Deserted Oregon Desert Dessert

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Dawn on the Deschutes River, Oregon, USA

Dawn on the Deschutes River, Oregon, USA

Oregon is world famous for its stunning Pacific coastline. Lush, dripping forests thrive in the high rainfall. The surf pounds on dramatic rocky cliffs and beautiful beach towns huddle against the wind.

Fewer people outside the western USA  know the dramatic beauty of the volcanic Cascade Range that separates the coastal forests and inland valleys from the extensive arid eastern part of the state. As Pacific storms lift eastward over the massive Cascade peaks most of the moisture is condensed and dropped. This creates a classic arid ‘rain shadow’ inland of the mountains. Even fewer people know the deserts on the east side of the Cascade Range.

In reality the area is certainly not deserted. Central Oregon is a very popular recreation and retirement area. Although the current economy has slowed growth. But further to the east away from the mountains it is easy to find quiet and deserted deserts.

The Deschutes River passes through the area surrounding Bend, Oregon. It drains the melting snow on the east side of the Cascades and is the main river in Central Oregon. Downstream there are challenging rapids. In Bend the river is more tame.

This photograph was taken in Bend. I walked down to the river before dawn. Actually there was more stumbling and scrambling than walking. The brush and rocks along the bank were difficult to get through or over in the dim light.

I found this little niche next to the river and set up my tripod. I was experimenting with lenses, exposures, and shutter times as the light increased. During the several hours that I was there I took hundreds of photos. It was a beautiful clear Oregon morning. This blue sky dawn would be rare on the foggy coast, but here they are the norm.

Oddly enough this was the first photograph I took. Even with all the experimenting and the changing light this is the one I like the best. The other hundreds of photos were not a waste of time because I learned and enjoyed a beautiful morning on the river. But it still surprises me that the first photo after setting up turned out.

A long exposure is a common way to show the effect of moving water. This was a 4 second exposure at f/22. The small aperture also provided a long depth of field and kept the basaltic rock next to me in focus as well as the forest in the distance. But I also tried fast shutter speeds to freeze water splashing up from rapids. And some of those were interesting, especially after dawn when shafts of sunlight shone through the forest to spotlight little violent stretches of rapids.

It was a great morning on the banks of the Deschutes. This forest and narrow band of water don’t look like a desert, but they were deserted at dawn. And it was a visual treat, like dessert.




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