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Located in the remote badlands area of Central Oregon, the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is a very popular area for hiking and landscape photography year-round. The Painted Hills Unit is a stunning example of a geological feature called paleosols. These stratum of ancient soils are brightly colored in representation of the environment in which they were formed. Red indicates warm, wet conditions for example, while light yellow and tan indicate dry, cooler conditions typical of temperate forests.
A scenic 90 minute drive East of Prineville on State Route 26 crosses the Ochoco mountains and descends into the National Monument area just west of the small town of Mitchell. While hiking on the rock formations themselves is not allowed, there are several access trails and overlooks that provide an abundance of composition possibilities. This shot was taken about 4:20 in the afternoon on a clear January day. The low sun provided distinctive shadows in the rounded gullies descending through the multicolored layers of rock that give Painted Hills their name. Some remnants of snow tucked into shaded areas provide subtle highlights and detail in the shadows. Animal tracks visible in the shot could have been elk or antelope that frequent the area, or possibly coyote. I used a 2x teleconverter on my 70-200mm zoom lens to create a 400mm focal length. I was very pleased with the sharpness of the textured detail in the wind and water sculpted rock, as well as the color clarity provided in the image.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor