Shooting some timelapse in the painted hills

Shooting some timelapse in the painted hills

So our next destination was the Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. What a tongue twister! Let’s just call it the painted hills.

Getting here was a quite a drive. Not because it was way far out of the way or anything, but we had been doing a ton of driving to dodge the incoming weather. By the time we arrived here in the afternoon, the sky was totally gray, overcast, a bit rainy, and just generally photographically ugly. A bit dejected, we slumped down in our seats wondering what the heck do we do NOW? Little did we know we were in for one hell of a treat. Turns out Oregon weather is unbelievably variable and can change on a dime… 🙂

When we pulled in here, we drove up to the main overlook. It was all gray, but with some clouds in the area, I figured I might as well try and timelapse it a bit.

Camera with raingear at the painted desert

Camera with raingear at the painted desert

There was a covered viewing area where I set up in initially, but after shooting there for a while, I found that the intense wind would actually blow the rain into the viewing area. heh…

Since the weather wasn’t looking that great for scenic overlooks (the above photo was shot later on that evening), we went over to a trail where you could actually walk through the painted hills.

Walking path through the Painted Hills

Walking path through the Painted Hills

One great thing about this trail is that there’s signs posted which tell you some cool info about this landscape. I could retype the info the signs said here on this blog, but I’m kinda lazy… It’s just easier to show you the shots I snapped for reference. 😉 (Click the image if you want to go to a larger version which’ll be easier to read.)

Nothing grows here

Nothing grows here

Rust colored hills

Rust colored hills

Watershed in miniature

Watershed in miniature

Paint palette

Paint palette

Changing colors

Changing colors

After walking through this area, we headed back to the main overlook area to go scope things out a bit again. It was now that we realized that the view we had was completely and utterly lackluster. In the rain, sitting in the protection of the car, wondering what we should do now and a bit dejected after coming all this way only to have the weather hold out on us, a silently said a little prayer of gratitude for all that we had already experienced and let it go. Wouldn’t you know it, things really started to change!

The weather changes here in OR so quickly… from pellets of snow to a featureless gray blanket of clouds to puffy clouds to sunlight peeking through holes in the clouds to expansive blue skies and a bath of warm sunlight… Within minutes we can have a totally different world…

Fortunately I happened to be shooting a timelapse through the whole thing!

Shooting some timelapse in the painted hills

Shooting some timelapse in the painted hills

You gotta check this out…

When the light started to get awesome, it was then a debate… do I keep timelapsing through this thing or do I stop it and go shoot something else? It’s times like these when I could really use a few more cameras!

I wound up walking around and snapping a few shots on my phone.

Valley of painted hills

Valley of painted hills

While sitting here typing up this post, I remembered that there was a Marc shot that invited us here. I went to go take a look at it and laughed at when I saw it…

Painted in Spring by Marc Adamus

Painted in Spring by Marc Adamus

Same exact location but he had some spring wildflowers and some gorgeous light (of course). 🙂

This is a place that you shoot before the sun actually sets on the horizon. Because it’s kind of in a valley down below you, the hill you’re standing upon actually begins to cast a shadow on the earth below. The video below shows this to some extent. (The main blackout is due to a cloud overhead. You’ll see it the light come back right before the video ends.)

After this place was no longer really shootable, I turned around and found another location with more painted hills and opted to see what kind of clouds I’d get above the hills as the sun set behind them. Maybe we’d get something. Who knows?

Remember that protective rain cover I had on my camera? Well turns out it’s probably still there… unless someone else picked it up. I took it off at one point when I saw that I no longer needed it, and I think I accidentally left it in the bushes. Whoops! Oh well… I didn’t realize it until we were hundreds of miles away.

Anyways, after a surprisingly successful evening shooting here, we packed up and continued heading west, back towards the coast. The second storm wasn’t finished yet but we figured what the hey, and continued on.

Driving west, we eventually hit the Cascades. There were so many things that I really enjoyed about driving through the mountains. First of all, I happened to hit something awesome on my odometer.

Another sweet synchronistic lineup

Another sweet synchronistic lineup

Driving through the desert, you’ll find lots of deer and jackrabbits in the road and alongside it. Strangely enough, the deer would always run out of the way, but the jackrabbits would only do it about half the time. Sometimes they’d run away from a moving car, but other times it’s like they were champions at the game of chicken! I seriously passed several jackrabbits that were sitting right on the yellow lines of a two-lane road and would not move! That’s right, they would just sit there as a car zoomed past them only a foot away. It was the craziest thing! At night you definitely have to drive slower, but even still, you’ll find animals that simply don’t get out of your way. Weird…

Another amazing thing about driving through forresty area at night is the lighting. You see, when there’s lots of wet areas on the road and you have your fog lamps on, the fog lamps point down and reflect in the puddles in the road so what happens is you get these flame-like beams of light in front of you that, as you drive forward, rush towards you and shoot straight up into the treetops. It’s the wildest thing!

Not only that, but when there’s cars ahead of you, it’s amazing the way they light up the forest ahead of you. We stopped and tried shooting it a bit, but some things are better seen in person. 🙂

Cars driving towards us in the forest at night

Cars driving towards us in the forest at night

We wound up hitting a snowstorm in the Cascades as we drove higher and higher up the mountains. There were some lakes that we wanted to shoot for sunrise with mountains in the background, but it turns out that the roads had been completely closed off for the winter literally within the past day. They weren’t plowing the roads and they were completely barred off, so there was no way we were gonna make it.

There was a ski resort at the top of the mountain and I had a chance to try playing around in the snowy parking lot. I didn’t wanna push my car too hard since I had a bunch of food loosely arranged in the back, but it was fun to test out how my car performed in snowy conditions. It was really amazing to have control of my car and not need to put on chains the way a number of other vehicles did. I’m currently driving an AWD Subaru Outback with all-season tires (not winter tires but also not highway tires) and they performed beautifully in those conditions. There’s lots of signs as you approach the mountain that warn you to make sure you have appropriate traction devices to go up the mountain and for good reason! It was also nice that they had snow plows running all night, but snow accumulates surprisingly quickly even after the plows pass through.

Anyways, we wound up making it safely up and back down the mountain and arrived at a campsite along the Oregon coast in the middle of the night. Setting up our tent, we hopped inside and crashed, ready to continue this adventure tomorrow. 🙂

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