“Painted Hills Gold Rush”
John Day Painted Hills awash in Cleome platycarpa
The Painted Hills of John Day, one of the seven wonders of Oregon, located 90 minutes northeast of Bend,Oregon, experience a brief and irregular spring season. Early spring in the Painted Hills are characterized by two visually dominant wildflowers, Cleome platycarpa and Chaenactis douglasii, both of which glow an explosive gold color contrasting wildly with the earthy striations of the Painted Hills. During dry spring seasons, these wildflowers may not bloom at all. During moist spring seasons, there can be a cacophony of gold, exploding in the crevices and hillsides of the Painted Hills, one of Oregon’s most stunning and surreal and natural landscapes.
The spring of 2017 was a moist one, laying the groundwork for my newest fine art landscape photograph, Painted Hills Gold Rush. The Cleome platycarpa were especially full and vibrant this year, forming a stunning foreground for this beautiful new fine art photograph.
I visualized this fine art photo several years ago while camping in the Painted Hills, during an underwhelming spring bloom season. The Painted Hills offer an other-worldly mid-ground for landscape photographs. I knew the golden explosion which special spring seasons could bring would initiate a visceral reaction in the foreground of a framed fine art print. A strong foreground, the Painted Hills, and interesting cloud formations hovering over the distant Sutton Mountains could make for a mesmerizing image of Oregon’s High Desert. I’ve traveled to the Painted Hills annually for the last seven years in hopes of corralling and capturing these element in a single image. During the spring of 2017, I succeeded! The foreground of Cleome platycarpa was the best I’ve ever see in the Painted Hills area. As soon as I spotted the grouping of desert wildflowers that would serve as my foreground, I knew I had a potential winner. My plan was to shoot sunset igniting the Painted Hills. I knew partly cloudy skies were in the forecast. As the sun sank to the western horizon, storm clouds swirled over the John Day Painted Hills and
the Sutton Mountains. The scene was surreal. The sky grew dark and forbidding while the hills were enlivened with golden evening light. I exposed a couple of sheets of 4×5 film, including the dark forbidding sky with my new Ebony SV45 camera, equipped with a brand new Schneider 57mm lens. As the storm clouds evolved, heavy rain fell in the distance and as the storm began to clear, I composed and exposed the scene you see in this gorgeous new fine art landscape photograph! I was ecstatic! All the element I had visualized years ago had coalesced in a single magical image. I was filled with a merger of joy and relief. After the sun had been extinguished for the evening, a post-exposure anxiety descended. I’d just experienced a scene of stunning natural beauty. Would the film be processed correctly? How was my focus? The images looked fantastic through the ground-glass of my Ebony 4×5 but both the camera body and the Schneider lens had never been used before. Why hadn’t I used them before this rare moment?!?! As I drove home to Bend, I resigned my fate to the will of the photography gods. I’d done may work, I was thoroughly prepared, I’d returned to the same scene 7 consecutive years in hopes of finding exactly what I had just found. Now I had to wait for the film to be processed and my results to be unveiled. Several days later my processed film returned. I was a young child on an optimistic Christmas morning! The processed film was as stunning as the Painted Hills of John Day were on that magical spring evening! What was unveiled is what you see in this wonderful new fine art landscape photograph. Now I have a big, gorgeous framed photograph of this image hanging in my living room! If you would like to purchase a print of this amazing photograph of the John Day Painted Hills, please click on the big blue button below the image at the top of this page or call me @ 541-610-4815.