Monday, August 1, 2011
You'll find Smith Rock just ten or so miles North of Redmond and a couple of miles East of Terrebonne in Central Oregon. It's a spectacular great knuckled fist of rock plunging up from a shallow and cratar like river valley. Photographed by the great Ansel Adams, and later providing the backdrop for the John Wayne film Rooster Cogburn, Smith Rock is a mottled yellow and red scrub covered wonder. For this series of photographs I arrived early at a bleary eyed seven-in-the-morning, having been given a lift in by my gracious host Joel Nunez. Visibility was down to a few dozen feet in the dense fog. My heart sank. So much for the early morning golden hour light.
Still, happily I love hiking, so I bid farewell to Joel and set off for Misery Ridge, a snaking, steep sloped path that offered the fastest and most dramatic route to the top. As the sun rose the rocks began to glow in the diffuse light. It was a splendid site, and rather alien - as if William Shatner was about to lurch into view, shirt ripped, fighting clumsily with some rubbery lizard man.
Around half way up the sun began to burn away the cloud layer, and by the time I reached the top and looked back down I was greeted with the sight of the thick fog and cloud receding to reveal the river bed below. This shot (second from top) netted me a page in Seattle Metropolitan, which was nice.
Turning to the West towards the small town of Terrebonne, a blanket of cloud lay half covering the land below. To me it looked like a vast wall of water. I continued shooting, scarcely able to believe my luck. My humble D40x with kit lens was getting good results, and was well worth the added weight of lugging. A little further on I found two base jumpers atop a vast pillar of rock called Monkey Face. A drop of a dozens of metres - but a mere width of a few feet - seperated me from them, and I relayed instructions between them when they were seperated by solid rock and unable to hear each other. They were waiting for the cloud to clear below, as being able to see the ground is a useful indicator in base jumping. I stuck around for an hour waiting with them, so I could get the shot of them leaping. But I was impatient, and thirsty, and decided to descend down to the valley and beyond into town for a beer and burger. Later I met them at the railside diner. They'd survived the jump.
If you're in the area Smith Rock is a must see and to date my visit there has been the most profitable day's shooting I've ever had. I wish I could easily return, but the irritating fact of an ocean seperates me from it.