Bruce Bergstrom had joked to his wife, Millie, about entering a photo into a contest after the couple had gone on a trip through Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico last fall.
The Lebo resident decided to enter it into a contest through Reader’s Digest Magazine.
Lo and behold, the photo was among the top-10 photos entered and was published in the July/August 2019 edition of Reader’s Digest.
“I didn’t care, it was just an idea,” Bruce said. “That’s an amazing picture. Let’s send it in and see what happens. It’s a pretty cool thing, I thought.”
Even though it was Bruce who entered the photo into the contest, it was Ray Begay — the tour guide the couple hired — that took the photo at the Oljato-Monument Valley in the Southeast corner of Utah.
“It was one of those moments ... to happen to be just right,” Bruce said. “Everything came out perfectly. It’s such a unique picture to see all that beautiful stone and mountains. Then, there’s a woman on a horse. (Ray) had to crawl down a bunch of rocks and look up and he said, ‘You want to do it?’ I said, ‘I’m in no position to be crawling on rocks. I’ll sit up in the truck.’”
The photo was the cover of a photo book that the Bergstroms had put together on their trip. The album consists of photos taken by Begay and Millie.
“You can drive through that park with a camera and just click, click, click, at every rock and mountain you see,” Bruce said. “When you get done, you have a bunch of pictures.”
In years past, the couple has planned a trip to do throughout the year, and with Millie’s research of the area, they decided to go somewhere within a day’s drive of their home.
Bruce said it was valuable to have a tour guide along the way so that the couple could see more than what they would if they didn’t have a tour guide. With Begay’s assistance, he made the Bergstroms trip that much more memorable.
“Ray drove his four-wheel-drive vehicle and showed us things you couldn’t see by yourself,” Bruce said. “It was beautiful weather. We had snow and rain. This was one of the most relaxing vacations we’ve ever had. Part of it was we were just riding in a jeep with a Navajo and telling all these stories. I had no expectations. I didn’t know what we were going into. I’ve never seen this (place) before (until) we got out there and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness sake.’”
At one point of the trip, Begay asked Bruce if he could sing while they were enjoying a view on a rock. Bruce was delighted with it and Millie sat next to him, while Begay began to sing.
“He did a Navajo chant that echoed throughout the rocks,” Bruce said. “You don’t get to hear stuff like that.”
Bruce highly suggests that if there is somewhere you want to go, hire a tour guide, because you will get more of an experience than exploring by yourself.
“If you take the time and spend a couple of hundred dollars to get a guide here or anywhere ... and immerse yourself into the culture, you come away more empathetic about Native Americans,” Bruce said. “You learn a ton of stuff. It was like an education thing for us. (It was) very relaxing. If you take your time, spend the money and try to learn, you’re not just snapping pictures; you’re getting irreplaceable things.”
Bruce plans on taking the print edition of the magazine, framing it, and displaying it along with the canvas painting of the same photo he had printed for his home.
“Down the road, (my) grandkids will say, ‘What’s this for?’” he said. “We’ll never do this again. That’s kind of a one-in-a-million shot.”