Like waking up insanely early and driving 2 hours to catch sunrise in an amazing place.
|Flower fields before sunrise (can you spot the old car?)
Last May I discovered the Dalles Mountain Ranch, part of Washington's Columbia Hills State Park. East of the Cascade Mountains, it's wide-open grassland erupts into a colorful carpet of wildflowers each spring.
|The sunrise shot
Our lack of winter and earlier-than-normal spring meant wildflowers were blooming nearly a month ahead of schedule. I caught wind of flowers peaking at the ranch, and scanning the weather, took vacation on the sunniest day that week.
|First light on the old auto
Arriving in the chilly pre-dawn, I was pleased to discover there were now highway signs guiding visitors to the correct road, and a brand-new parking lot, complete with a restroom!
|Morning light on lupine
Although I'd beaten the sunrise, it wasn't too far away, and I quickly gathered my equipment. I wanted to capture the sunrise from a beautiful vantage point. After debating locations the entire drive, pulling into the site, I instantly knew the place. That old car!
The Dalles Mountain Ranch offers tons of photographic opportunities. But none are as famous as one rusted old car, left to rot in a fabulous wildflower field. Last year, I spent the better part of a morning hunting for the auto and was ultimately successful in finding it's location. This time around, I knew exactly where to look.
|Old farm view through the fence
Hefting my tripod and backpack I hotfooted through fields and over fences to where the auto lay. The eastern sky was lightening, and birds were singing their morning songs. So very tranquil. A wonderful way to greet the day!
The auto was surrounded by a sea of yellow and purple. Balsamroot and lupine were blooming profusely. The flower show was just as good, if not better, than last year. A giant patch of lupine was growing along the fenceline and appeared to be at peak bloom. Suddenly it came to me - I had my sunrise shot.
|The entire hillside is yellow
Noticing the eastern hills were getting brighter by the minute, I quickly erected my tripod and pointed it towards the lupine field. Not two seconds later, the first rays of light began breaking over the horizon.
|Loved the light on these flowers
I'd hoped to capture a sunburst, and was able to fire off a half dozen shots before the sun rose over the hills. Now that it was up, I turned my camera around to catch warm morning light illuminating the flowers and car.
Then I wandered through adjacent fields, shooting everything that caught my eye. These old oak trees, with their gnarly branches, were particularly striking.
|Old fences made good subjects
As was this weathered, tumble-down fence. A nearby patch of brightly colored flowers didn't hurt either!
|Lit up lupine
Having shot the usual compositions that almost every photographer captures, I tried some different angles. I kind of liked this one, shot through the barb wire.
|Classic old car photo
But couldn't resist a couple of classic poses.
|Downhill views were mighty fine too!
The wild, rolling grasslands captivated me. Living in Portland, enclosed by buildings, tall trees, and lush greenery, there's something freeing about these wide-open landscapes. Reminds me of my home state of South Dakota.
|View through the window
Getting up early has it's benefits. I had the car and it's flower fields all to myself for nearly three hours. But just as I was finishing up, I spotted a silhouette ambling along the fenceline. Another lady had arrived. Time for me to move on.
|Lupine stand tall and proud
It's interesting - this rusty car's location used to be such a secret. I think the cat's been let out of the bag. Later that day, I noticed at least a dozen cars parked nearby, and probably just as many people with tripods fanned out around the auto. (And this was on a Thursday morning.)
But by that time, I'd moved on to the old ranch buildings and dazzling flower fields nearby. Which you'll get to see in my next post.
More photos to come! Stay tuned!
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