Lake County, Oregon, USA by Joan Martelli

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Picture Story

This photo was taken a few years ago at Fort Rock, in the High Desert of Oregon (an area also known as the "Oregon Outback". Fort Rock rises 200 feet above the surrounding sagebrush, in the shape of a huge semi-circle nearly 4500 feet in diameter. It is a volcanic formation, that was once in a shallow sea. Its name comes from the tall jagged sides, which resemble the ramparts of a fort.

Although the drive from our home in the forest of western Oregon to Fort Rock takes less than four hours, it is like entering a different world. The fir and hemlock forests of home are replaced by pines, juniper and sagebrush. The air is dry and pungent ... our skin, eyes, and nostrils feel dry ... the sun is intense.

The whole experience was rather surreal for us forest dwellers. We spent two days in the area, as the only campers in a tiny, privately-run campground (whose store seemed to specialize in cigarettes and potato chips). We hunkered down during the hottest parts of the day, choosing to hike and photograph in the cooler morning and evening hours.

Sunsets can be spectacular in the high desert, where the sky seems to go on forever, so we drove the gravel roads earlier in the day, to look for a good vantage point for sunset photography. I wanted a location that would show not only the tall sides of the formation, but also part of the interior. On our second night, we were rewarded with gorgeous light and clouds, and we stayed and photographed until the light faded. I especially like this photo because of the flat-bottomed clouds illuminated on top, and the way the sun still catches a part of the interior of the "fort".

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