most famous natural stone arch. It also makes a perfect example of “formations of brittle, crumbly, red rock” that give Shim the spooks.

Storm Brewing

Dark storm clouds hang over rocky  desert ridges.
Photo of storm brewing over Behind the Reef Trail near Green River, USA. Photo by Patrick Hendry (

This is the original photo in all its correct-color glory by Patrick Hendry. On my story page, I added a red screen to give the effect of the red sandstorm that caught Shim in the ridges.

Lush Canyon

View into a canyon with rock walls rising on either side and vegetation on the canyon floor.
Titled: Geological Beauty. Angel’s Landing in USA. Photo by Fineas Anton (

Here’s where I used the canyon photo and the two photos that follow to suggest a lush, green canyon.

Large green leaves with sunlight filtering through green through the leaves
Indoor plants by Martin Knize (
Large, wide green leaves standing vertically
Large, green leaves stretching up vertically. Photo by Kaori P. (

Blue Eyes

Woman with blue eyes peering between green leaves
Photo of blue-eyed woman peering between green leaves. Photo by Alex Iby (

In my first draft of “A Forest of Blue Eyes,” I described the blue eyes of the girl that Shim followed as “entirely blue even where the whites should be.” I was imagining a human, but a human so distantly related from us that she looked a bit alien. But I don’t want to influence contestants. They may decide the “girl” is a woman or something not human at all.

But when I found this photo by Alex Iby, I knew I had to use it in the ending of my part of the story. So I revised the story and just described the girl’s eyes and the other eyes in the forest as “blue” so the narrative and the photo would not contradict each other. But the photos are just there to entertain readers. Contestants may take the photos as inspiration or ignore them completely.

By the way, I believe Iby titled this photo “Awaken.” It was taken at the Boston Public Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

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