Montana x Fujifilm

Spring has always been one of my favorite times of the year. The bright new buds, warmer, longer days; the harshness of winter slowly fading away. I find myself outside more than the previous months. Maybe having a March birthday has something to do with the newness of the season. Whatever the reason, I find it magical.

A few months ago, I headed out to one of my favorite places, Montana, for the first days of Spring. I have friends who get antsy visiting there — they say it's too quiet — though personally, I find so much peace there. I visited a dear friend, Andrea Dabene, and we took a week to catch up, shoot, and explore the endless roads surrounding the town of Whitefish.

While I was there, I got to know the region and the new Fujifilm X-T20, shooting stills and capturing some video. Check out a video of my time there from the Fuji Guys YouTube channel:

It's not hard to get beautiful shots in Montana — amazing scenes just unfold right in front of you. And, if you're like me, it's hard to contain your excitement about a new camera. Here are some of my favorite snaps from the trip, shot on the X-T20:

A bunch of folks asked questions about the X-T20 after seeing that I was using it during the trip, so really quickly, here are my 3 favorite things about it:

• Size. This is hands-down the most powerful camera I've owned in such a compact body.

• Quality. I still get 4K video + 24MP images and the same image sensor as the X-T2.

• Flexibility. It has interchangeable lenses so I can use the entire line of Fujifilm X-Series lenses.

What’s your favorite thing about your Fujifilm camera? Where are you taking it next?

-V

Filson Women’s Weekend

A few weeks ago I received an email invitation from Emily, a friend of mine over at Filson. She was organizing a short weekend excursion to the San Juan Islands with a group of women from all over the country to connect, explore and learn more about the Filson culture and vision. 

A weekend in the San Juan Islands?! Is there anything better? I have spent years visiting these islands, but this last trip proved to be the most memorable.

Before taking off to Kenmore Air for our departure via seaplane, we met with the remarkable Aude Tabet, Filson’s new director of design to get some sneak peeks of the upcoming women’s fall line. One of my favorite things about the company is that they're intentional about every piece and its purpose. The quality and classic look is still true to their timeless American style, yet with this new line –– the shapes, textures and details are more than just an afterthought. 

After a quick lunch in the city, we headed up to Orcas Island where we spent our afternoon exploring the grounds and taking in the sweeping views right outside of our cabins. We headed over to Hogstones Wood Oven for dinner, a true farm-to-table experience and easily one of the best spots on the Island. Ps. You’ll need a reservation and you may need to wait a bit for your food, but I promise ––  it's worth it!

EARTH DAY.

I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate Earth Day than with a group of women who choose to be powerful voices and advocates for this planet we call home. I loved that we were able to spend the entire day outdoors. (It only rained for a couple hours!)

In the morning we took off on a ferry to Friday Harbor to a magical pocket of the island known as Westcott Bay Shellfish Co. We met with Erik and Andrea Anderson who so graciously shared their story and the history of the farm while guiding us on a tour of the bay and property. I was blown away by their commitment to restoring this farm as well as their patience while teaching the ladies to shuck oysters. ;) Erik grilled some fresh oysters for us as I hovered over the warmth of the grill, listening to his story while watching him work. He shared his incredible chipotle bourbon butter recipe with me which I can’t wait to revisit soon. 

A little down time was in order so we made our way back to our cabins at Doe Bay. After a mini reset, we headed toward the garden and met with the in-house gardener, Jess Townsend. Her eyes beaming, her hair a perfect pile of curls atop her head and hands covered in soil, she showed us around the farm, introduced us to her pet chickens and led us to the greenhouse where we harvested fresh greens for our dinner.

Then came my favorite part of the weekend. Dinner over an open flame with Executive Chef, Jon Chappelle. We started with sautéed baby mushrooms, burrata cheese and toasted artisan bread. (Calories don’t count at Doe Bay, right?) Jon continued to impress us ladies with his creative dishes which included grilled seafood, a hearty roast, freshly harvested salad and roasted baby potatoes –– all prepared over a campfire with wine, good company and the sun setting behind us. It was an evening to remember.

The next morning we met at Doe Bay Cafe (HIGHLY recommend.) If you are a breakfast burrito kind of person, this is your place. I know some of you take burritos very seriously and I’m telling you… this one’s a winner. After fueling up, we slowly made our way over to the van, and reluctantly said goodbye to Doe Bay before heading out on a little hike to Cascade Falls. I had never been before, but now I cant wait to get back. I like that the hike to the falls requires minimal effort. It's perfect if you simply want to stretch your legs before a long drive. 

 

As our trip to the San Juan Islands was drawing to a close, we took off on our seaplane back to Seattle. I looked around at the incredible folks surrounding me and couldn't help but think to myself, “What an honor to have met such phenomenal women and to have spent quality time exploring the islands with some of my closest friends." This weekend getaway allowed us to truly connect with the heart and vision of our friends behind Filson.

 

NEW YEAR, NEW FUJIFILM GEAR. 

My first experiences with the new Fujifilm GFX and X100F.

 

Over the last few months, I've had the opportunity to test two of Fujifilm's newest additions to the family: The new GFX 50S Medium Format camera and the new X100F fixed-lens camera. I'll update this post soon with my thoughts on each, but for now, I've made two collections on Priime with some of my favorite images from recent trips:

GFX in Hawaii: http://priime.com/veekster/fujifilm-gfx-oahu

X100F in Florida: http://priime.com/veekster/fujifilm-x100f

What do you think about Fujifilm's latest arrivals?

xx

Victoria Wright

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An Escape to the Deserts of Southern California

a collaboration with Zappos x Blundstone

 

It was a whirlwind of a week for me between work, meetings, the Adobe MAX conference, and a fun head cold. I happened to be in southern California last week and decided to meet up with some friends of mine in between all the meetings. We decided to get out of the city for a little fresh air. 

My friend, York Galland, kindly invited Kelly, Christina and I to join him and his beautiful daughter, Olive on a heli adventure to the desert. We took off in the early afternoon, and watched the commuter traffic build up below us. It was the first time I had observed traffic and found myself smiling, thinking how beautiful it looked from afar. It's all about perspective, I suppose. 

As we glided over the cityscape, I was thinking about my project with Blundstone. The goal of our collaboration and the mission of the brand is to get outside, explore, and share #HowIRoam in my favorite boots. I grabbed them on this trip thinking they would be perfect for the rugged landscapes we were promised to visit, and I'm SO glad that I did. I was able to romp around the giant rocks we found and explore the lava fields nearby without worrying about the comfort and security of my feet.

The day was exactly what we all needed. It was a little breath of fresh air; a moment of quiet. I am thankful for good friends and for the opportunity to live in a country so diverse in landscape, people and perspectives.

I can't wait to get back out there.

I have loved working with Zappos on various projects. They continuously impress me with their extremely fast shipping, the endless options they have, and how reliable they are when it comes to finding quality brands such as Blundstone

Images by Victoria Wright & Christina Hicks

Images by Victoria Wright & Christina Hicks

Want some Blundstone for yourself? You can find them here

Happy Monday!

An Escape to the Deserts of Southern California

Rescue.

Life can get hectic — especially during this time of year. With the approaching holidays, work travels, family health issues, politics and a myriad of other stress inducing factors, I certainly find myself daydreaming of escape or reminiscing of summer days fading into the distant past. The day I spent at the beach with my sister-in-law is one I revisit often. I remember strolling through a nearby coastal town soaking up some Vitamin D with the warm sun on my skin, stopping to buy some flowers at a local market before heading to the beach to simply watch the waves crash against the rugged landscape. It was bliss.

I can't always escape my busy, hectic schedule, but Rescue is my little ray of sunshine on those days when I need it. Rescue is a blend of 5 different Bach Flower Remedies created to help us relax, get focused and get through immediate stressful situations, from exams or interviews to rush-hour traffic or holiday travel. Unfortunately, avoiding these stressful life situations isn't always an option, but choosing to be present and finding natural solutions, is. Rescue is my go-to for that dose of calmness and clarity. #stressless

To find a location that carries Rescue Products, learn more here. 

In collaboration with Bach Rescue.

Hátíðin - A Celebration

Last month I had the opportunity to work with Icelandair, in one of my favorite places on Earth. I had just been named Fujifilm’s newest X Photographer, and to celebrate, Icelandair flew me nonstop from Seattle to Keflavik, Iceland. The airport is an easy 40 minutes by bus from the capital, Reykjavik — where I arrived with my X-T2 in hand to experience some of the unique, extreme conditions found there (I shared some photos from my first visit to Iceland when I wrote about making my first book!)

I brought only two cameras with me — my Fujifilm X-T2 and X-Pro2 — along with a selection of prime lenses. My friend, Dan Rubin, happened to be in Iceland house-sitting that same week, so we teamed up for a few days and I let him try out the X-Pro2 during our shoots so he could get some real-world experience with it in the wild. The locations and views we experienced completely blew me away — Iceland is always impressive, even in the cold, rain, and wind. The X-Pro2 and X-T2’s weather-sealing held up really well despite the tough conditions — these cameras continue to impress me with their ability to perform in such harsh environments.

I stayed at the brand new Canopy by Hilton in Reykjavik’s City Center (highly recommend!), not far from some of my FAVORITE coffee shops and bakeries. If you ever find yourself in Reykjavik, these are definitely worth visiting:

 

During the week we were paired up with the lovely Birgitta, a local musician and long-time employee of Icelandair, and my Celebration Stopover Buddy. The very first day she picked each of us up with her bright, welcoming smile, and drove us to coffee (at the Te & Kaffi Micro Roast). After downing one of the best Americanos I’ve had in a while, we headed out to some of Birgitta’s favorite places within a few hours of Reykjavik including Langjökull glacier, where we enjoyed a fantastic snowmobile tour (more on that below!), the geothermal wonderland of Geysir, the impressive waterfall, Gullfoss, and a last-minute diversion to Kerið (a volcanic crater filled with water), sharing tips and facts along the way. I wrapped up my trip with an evening at a restaurant named Grillmarkaourinn over one of the most incredible meals I've ever had, followed by a drive out of the city to catch a glimpse of the dancing aurora borealis.

One of my favorite and most memorable spots that week was Langjökull, the second largest glacier in Iceland. We hopped on to snowmobiles from Mountaineers of Iceland, (though all the snow had mostly turned to ice!) and explored the area in our giant orange jumpsuits. Though it started raining, and we struggled to keep the cameras dry, the photos still turned out to be some of my favorites.

My trip was brief, but Iceland is such a special place… time feels slower there. I was able to see so much in such a short amount of time, all such unique and special locations. Joel and I were able to go earlier this year and see a lot of the island as we explored with our camper (you can read about that visit here). With each visit to Iceland, I’ve returned home incredibly inspired by the landscape, people, and memories made in this special country. I’ll be back for you very soon, Iceland!

-V

My first book: Iceland

 

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to find myself in Iceland for a few days. While shooting some work for a client, I had the opportunity to shoot some personal photos along the way. I haven’t shared many of them, not unlike most of the photos I seem to hoard during my travels. I’m not sure if it's because I worry about bombarding you all, or if it feels like everyone has already traveled to and photographed Iceland. However, I can’t deny that experiencing it for myself was entirely life changing. I felt like I was on an entirely different planet.

When Blurb approached me to work on a project with their gorgeous product line, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. I think I responded to their initial email within 5 minutes with my idea. Iceland was still sitting on all of my SD/CF cards (I KNOW- I hadn’t even backed them up yet! Shame, shame.) When all was settled, (and backed up!) I started the process of making my first photo book.

I sorted through thousands of photos before getting it down to ~150 selects. I knew I didn’t want it to be that big, so I printed those out (low-res b&w on regular printer paper) just to visualize the images side by side. From there, I picked some favorites before beginning to pair them together and select which ones would be shown as a full-spread image.

It was really important for me to have creative control over what the book looked and felt like so I immediately downloaded the Adobe® InDesign® plug-in. From that point I was able to plop the selected photos into the app and then bounce from presentation mode (to see the full-sized images) to Preview, which displayed the flow of the pages as I added them in. It was starting to come together, and I couldn’t have been more excited.

I ordered a swatch kit of Blurb’s paper options before ordering my book so I could feel the texture and see the quality. I landed on the Proline Uncoated 100lb paper. The rest of the ordering process was a breeze—choosing the cover, the size, the paper— it came together quickly especially with the inspirational layouts I found on their website.

Within a week my book arrived at the doorstep. Upon opening the book, page after page, I felt so happy seeing such beautiful memories properly displayed in their new, canvas-lined home. A book has a unique way of pausing life for a moment… reminding us to savor, reflect, and slow down.

I've had a handful of you ask me if this book will be available for purchase, and though I have no definite answer at the moment, I can say that I'm working on a little something for you to enjoy until I do. I encourage you to subscribe to my blog to stay in the loop. But for now, come visit. I’ll make us a pour-over, and you can dive into the pages of a perfect, quiet little week in Iceland.

In partnership with Blurb.com. #blurbbooks

savoring the last days of summer - 2016

 

 

My work has kept me away from the PNW for a substantial amount of time this season, so when the stars magically aligned and a day cleared for both Joel and I, we hopped in the car and headed out of the city to disconnect from everything and reconnect with each other (and Ruby!). 

With no cell service, minimal crowds, and a backpack full of snacks and books, the hours passed like minutes. I couldn’t have asked for anything more than a little more time in the day. We stopped for some iced tea, hiked into one of our favorite spots, and just enjoyed the quiet.

I savor moments like these. They’re so desperately needed to balance the hectic nature of our schedules, especially this time of the year. With autumn creeping up on us, I glanced at my calendar, realized my “free” spots were quickly disappearing, and decided that I need to make a conscious effort to not let this season slip away. An effort to see the people I love. An effort to say “no" to busyness and "yes" to family and to that friend who keeps reaching out even though I embarrassingly keep rescheduling our coffee dates (you know who you are, and I'm texting you RIGHT NOW!). 

It's a seemingly simple goal, yet, as seasons fly by, I'm realizing that these are the moments that matter most and they're worth protecting. 

But that doesn’t mean summer hasn’t been amazing! From traveling around Europe to working for a few weeks in New York, it’s been a whirlwind of fun. One of my favorite projects this summer was my collaboration with Backpacks.com and I'm so excited to finally be able to share it with you.

Earlier this year they set out to build a website with a beautifully curated selection of backpacks to help you make an informed decision based on your specific needs. And you know what? It's a game-changer. I knew what I wanted from a backpack and the website helped me pick a pack that was perfect for my little day trip with Joel: the Gregory Sketch 22. Lightweight, durable, and ready to hold our precious cargo (I’m obviously talking about the snacks). Now if only the rest of my life was perfectly curated in a way to make decisions this easy…

To help celebrate the launch of the new backpacks.com, I also shared a travel story - a full recap of the trip I took to the San Juan Islands/Alaska with LLV and Natalie - on Backpacks.com. That trip was undoubtedly one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had and, (with the help of my brilliant editor John Bray) I put together an editorial piece with all the highlights. Here's a little preview:


"That night on Bear Glacier never got completely dark, lingering instead in a twilight that matched the deep glacial blues before the sun crested the horizon. We tried to suppress our excitement and get a little bit of sleep, but the magic that seems to run on every road and trail in Alaska kept us awake. Fortunately, the morning greeted us with a steady wind that remained for the rest of our time there and pushed us to explore and kayak through the region, a place that felt largely untouched and unseen.”

You can see the full story here.
 

Also, I’m planning a trip to Utah, New Mexico, and Texas in November. I would LOVE to hear your recommendations for must-see spots or your favorite coffee shops along the way. If you or someone you know is interested in working on a project, having some photos taken, or meeting up while I'm there, send me a note! (veekster@icloud.com)


xooo
V

 

In collaboration with @backpacksdotcom. #backpackjourneys

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Sore legs from a weekend hike, exciting news, and a giveaway. Not bad for a Monday. 

 

Sore legs from a weekend hike, exciting news, and a giveaway. Not bad for a Monday. 

 

North Cascades, September 2016

North Cascades, September 2016

 

It will officially be fall in just a few days and my hike this past weekend got me awfully excited for the coming season. Crisp air, much needed sunshine, a little preview of some fall foliage (its going to be so pretty this year!) and even some snow! The lingering mist, surprise rainbows and lack of cell service were just what the doctor ordered. As I mentioned on Instagram, all the images here were taken with my Fujifilm X-Pro2.

 

I have been a longtime fan of the X series and have shot with them for years, so when the folks at Fujifilm asked me to consider being a X-Photographer, I didn't even need to think about it. Needless to say, Im SO excited to join the ranks! Over the next few weeks, Ill be sharing more about what weve been cooking up, but for now

 

Lets do a giveaway!

 

Im giving away one FUJIFILM X70 camera! Like all X Series cameras, the X70 offers simple manual operation, amazing image quality, and a beautiful touch-screen display that rotates 180 degrees. It's also perfectly compact for your day-to-day adventures. You can read more about the X70 here.

 

To Enter:

 

1.     Leave a comment letting me know what youre most excited to photograph this fall

2.     The winner will be selected at random, contacted via email, and announced via an edit to this post

3.     All comments must be posted by Friday, September 23rd to be eligible to win

 

Good luck and happy fall!

 

Giveaway Update

Congrats, Aaron Durand! You are the winner of the FUJIFILM X70! Please email me at veekster@icloud.com for instructions. 

 

Thank you all who participated in the contest! Please subscribe below, so you don't miss the next one! 

 

 

Editing Session: Projects, Pancakes, and Pups

 

After a fun session in the studio and a few projects that followed, Kara and I planned our edit day.

 Edit days are some of my favorites because I try to make sure there are other people around. Sometimes, its Kara, the pups and I. Other times, a couple other friends join in, but conversation and good food are always a priority. We pick a place to meet, grab our gear (including my HP Spectre), and decide on a meal to make so we can get through a couple hours of editing.

Last Friday we met at Kara's, grabbed stuff for breakfast - a meal that we ate at 3pm because our love for pancakes is not limited to morning hours - and got to work. We snacked, edited images from our recent projects, and let the dogs play until they fell asleep.

I was excited for this round of edits because I finally got to spend a little time on the images from my last studio session with Kara and I couldn’t be happier with how everything came together. The HP Spectre has easily become part of my routine and these photos inspired me to plan a couple extra personal projects for the summer. If I set out to simply create - camera and Spectre in tow - I'm convinced that more good things will come.

I was excited for this round of edits because I finally got to spend a little time on the images from my last studio session with Kara and I couldnt be happier with how everything came together. The HP Spectre has easily become part of my routine and these photos inspired me to plan a couple extra personal projects for the summer. If I set out to simply create - camera and Spectre in tow - I'm convinced that more good things will come.

In collaboration with HP. 

Sneak Preview - Iceland

I've been hiding out at home the last few days trying to edit through some images from my big trip last month. I'm working on something special that I am excited to share with you very soon, but in the meantime I wanted to share a little preview from Iceland. I worked with CampEasy while on the Iceland leg of my trip and was able to drive around the entire island thanks to this little camper. It was a champ. 

Summer afternoons in the studio.

 

Ive been on the road for the last few months and, as much as I love exploring and seeing new places, Ive been a little sad that I havent had a single moment to get into the studio. Theres something really special about a place that's meant to be a home for creativity. Even if Ive had the worst week ever, walking through those doors makes my heart skip. The studio feels like a blank canvas... there’s just so much potential.

After settling in back home and shaking off some of my jet lag (one cup of coffee at a time), my friend Kara and I recently snagged some flowers from Sarah Jane Camancho, owner of Thatch Floral in Seattle, and dragged them up to the studio so we could play. Often, I go into photo shoots on a mission, with shots in mind, but Ive learned that its also important to schedule time in my life to just create while in the moment.

For this session, I made sure to grab my new HP Spectre before heading out the door and I’m glad I did. Being able to see my photos on that crystal clear HD screen helped me visualize the finished product and allowed me to show Kara the images in real time as I directed her between shots. Thanks to the Spectre’s battery design, I was even able to stay unplugged for the entire shoot. When I’m in the right place with the right people – and I remember to bring all the tools I need – good things happen. This little impromptu creative session was no exception. Can't wait to share more from this day with you!

For this session, I made sure to grab my new HP Spectre before heading out the door and Im glad I did. Being able to see my photos on that crystal clear HD screen helped me visualize the finished product and allowed me to show Kara the images in real time as I directed her between shots. Thanks to the Spectres battery design, I was even able to stay unplugged for the entire shoot. When Im in the right place with the right people  and I remember to bring all the tools I need  good things happen. This little impromptu creative session was no exception.

Can't wait to share more from this day with you!

In collaboration with HP.

My office is my little sanctuary. I do a lot of work from home while huddled behind a computer screen so having a space free of clutter is crucial. I am always looking for ways to improve it, aiming to make it a more inspiring place.

This month, I had the opportunity to introduce the HP Spectre laptop to my workspace. What first caught my attention with the PC was the minimal, sleek design. Its really thin. In fact, at 10.4mm, its the thinnest laptop in the world. But the Spectre is more than just beautiful design. It has a gorgeous HD display thats perfect for my photo editing (and catching up on Netflix), and its also extremely lightweight. Weighing only 2.45 lbs, the Spectre is the perfect travel companion on my days away from home.

 

Reinvent Obession with HP

Then theres the sophisticated color palette. Lately, Ive been a sucker for all things with copper, so its no surprise that I was immediately drawn to the Spectre. The ash-colored matte aluminum is complemented perfectly with the glossy copper trim and it felt right at home on my desk.

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Best of all, the beautiful, architecturally inspired details of the Spectre inspired me to freshen up my workspace. Now I just need to make another cup of coffee and get back to work! :)

 

In the market for an impressive, lightweight laptop? The HP Spectre is available here.

 

In collaboration with HP.

Alaska. June 2016. 

After a few magical days in the San Juan Islands, Natalie, Laura and I continued our trip up to Alaska and it was nothing short of incredible. I am working on a little project with one of my favorite companies to share my experience and can't wait to tell you about it soon. Here's a little preview for now! <3 

In Search of Orcas

 

A few months ago, two dear friends of mine, Laura and Natalie, started planning a weeklong trip to kayak in search of whales while also hiking and camping along the way. When they invited me to come along, I couldn't say, "no." After weeks of texting, FaceTime, and countless emails, we decided to start our trip on the San Juan Islands before heading north to the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.

Part 1: San Juan Island

 

We headed out to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island (SJI) with hopes of kayaking alongside orcas. We connected with the wonderful folks at San Juan Outfitters, hopped into kayaks, and took off on our search. We paddled our way along the west side of SJI and Henry Island, catching glimpses of wildlife and parts of the Canadian coastline along the way, but sadly we didnt see any whales. However, during our trip on the San Juan Clipper, we finally spotted some orcas! The boat slowed down and we coasted alongside them as they swam side by side. They were part of the L pod and had an orca calf in tow. This was the first time they had been spotted since before winter and it was a huge relief to the Clipper staff that the baby had survived the harsh, cold months (which isnt always the case).

 Laura took some notes about these majestic creatures while aboard the clipper:

 

The three pods of orcas that live in the area (known as the "Southern Residents") are tracked, numbered, named and can be easily recognized by those who know what to look for. According to Justine Buckmaster, a naturalist who has been guiding tours for six years and has always loved whales, each whale is recognizable by a unique dorsal fin and saddle patch, like a fingerprint. Justine also explained that each pod is named, each whale within the pod is named, and each whale is photographed yearly by the Center for Whale Research.

 

Justine was an amazing tour guide and all three of us learned a lot. One thing we all particularly loved to hear was that orca pods are led by females. The matriarch of the Southern Residents is a 100 year old orca known affectionately as Granny. Most orcas in the world only live to be about 50 or 60, so Granny is a total rockstar. Justine also told us that orcas depend on a sense of community and social acceptance. Thanks to lots of work and research from organizations like the Center for Whale Research, public opinion about orcas is changing and its now widely accepted that they should not be kept in captivity because of their social nature.

To say the least, the trip was off to an incredible start. We explored Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor - two cozy little communities on SJI - road cruiser bikes on the pier, and ate more sugar than I have in the past decade. 

A special thank you to Clipper Vacations for putting together an incredible itinerary for us, setting us up at the lovely Earthbox and connecting us with SJ Outfitters. Clipper has always been one of my favorite local companies and I'm so excited to announce that we are giving away a whale-watching experience for you and a friend -- details here

It was a trip we wont soon forget, and I know you will love it too. We can't wait to go back!

Oregon road trip with Andrea 

 

My friend Andrea and I set out for a road trip at the beginning of the May to see all that we could within a week in Oregon. Our first stops: Smith Rock State Park and Painted Hills.

It rained for hours each day as we drove to our spots, but somehow every time we reached our destination, the rain stopped. I have spent countless days on the Oregon Coast, but this part of the state left me speechless.