Eastern Oregon is a bit of an enigma.  On one hand, there are many grand, beautiful landscapes.  On the other, there are monotonous stretches of sagebrush steppe that extend all the way to the horizon.  Without a closer look, these stretches would be easy to dismiss as part of a landscape not worth spending much time in, let alone photographing.  

While pouring over some maps and satellite images a couple of years ago, I discovered this rarely visited dry lake bed in the Summer Lake basin.  Loco Lake is not a vast expanse like the more popular Alvord Desert or Black Rock Desert are.  Just over half a mile long, it is the dusty remains of a dried up lake.  I am not sure exactly when Loco Lake dried up, but this whole basin was connected to the ancient Lake Chewaucan, which covered much of the sagebrush basins in southeastern Oregon, from Fort Rock to Lake Abert. 

This ancient lake provided essential resources to the earliest human inhabitants of North America.  The second oldest traces of human DNA ever discovered in the America's was found in some shallow caves just four miles from Loco Lake.  14,000 Years ago, the first Americans fished and hunted in the waters of Lake Chewaucan, possibly where this very photo was taken.

Arc of Fire

Loco Lake, Diablo Mountain Wilderness Study Area, Oregon

When I approached this photo, I wanted to pay homage to the sanctity of the ancient history that this place holds.  Although Lake Chewaucan is almost entirely dried up now, even leaving reservoirs like Loco Lake barren, I wanted to show this place in its historical vibrance.  The vivid sunrise serves as a reminder of the paradise this once was, and the sprawling desert floor is a tribute to the changes of the natural world. 

Through the sky, I attempted to bring life back to an area that fosters relatively little life today.  I used a panoramic approach to capture four photographs that span the width of this colorful band of clouds.  The specific moment was rather critical as well, as the cracked mud only reflected the vibrance of the sky for a couple of minutes before fading into muted tan tones.  Capturing the reflection of the color was extremely important to bridge the relationships between my only two elements in this ultra simplistic composition.  

Each of the four photographs was captured with a Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm f/4 lens at 24mm, and Feisol Carbon Fiber Tripod at 1/5th sec, f/14, and ISO 100.

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