The pre-dawn light was exquisite for a mere five minutes when photographer Nick Berezenko's eyes were captured by the beauty of foxtails along a remote area of Fossil Creek.
He set up his tripod and his Nikon D70 camera and went to work.
"I've developed a ritual over the years, especially since working for Arizona Highways, that I get up at four in the morning no matter what," Berezenko said.
"It's really quiet and I kind of stalk -- walk along the riverbed and watch for stuff," he said.
At any other time of day the light would have looked totally different.
His photo of foxtails along Fossil Creek won Best of Show for professional photography at the Northern Gila County Fair.
"I was impressed with the amateur entries at the fair and double the quality and the juniors did really fantastic," he said.
Digital photography has opened up the field.
Out of all the pictures, he said expected his picture of a long haired goat with Photoshop accentuated ringlets would win Best of Show.
"I really shoot (pictures) because I love being in the outdoors," he said.
Berezenko had experienced Fossil Creek before the restoration project.
"The springs were always lovely," he said.
Once water was restored he could hardly recognize the creek it looks so much different.
"It was so joyous to see that much water running through it." The Twenty-Twenty Falls on Fossil Creek, a subject he has returned to on several occasions, was dry two years ago. No more.
The water is crystal clear in the pools that form along the creek.
"I love the clarity of it."
While some photographers might spend a few weeks on an assignment, he has been known to make more time.
"West Clear Creek for instance took me three years to do," he said. "I made 40 trips into the creek."
Photography was a career change for Berezenko.
Born in Germany of Ukrainian parents Berezenko came to the United States in 1954 when he was 8 years old.
"My parents were displaced persons because of the war," he said.
His parents encouraged him to be a scholar, not an artist.
"Coming from the old country it was a big deal to become a professor," he said.
From 1973-1976 Berezenko was an interpretive park ranger at the Grand Canyon. He gave evening slide shows to tourists. When he could not find the slides he envisioned for the shows he wanted to create, he took out one of his fellow ranger's Olympus 35 mm camera and went hiking.
"I studied on my own and trained my eye," he said.
One day a representative from Kodak came to the Grand Canyon to make an automated slide show and wanted to use his pictures.
"Okay, but what's in it for me?" Berezenko asked.
Kodak gave him super duplicates, made at the headquarters in Rochester, N.Y.
He went to Arizona Highways and asked to see an editor.
"I saw the greatest man in the world, Wes Holden, who was temporary editor of Highways at that time."
Holden showed him a folder full of similar photos.
Berezenko was ready to grab his slides when Holden told him he "showed promise."
"A month later they used three pictures," Berezenko said.
Since then Berezenko has followed the Colorado River from its source -- a 365-mile hike that took him two months, worked for newspapers including the Prescott Sun, Verde Independent and Payson Roundup.
And of course, taken countless photographs along the way.
"A Field Guide to Photography," published by Arizona Highways, is expected out in December. Berezenko was one of about a dozen contributing photographers featured in the book. He has the chapter on where to go and how to take photos of the Mogollon Rim.
He loves to play and hike with his dog, Queenie, and work on projects rather than sit and send out pictures to get more work.
"I'm a landscape photographer because I love it and I am thankful that it provides me just enough money to make a living," Berezenko said.
Name: Nick Berezenko
Motto: Go with the flow. Never force a picture. Discover the picture that is there.
Award most proud of: AHA, Arizona Highways magazine's silver prize for Photographic Excellence in 2003.
fave pic: the last one I took and feel good about.
Fave place: The most beautiful place on earth -- West Clear Creek. It beats anything on the face of the globe.
Advice to amateur photographers: Read the camera's manual.
Point of contact: Myra's Gallery, 3824 N. Highway 87, Pine. (928) 476-2256.