Landscapes - Palmer Halvorson Creative Media
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Painted Hills – John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon

While it might not make my tight definition of a Chicken Run*, my photo buddy Ken Wilson and I decided to exploit the less traveled sections of eastern Oregon plains in search of elusive photo gems. We covered a lot of ground while traveling at high velocities in my Nissan Maxima. Painted Hills was one of the last locations we hit on this weekend trip. The beautiful thing about these hills is the variety of color they can produce under different environmental conditions. Just after a little rain shower holes of light peaking through overcast sky can make things stunning. I chose a telephoto lens to feature the layers of color, juxtaposing foliage in the foreground for contrast. Let’s schedule another one Ken!


Painted Hills is one of the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, located in Wheeler County, Oregon. It totals 3,132 acres (1,267 ha) and is located 9 miles (14 km) northwest of Mitchell, Oregon and 75 miles (121 km) east of Bend. Painted Hills is named after the colorful layers of its hills corresponding to various geological eras, formed when the area was an ancient river floodplain.

The black soil is lignite that was vegetative matter that grew along the floodplain. The grey coloring is mudstone, siltstone, and shale. The red coloring is laterite soil that formed by floodplain deposits when the area was warm and humid.

An abundance of fossil remains of early horses, camels, and rhinoceroses in the Painted Hills unit makes the area particularly important to vertebrate paleontologists. -Wikipedia

*I’m not actually sure if it was Ken or I that coined the term Chicken Run but my definition might be: Driving like a mad chicken to get a shot in the margins of the day while still maintaining a regular work schedule at our days jobs. In certain areas the proximity of both locations actually makes this a viable option. Which is helpful because you usually have to visit a location repeated times to find the right conditions for a shot.

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