Stuart Gordon

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Nature's Artwork

Published November 24th, 2012

The Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument located in Eastern Oregon provides a record of the geology of the Oligocene era some 33 million years ago. Each layer of color in the impacted volcanic ash layers that compose the Painted Hills is a record of temperature, humidity, acidity and organic material of its time. And each layer of soil took 10,000 to 200,000 years to develop. Red bands in the hills record soils that were formed in wetter periods. Yellow bands were formed under drier conditions. Black dots and streaks are manganese nodules that may have resulted from mineral-rich plants. The patterns, contours and pigments of the hills are truly amazing. If you're lucky enough to go after a rain has soaked the ground, the color in the hills truly pop. Closeups with 70-200 mm or 100-400 mm lenses work really well for abstract compositions.

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First Snow, Cascade Range of Central Oregon

Published November 23rd, 2012

When the first snow fell in the Cascade Range of Central Oregon, I was hoping the snowfall hadn't yet forced the closure of the Cascade Loop Highway, which provides access to a bounty of beautiful alpine lakes west of Bend, Oregon. Sure enough, when I drove out before dawn the next morning, I found the highway open clear through to my favorite lake — Sparks Lake. There are a few locations on the shore of this gorgeous lake that I like to shoot from. One location where I had one of the best shooting experiences I ever encountered was a short walk away from where I parked. I was quite happy with what I saw. Amazing light on the mountains, softly diffused by the clouds of the clearing storm that had dropped fresh snow on the two peaks in full view and reflected in the water — South Sister and Brokentop. Chalk up another fantastic experience at this wonderful location.

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Winter's Light

Published February 27th, 2012

This series of images was taken on a bitterly cold winter morning (19 degrees Fahrenheit) when I donned snowshoes and hiked a ways into a snow-blanketed meadow near the start of the Cascade Loop Highway in Central Oregon. I was up before any cross-country skiers, so I had the place to myself and was relishing the silence, if not the frosty air. I could see the frost building up on my tripod’s legs and the outside of my camera lens. The gloves I was wearing were not nearly warm enough, but in a matter of minutes after setting up my camera and tripod, I was focused on the way the light was illuminating the mountains before me and, thankfully, totally distracted from the burning sensation in my fingers and toes. I had parked myself in a place where with a simple 180-degree turn, I could shoot either facing west toward South Sister and Broken Top, or southeast at Mt. Bachelor, a popular ski resort outside of Bend, Oregon. When the first light hit the mountains, the mountains glowed a dazzl ...

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Looking Over My Shoulder

Published February 27th, 2012

I arrived at Smith Rock State Park shortly before dawn in early February 2012. It's an interesting place for photography if you catch the magic light on the rhyolite volcanic formations. Smith Rock is a mecca for technical climbers from all over the world who love a challenge. On this particular morning, I was greeted by the tall caretaker of the state park campground. He wondered who would be out at the state park at that hour. No one but him was camping there in the winter. "Usually drug dealers are the only ones out here at this hour in the winter," he said. I assured him the only drug I was on was the natural high caused by chasing beautiful light. After seeing me unload my camera bag and tripod, he relaxed and warned me that a cougar had been spotted right over there -- he pointed to a spot about 30 yards away -- the previous morning. I gulped, thanked him for the warning and hitched my Canon 5D Mark II to my tripod. I was here for a landscape shot, but perhaps I would end up gett ...

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Always Carry a Rope

Published February 27th, 2012

This is one of my favorite stops along the Santiam Pass in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. This beautiful ribbon-shaped waterfall drops 150-feet before the creek continues its journey toward the South Santiam River. to reach it, you get to hike along a beautiful trail that hugs picturesque Soda Creek, whose banks are crusted with brambles and ferns for the entire length. When you get to the end of the 3/4-mile trail, you're treated to the view of the waterfall. Although the official trail ends here, you can scramble down a steep embankment (a rope tied to a tree helps here) and view the falls from the splash pool below the falls.This is the lowest ancient forest grove left in the South Santiam River drainage. The first time I visited this place, I was hiking in alone and a bit leery of trying to make my way down a steep rocky embankment that was caked with wet autumn leaves. It inspired me to get myself a climbing rope just for such occasions. Since then, I've always carried this rope ...

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