Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds

Edition Size: 250
11" X 14"
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30" x  40"

'Multicolored eroded hills reveal the soul of this land'

ne of the most dramatic landscapes in Oregon is located just 90 miles from my home in Bend, Oregon. It is the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, near Mitchell. In sharp contrast to what you see in ‘Landscapes of the Heart,’ Saber Toothed Tigers and ancient ancestors of rhinoceros once roamed tropical forests here.

As a photogenic location, few can match the Painted Hills. In May of 1989, my friend Ric Ergenbright and I wanted to time a photo trip to coincide with the clearing of spring storm clouds over the hills. We watched the weather carefully and when we saw what appeared to be the appropriate conditions, we drove east from Bend. We got a late start and upon arriving, started moving up the ridge and photographing immediately. The wind was blowing hard and we were relegated to using our medium format, rather than large format cameras. If much wind is blowing, the leather bellows on large format cameras act as a sail and make it nearly impossible to produce sharp images.

We got the clouds we were looking for and as they swirled overhead, a constantly changing combination of shadows and sunlight spread across the hills. The potential for compositions was endless. Just as I would complete one image, another would appear close by. After 45 minutes of non-stop action, the direct sun dropped off the hills, so we moved down the ridge to prepare for sunset. We photographed the brightly colored clouds to the west. I completed my sunset photographs and happened to look back behind me toward the east. I gasped at the beauty of the scene. I stood speechless for a moment as I viewed the incredible clouds that appear in ‘Landscapes of the Heart.’

Then, I quickly loaded another roll of film in my Pentax 6x7 and sprinted back up the ridge scanning for a composition that would bring all these stunning elements together. There wasn’t time to think or speak, only time to react. I found and photographed the composition of ‘Landscapes of the Heart’ and then tried one more composition before the light dropped.

As we slowly moved back down the ridge, we both felt humbled and blessed by the extraordinary sequence of events we had just been a part of.


(Worth the wait!)