Dazzling color comes in Oregon Rivers, a large-format photography book from Westcliffe Publishers, which features gorgeous scenes of each of the 56 rivers and river segments in our state that have received protection through the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Larry Olson, a Lake Oswego photographer, spent eight years hiking and kayaking in to these sometimes remote regions to shoot them in all weathers and seasons. From his collection of over 18,000 images, he selected these.
Olson avoids the classical views, favoring unexpected and less well known angles, including several in which the featured river is scarcely visible. Many low-light photos required long exposures, resulting in the water becoming a silky blue blur. The Rogue appears through a misty veil of spring rain.
More than just a coffee-table book, though it has that size, quality, and price tag, Oregon Rivers adds five short essays on river history, geography, ecology, and conservation by Eugene poet and environmental writer John Daniel, who spent a season in a writer's retreat in the Rogue River Canyon in 1994.
The first essay, "Beginnings," traces not only the headwaters of the Rogue but reaches back into the mythology of creation, to sacred rivers and the earth's beginning. "Water Ways" explains the geology of Oregon, where shifting tectonic plates, volcanoes, erosion, and floods have shaped the land and its history.
Rivers, says Daniel, hold only a fraction of one percent of all water on earth—the rest being in oceans, lakes, ice caps, glaciers, etc.—a mere drop. Yet it's rivers that give life to the planet, and to Oregon.
In addition to describing the plant and animal life in our rivers, Daniel surveys the years of human residence beside them, then shows the often damaging effects.
He finishes with conservation. The 84 protected miles along the Rogue River, one of the original 12 rivers nationwide protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, have now swelled to 1,850 protected miles in Oregon, higher than average.
Still, as Daniel points out, 95 percent of Oregon river miles are still not protected.
The photo captions extend the theme of conservation, mentioning clearcuts, dams, and overgrazing damage often just out of view, plus salmon runs threatened as well as revived.
In glorifying the beautiful sections that have been saved, the book emphasizes the need for increased protection for Oregon's rivers.
"The coffee-table book of the year for Oregonians. Olson, a Lake Oswego photographer, has a passion for rivers and a knack for catching them in the best light. His photographs are beautifully composed and colorful without being too pretty. Daniel, a two-time Oregon Book Award winner, chips in a few of the essays that have made him one of the best nature writers in the West."
—Jeff Baker, The Oregonian
"Their book, then, is all the more of an accomplishment. From the first pages, it's clear that this is a special look at a timeless subject. Olson's photography is luminous, and Daniel's essays weave the history, science, and spiritual importance of rivers in a powerful, focused statement."
"This is a book of stunning, often achingly beautiful photographs and lyric prose. But it's more than pretty pictures and clever words.
Oregon Rivers is a wake-up call, a warning that we need to move quickly if we hope to show more than just photos to our children."