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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 getting a wildlife image this morning if that cougar was still hanging around, i thought. I hiked to a couple of locations near the rim overlooking the canyon in which the Crooked River flowed through the state park. Walking in the pre-dawn gloaming, I was on high alert with all my senses for sights and sounds of a cougar. Throughtout my 90 minutes shooting at this location, I reminded myself to look over my shoulder to see what might be creeping up behind me. On Oregon's wilderness trails, I fear cougars much more than black bear. Anyway, I saw nothing on four legs that morning. The only creatures were flocks of geese that honked and flew in formation through the canyon in front of these magnificent rock formations that comprise Smith Rock. It was extremely peaceful and rewarding to be there alone as the sunlight crept down the formations, illuminating them in a gorgeous warm golden light. The sky turned from a blush of pink and violet to deep blue as the sun rose higher over the ridge behind me to the east. The Crooked River snaked through the terrain below me, its glassy water reflecting the sunlit rock formations and only disrupted when geese honked to a landing on its surface. A pretty wonderful morning, as you can see by these images.

Daybreak at Smith Rock, Oregon

Dawn light illuminates the rhyolite formations at Smith Rock State Park outside Terrebonne, Oregon. The crooked River snakes through the park at the base of these formations. Smith Rock is a mecca for technical climbers from all over the world who love a challenge.

  • February 2nd, 2012
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • 16mm / f/16 / 6 sec

Sunrise at Smith Rock

As the sun rises in the east, this rhyolite rock face takes on many different personas as the light hits it in different ways and intensities. Colors, tones, shadows and highlights and white balance all change dramatically in a brief amount of time. It's a fantastic place to study the changing character of light. See for yourself by looking at the image I uploaded previous to this one, which is a companion shot to this one. They were taken a short time apart. You can see Mt. Jefferson (on the right) and The Three Sisters (to the left) in the background. They're all part of the Cascade Range in Oregon.

  • February 2nd, 2012
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • 18mm / f/18 / 1/4 sec

Sunrise at Smith Rock, Oregon

Dawn light illuminates the rhyolite formations at Smith Rock State Park outside Terrebonne, Oregon. The crooked River snakes through the park at the base of these formations. Smith Rock is a mecca for technical climbers from all over the world who love a challenge.

  • February 2nd, 2012
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • 28mm / f/18 / 1/5 sec

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