Central Oregon

We are fortunate to be able to photograph the wedding of friends at Smith Rocks at the end of June.  What a lovely location for a wedding and we are hopeful that these strange weather gods cooperate like they did when we visited the venue with Lindsey last Thursday.  Wonderful light and a great setting for this wedding.  Our fingers are crossed.

But, this entry is mostly about what we did for the rest of the 2.5 days we were in the Smith Rocks area.  We started by driving to the Painted Hills area shortly after sunrise on Thursday morning.  I know… “get up early, get up high” was Galen Rowell’s advice for stunning landscape photography.  I was tired when we rolled into Prineville Wednesday night.  What can I say?  As it was, we got to the Painted Hills to see some really nice light playing on the hills below the main vista overlook area.  I had seen and photographed little yellow flowers running up the red hill drainages before and my hopes that they would be in bloom were fully realized.  We parked our car and began shooting.  I was disappointed by my previous efforts to photograph these flowers so I mounted the 200-400 lens and set about trying to bring the patterns and color contrasts into more pleasing compositions.  I love this lens.

We were joined by another couple while we were shooting.  I heard Dianne talking about the flowers, photography and general introductory information while I continued to shoot…. hey, the light doesn’t last forever. Once I was content that I’d done what I could I joined the conversation.  What a nice couple Larry McQueen and his wife are.  Larry is a professional ornithological artist who lives in Eugene.  We exchanged pleasantries and then drove off together to visit the pond area up the road.  Along the way we ran into 2 male antelope by the side of the road.  Larry pulled over and stopped his car as I jumped out of ours and mounted the camera to the tripod.  For once I had the right lens on the camera when the time came.  The antelope walked around and surprised me by walking right toward us.  They posed.  I shot pictures.  I love it when it comes together to get sharp images.  I had hoped they would pause among some flowers but that did not really happen.  Seems I’m always wanting just a bit more.  Is that a bad thing?

Larry drove off to find some birds at the pond as I continued shooting.  Eventually the antelope tired of my antics and they moved off through the hills.  Di and I sat for a moment and were a bit amazed at how close the antelope had come.  We moved on down the road and met Larry and his wife again.  I thanked him for stopping so the antelope would not spook.  We visited some more and then they headed out for breakfast in Mitchell.  Di and I shot some unspectacular images at the pond and then headed back to Prineville for our breakfast and the rest of our day.

We had the good fortune to meet up with some friends who were our neighbors in Bend 20+ years ago.  We had not seen each other for a long time and they welcomed us into their Prineville home with coffee, banana bread and great conversation.  What fun it was to catch up on each others families and stroll through our memories.  These folks and others in our neighborhood supported us through one of the most difficult periods of our marriage as Dianne recovered from a serious car accident. Friends like this are rare and have never been repeated with other neighbors we’ve inherited as we moved around. I’ll always remember how much it meant to us to have a smiling face at the door as they delivered food and an opportunity to talk over this dark period.  Yup, good friends are rich resources in our lives.

We eventually left and drove to Smith Rocks to meet up with the bride-to-be, Lindsey.  She showed us around her friend’s house and we talked about the wedding setup and the photos we will take.  Being invited into a person’s home in this spectacular setting is a great opportunity.  The house and yard back onto the Crooked River gorge with the eastern portion of Smith Rocks across the canyon. We’ll do everything we can to eliminate the Burma Road from the images but I suspect we’ll be doing some Photoshop repairs on some of them.  We are really looking forward to the wedding day and capturing the marriage of our friends.

Next we drove to Terrebone to meet Deigh at the recently opened Terrebone Depot restaurant.  A good meal and conversation preceded our departure to Smith Rocks for a planned sunset shoot.  The weather was pleasant, the clouds were wonderful and the hike to the site looking down the river near Monkey Face was a reward for the day.  We walked with a purpose but not so fast that we couldn’t enjoy the area and stop for a photo when it felt right. We each found our places and set up for the evening light.  Oh my.  When the canyon goes dark as the sun sets the rock features light up dramatically.  The rock color warms up as the sun descends.  I shot some “safety shots” and then put on a polarizer to darken the sky and brighten the clouds.  Realizing that the range of light was extreme… dark shadows to bright highlights, I pulled out a 3 stop graduated neutral density filter and took several shots that were more balanced.  I also shot some bracketed exposures for HDR… just in case.

We hiked out of the canyon to our cars.  Huffing up the hill from the river to the parking lot reminded me that being in place for spectacular photo opportunities means that I need to stay in condition for the effort that may be needed to “get out there”.

The next morning saw the three of us heading down the road for the Painted Hills at 05:00.  I wanted to be in place to shoot earlier than the previous day but did not see the need to get up at 03:30 to make it there for the technical sunrise.  My small gamble paid off since we were greeted with cloudy, flat light when we arrived. We spent some time at the vista trail area where I concentrated on patterns in the drainages and one panorama.  Dianne has a knack to capture broad scenic shots and to record any signage in the area.  Both of these subjects are valuable with time.

photo by Dianne McCammon

We drove to the pond area where Deigh and I both photographed a butte’s reflection in the water.  I’m guessing that you’ll know that I’m not excited by my results since there are no images in this post.  Lost opportunity? My reward for the time was in my self-critique of why the images don’t work for me. I hope I remember the lessons I learned.

We drove out of the area stopping to photograph the yellow flowers in the drainages along the way.  The light was less bright than the day before but that dropped the contrast and provided some nice light quality none the less.  After about an hour we all agreed that it was time for breakfast.  Deigh and I always seem to enjoy our time at the Painted Hills.  We’ve been there in 100 degree temperatures and during snow/rain squalls.  It’s a great place that changes with the weather so I’m sure that I’ll be back again.


3 thoughts on “Central Oregon

  1. Nice detail of the yellow flowers really helps the image pop. I too have visited the area several months ago, can you tell me when those flowers are in bloom ? I only had a 70-200 mm with me and can see that longer focal length is the needed, nice job…

    1. Hi Shawn. Thanks for taking a look and for your nice comments. We were there just over a week ago and the flowers were pretty much at their peak by my estimation. I’ve been there in early to mid-May a couple of times and the flowers were present.

      I see by your website that you are a northwest photographer. Perhaps we’ll run into one another out there sometime.

      Good luck.

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