Central Oregon

For the last several years Deigh and I have made an annual trek to central Oregon to catch up with each other and spend some time “out there” with cameras in hand.  This year was no exception but we added a couple of twists to our usual “Smith Rocks/Painted Hills” approach.  The first twist was adding the relatively new Badlands Wilderness outside Bend to our list of sites to visit.  The second twist…OK, enhancement… was to have Dave and Sally Hill join in for much of the time. Friends expanding friendships.  Gotta love it.

Deigh and I met in Bend and headed out to the Badlands for my first visit to the area.  Deigh had been there once before and took the lead as we headed toward a dry river bed in search of some Native American art.  We didn’t make it too far into the walk when we both got caught up in the texture of the bark on the junipers of the area. Having reviewed my files I’m disappointed in what I brought back.  I was excited by the bark patterns and texture while standing there but none of the images really do much for me on the screen.  Guess I’ll have to think about that some and go back with a different approach next time.

We wandered around in the canyon looking for the art and found nothing but interesting rocks with a mineralized form of texture to complement the juniper bark.  Again, none of the images really lit my fire on the screen so they’ll be saved for use as patterns and textures to add to other photos sometime down the line.

Deigh warned me that the Badlands do not hold the same drama that we tend to associate with the other Wilderness or park areas around Oregon and Washington.  It’s a classic high desert setting with remnants of roads and cows. I was astounded to see a vehicle drive by as we walked into the area.  Must be a part of “Wilderness” that I don’t understand. Maybe it’s a difference between BLM and USFS Wilderness models. Maybe it is to allow access to some private land somewhere.  Anyway, it felt out of place and disappointing.

The two pictures that really do appeal to me from this visit are more broad context shots of the area.  With the exception of the dry river bed and canyon walls these two images pretty well summarize the area that I witnessed.

After returning to Bend to pick up a car we’d left behind Deigh and I drove off to Prineville to check in, get some rest and to prepare for a visit to Smith Rocks once Dave and Sally joined us.  Mid-afternoon Dave and Sally showed up after what sounded like a nice day of birding along the Crooked River.  We shared some drinks and snacks and headed out to Terrebone to grab dinner and evaluate the skies that were thickening with clouds and starting to rain/sprinkle. After dinner we drove to Smith Rocks even though the light was flat and gray and there was a bit of moisture in the air.  I didn’t even take a camera out of the bag as we parked at the RV lot to walk around and see what could be seen.  We came on a couple of bald eagles building a nest in a distant pine tree.  We laughed and talked and generally enjoyed being there to watch the birds and the few climbers still hanging on the faces to the north of us. I should know better since the light was flat and disappearing and the subjects were quite far away.  I still fell to the urge to push the shutter so I grabbed the camera and lens and set up to take several shots of the eagles and climbers.  All the shots got deleted upon review but it kept me entertained.  I need to learn to just sit and enjoy the moment when I know that chances of capturing something worthwhile are low.

The next morning Dave, Deigh and I set out for the Painted Hills.  We ran into snow flurries before we started climbing east of Ochoco Reservoir.  My enthusiasm was waning as I drove.  Once we descended from Ochoco Summit the roads cleared but the sky was still ominous and clouded over.  We pulled into the parking area at the vista point in the Painted Hills and I sat in the car as Deigh and Dave left the car to go into the wind and cold to shoot.  My intent was to stay comfortable as I watched the sky to the west hoping for a break in the clouds as the moon descended behind a couple of the great colorful features of the area.  The clouds did break a bit but I never saw the moon.  I never tire of shooting the Painted Hills but soon after I started I ran into camera problems.  At random my camera was not metering or exposing properly.  I’d get one good shot and then several that were totally blown out.  AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH.  I pulled the battery and “rebooted” the camera.  Same deal.  I unmounted and remounted my favorite 70-200 lens.  Same deal.  I resigned myself to the idea that my day of shooting was over.  I mounted a different lens upon return to the car and all was right with the world again.  Several test shots were perfectly exposed.  I put the 70-200 back on and the problem reappeared.  It seems my trusted, valued 70-200 had some problems.  The mystery remains as I type this several days later.  The lens seems fine now after it was cleaned, coddled and talked to a bit.  I’m guessing that there are nearly 75-100,000 shots on that lens.  It deserves a good cleaning and maintenance.  I’ll get it into Nikon or a local repair shop this week.  Gotta have this lens before our wedding shoots coming up.

Before the lens went bad I did manage to get one decent pano of the area.

When we drove to the Red Hill area I put the wide angle lens on and came out with one image that I enjoy… mostly.  I wish I’d thought to add some distance to the far left side of this image to complete the mound rather than truncating it.  The image still works for me due to the color combinations and textures.

When we returned to Prineville Dave and Sally headed for home and Deigh and I ate a quick breakfast before we said our farewells and went our seperate ways.  Deigh was heading to Sisters with hopes of some shots of the peaks.  I headed back to Smith Rocks and settled into an area on the canyon rim above the eagle nest.  The sun was out and the wind was blowing.  I sat in the sun and hunkered down out of the wind as best as I could.  For 4 hours I sat and watched the climbers on the distant rock faces and an occasional bird.  The eagles were off hunting and never showed up.  I waited until 3:00 and left knowing that the roads were dicey over Government Camp and wanting to be in Portland and home before dark.  I’m confident that the eagles would have returned later that evening and I’m thinking that a return visit may be in order.  This time I’ll overnight at the camp or a local motel.  The setting is really nice and images of the eagles at sunset could be really nice.  I’ll close with a pano I made of some of the rocks of the area.  If you click on the image to enlarge it and study closely you’ll find 25 people on the faces or the ground below them.  It was a nice way to spend some time alone.


2 thoughts on “Central Oregon

  1. A great set of landscapes here Bruce! I particularly am impressed with the last one–the pano shot. What awesome lighting and the detail is exquisite. Too bad the eagles weren’t cooperating for you! My last time at Ridgefield I came across 6 Bald’s soaring and circling overhead. Must have been some kind of convention or something! Keep shooting, my friend!

  2. Gosh, Bruce, from your description of the travails in finding suitable light, perhaps you’d best reconsider terming Sally’s and my presence as an enhancement in favor of the more Germanic sounding term: “jinx.” Me, I had fun, regardless; and I savored having a great time exploring the Painted Hills! Since my photography remains much closer to “point and shoot” than it does to the levels to which you and Deigh aspire, I can be content simply to be in lovely places such as the S. Rocks and PHs with comfortable company! And, besides, dramatic light is just a bit overrated: there’s something to be said for occasionally portraying people and places and flora and fauna in the condition they normally show themselves. To that end, your first shot, in particular, is a nice representation of what that part of Central Oregon is really usually like, and so touches more than just a few forgotten memories.

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