Factory Butte rises high above otherworldly desert scenery. The landscape is painted with a mix of blues, reds, and yellows, and when paired with a stunning sunrise or sunset sky, the colors can be explosive.
Where: Factory Butte is not far from Capitol Reef National Park, located off of Highway UT-24, about 10 miles west of the small town of Hanksville, Utah. You can get closer by taking Factory Butte Road (6650 East), which is a well-graded dirt road that is typically accessible by passenger cars for about ten miles. The road, however, can sometimes be damaged by floods. If road conditions are bad, or if you want to explore the road that leads behind Factory Butte (or some of the other backcountry roads in the area), you'll need a high-clearance 4x4 vehicle. Don't drive here if there is rain, as the soft clay turns to sticky mud (even on the road), and even 4x4 vehicles can easily get stuck. There are also several off-road vehicle areas below Factory Butte, which you can explore as well if you have the appropriate vehicle.
When: You can photograph Factory Butte anytime of year, although summers can be brutally hot and winters can sometimes be fairly cold. Summer heat often brings thunderstorms, although dramatic storms can happen anytime of year here. Spring can sometimes bring wildflowers in wetter years. Twilight, sunrise, and sunset are the best times to photograph Factory Butte; hope for partly to mostly cloudy conditions for the best chance to get colorful skies. During the middle of the day, the light is unforgiving and colorless, so photo opportunities are limited.
Photography: You can photograph Factory Butte many different ways, from many different angles. As you drive around the Butte, its shape changes dramatically; in some places, it looks like a flattish rectangular box, in others, its peak narrows to a thin needle. Factory Butte Road goes past Factory Butte on the east side (making it especially good for capturing sunrise light on the peak); as you pass Factory Butte, you'll eventually see a 4x4 road (West Factory Road) that takes you around to gorgeous views of the west side (don't take this road back to the highway unless you are a skilled 4x4 driver, as the road gets very rough in places once you leave Factory Butte behind). You can easily shoot from the road with longer focal lengths. Consider using a tight telephoto perspective to zoom in on the intricate canyons tumbling down from the summit.
If you hike into the badlands below Factory Butte, you can get closer for effective wide-angle photography. Look for cracked mud or erosion patterns to use as a foreground. Please be cautious, as it is easy to get lost and there can be a lot of strenuous up and down hiking.
Perhaps the ultimate way to photograph Factory Butte is with a drone, which allows you to easily explore different angles. You can also incorporate the dramatic badlands below the Butte into your compositions. There is off-road vehicle use in the area, which can often make it difficult to find formations without tracks on them.
Learn more: The Bureau of Land Management's website for Factory Butte Recreation Area is a great place to start planning a visit to this amazing place.