John Day Fossil Beds NM, Oregon, USA by Michael Thomas

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Picture Story

East of the Cascades, much of Oregon is high desert. One of the most fascinating and beautiful places is the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. There are three separate units to the monument. This image is from the Painted Hills section. It lives up to its name and is filled with badlands in shades of yellow, red and purple. It’s a place where a landscape photographer can capture grand landscapes with a wide angle lens or, as in this instance, use a telephoto to create intriguing abstracts that puzzle and fascinate viewers unfamiliar with these geologic formations. I originally processed this photo in Lightroom with the original RAW converter. I went back and reprocessed it with the latest converter. Even after adjustments to white and black points, saturation and contrast, it was too sharp and edgy. I preferred the muted and painterly, watercolor effect of the original conversion. When aiming for a certain look, it pays to try several approaches.

A great time to visit is late April to early May when you can include foregrounds of golden bee plant in your compositions. I found late afternoon before the hills dropped into shadow to be the best time for me. We stayed in Prineville, a decent sized town but an hour away (not a problem for late afternoon/sunset work). There are a number of nearby campgrounds.

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