[/caption] While the weather was rather cold and wet in the Willamette Valley and snowy in the Cascades during the Christmas holiday, I found myself back in Arizona enjoying a rather warm Christmas. The high on Christmas was 78 degrees so I started wondering why I ever moved away from Arizona. Oh, yea! The summer’s last 6 months and there isn’t any water, ocean or much vegetation around the Phoenix metro area. However, it was nice to spend a week in the sun. I found time to hike in the Lost Dutchman State Park as well as in the San Tan mountain preserve. However, the best part was spending two separate days 4 Wheeling in the Sonoran Dessert. I was surprised that I took most of my best photos on these trips. We spotted dozens of old mines and old mine shafts on these remote trails. We also came across several old mining cabins and wagon stops. The best part was visiting what looked like an old Silver mining operation that was amazingly in very good condition. Since we followed several different creek beds, there were a lot of trees and different types of vegetation that you normally won’t find in the desert. The weather was about 70 degrees but I could just imagine how hot it gets near these dry creek beds. The temperatures could easily top 120 degrees due to the heating of the rocks in all directions. I could just imagine that it would be like standing in a convection oven. Since it was almost impossible to take any good photos while I was being bounced around in the jeep, I found that I was able to take several good shots whenever we stopped long enough for me to point my camera and start shooting. We did stop several times whenever we came to a point of interest so this gave me enough time to get some really great photos of some areas that probably don’t get many photographers. I took this shot while standing inside a small cave that was carved out by the creek. The sun was just above the top of the cave so I moved far enough back that I could bring out the blueness of the sky and the reds in the rocks without getting any glare. I was using my Canon T1i Rebel along with my Canon 18-55mm lens. I attached my UV, warming and CIR-PL filter to help enhance the sky and rocks. Since the glare was pretty intense, I made sure that I had my lens hood attached. The desert is a perfect example of why you should always use a CIR-PL as well as a warming filter whenever needed. The warming filter enhances the redness of the rocks and the PL brings out the blueness of the sky, without creating any glare from the sun. I had the camera in Program mode so the F stop was at F-6.3 and the shutter was at 1/100 second. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -0.3. I never had a chance to use my tripod since we were always on the go. However, I would have used it several times if I would have had the time. I can only imagine how colorful the Tortilla mountains are during spring. I could see all of the desert plants that bloom during the springtime and I hope to be back this spring.
[/caption] I spent only one day visiting the John Day Fossil Beds and even though there are 3 different units throughout the area I only had enough time to visit one of them. The Painted Hills are the closest from Central Oregon and the easiest to get to. I also figured that the Painted Hills were the most interesting to photograph and I wasn’t disappointed. If you haven’t ever been here, I highly recommend it. Even if you aren’t a photographer, this is a spectacular place to visit. There is a hike that takes you about 3/4 of a mile above the Painted Hills and provides a 360 degree panoramic view of the entire area. You would never imagine that you’re in Oregon when visiting this place. It looks more like a colorful image of what the moon might look like. The colorful striped Painted Hills began as ash that erupted from the ancestral Cascades 33 million years ago and eventually settled in a massive lake here. The red color is from iron and the black from manganese and the yellow claystone was colored by trace minerals. Since you aren’t allowed to hike among the Hills, you can see several trails cut by the wildlife that lives in the area. I spent most of the day trying to figure the best position and area to photograph the Hills. In this photo, I made sure to get spectacular Sutton mountain in the background as well as the blue sky hovering above this ancient land. I’m not sure of the elevation of Sutton mountain but I’m pretty sure it’s at about 5,500 feet. I took over 1500 pictures and I’m still going through them but I thought this best shows the color of the Hills as well as the mountains that dominate the Painted Hills Unit. I never used my tripod since the sun was pretty bright and most of my shots were panoramic shot. I also didn’t have the patience to set up my tripod since I was constantly moving. I was like a kid in a candy store on this trip. I was using my uv filter as well as my warming filter and my CIR-PL. I had my 18-55mm lends on my Canon and had the focal length at 55mm. I had the ISO at 100 and I had to have the white noise menu at -1 due to the brightness of the sun. I had the auto setting on and the shutter speed was taken at 1/200 second. I was near the top of the upper part of the plateau when I took this shot and there was no shade to block out the sun. I pretty much had to just mess around with my camera when trying to get the best shots possible. If I had the time, I would have spent an entire week visiting the entire John Day Fossil Beds as well as many of the old ghost towns in the area.