n October of 2001, President Clinton was presented a
framed print of my ‘Garden of Light’ while
signing into law the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management
and Protection Act. This Act secured formal protection
for much of Steens Mountain proper.
Rewind back 9 years. In late July 1993, my cousin Dan
Fontanini and I went to photograph at Steens Mountain
in southeastern Oregon. As we drove up the dirt road
that leads to the summit, we were joined by mountain
blue birds flying beside us for several miles, as if
guiding us to our destination.
The winter snow pack of 1992-93 was huge in much of
Oregon and Steens Mountain was no exception. When we
arrived, the top of the loop road was still blocked
by snow. With deep snow comes the potential for great
summer wildflowers, my primary motivation for this trip.
We spent two days scouting and exploring hoping the
brilliant sun and high winds would give way to clouds
and calm. On our third day, the snow block was finally
cleared and we were able to reach the south end where
flowers were reported to grow in profusion in a good
snow year. We explored the area and found wonderful
flowers in several locations. Eventually I found the
composition for ‘Garden of Light’ and did
a test set up. Yes, this was it! Still, the weather
was not cooperating.
Feeling disappointed and running out of time we moved
farther down the mountain to camp, with plans to leave
the following morning. We awoke to change. Looking up
the mountain, we could see a few clouds developing.
We looked at one another and asked the question. Shall
we? The answer was an emphatic YES, that echoed through
the trees. Camp was quickly broken and we were moving
up the mountain in anticipation.
I got to ‘the spot’ and set up my camera.
My body was pulsing. Then, this astounding sunlight
came shining down the gorge. I finished my preparation
and just before I began shooting, the sunlight disappeared.
I was beside myself. I calmed down and convinced myself
it had to come back one more time. I was ready. Then
suddenly, the light came back. I quickly exposed one
sheet of film and flipped my film holder over to access
another. Before I could get the second sheet exposed,
the light disappeared.
‘Garden of Light’ is the result of this
brief and beautiful blessing, and is my exquisite reward
for four days of patience and persistence.