Alvord Desert, “Desert Flame”
Dramatic Clouds illuminated over Oregon’s Alvord Desert
Why haven’t I been here before? I’ve enjoyed countless photographs of this magical playa by other landscape photographers …. Well I finally made the journey to Oregon’s famed Alvord Desert and now I know what all the fuss is about.
The Alvord Desert was, named after Benjamin Alvord, who was commander of the District of Oregon(composed of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho) during the US Civil War. Located east of Steen’s Mountain in Southeastern Oregon, the Alvord Desert is 12 miles long by 7 miles wide and receives an average of 7 inches of precipitation annually. This arid environment is one of the hottest locations in Oregon during July and August. Regional Geothermal activity has created Mickey Hot Springs, Alvord Hot Springs and Borax Hot Springs which draw visitors to this remote part of Oregon.
Alvord Lake is a seasonal phenomena created by snowmelt from Steens Mountain located to the Northwest. Because the local climate is extremely arid, the lake desiccates in summer creating the famed mosaic like surface which draws visitors. Previously, I had not been drawn to this desert landscape because of it, seemingly was devoid of life. While wildlife is not abundant on the playa of this alkali basin, it has an austere beauty that is more easily experienced than written about. The dries, tile-like plates that form adjacent to the receding lake create a mathematical order which has variability and a serene beauty. Traveling with friend, Troy McMullin, we chose to spend a sunset on the desert surface and were treated to a surreal and magical light show. Lenticular clouds began to forms a towering arrangement reminiscent of the flame on a lit match. As the sun sank below the Desert surface, this cloud arrangement was luminated with a fantastic technicolor glow. I used an extremely wide angle lens and violated photographic norms by splitting my image in half… Mosaic desert surface below and a flaming cloud formations above. These two primary elements promise to make a gorgeous and peaceful fine art landscape of Oregon’s surreal Alvord Desert!