Grant’s Getaways: Remembering Oregon photographer Steve Terrill

Terrill’s work has been published in books and hundreds of magazines, including Audubon, Sierra Club, and National Geographic.

PORTLAND, Ore – Steve Terrill’s love affair with Oregon was deep and lifelong. It was seen many times when visiting the top of Rowena Crest in the Columbia River Gorge.

Not so long ago he was strolling down a stretch of path that stretched toward the magnificent Columbia River. He stopped every few meters to admire the incredible riot of color that had broken out.

“It’s an explosion of color out here, isn’t it,” exclaimed an excited Terrill during a morning photography excursion to Tom McCall Preserve in Rowena. “All the flowers are outside and blooming. It’s like a rebirth of the world … so beautiful out here. ”

Steve Terrill’s field routine was smooth, precise and efficient. His tripod, his camera and his view of the lens seemed like smooth extensions of his soul. He told me that the beauty of the windswept plateau and the sprawling 200 hectare area was mind-boggling.

“I could be out here for hours! I love being in the canyon in spring. I really do! “

Terrill ventured here in the greater Pacific Northwest for over 40 years.

He especially loved showing us how great a place in Oregon could be; From its distant horizons to harsh landscapes to places where light and shadow simply take your breath away.

Steve’s was a dream job! He was a longtime freelance photographer chasing perfect light from the Siskiyou Mountains to the Snake River, from the Columbia River Estuary to the wilderness of the Owyhee River Country.

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“I was born and raised in Portland,” he told me on a bright, sunny late April morning in the gorge. He collected images for his annual, self-published “All Oregon” calendars.

Northeast Portland, actually, and I love Oregon’s variety of shapes and colors and the vastness of the landscapes. If I can keep the money and jobs in Oregon as a freelancer, I’ll help us all a little. “

Over the decades, he produced tens of thousands of his All Oregon calendars that grace homes and offices around the world.

Terrill also featured his Oregon pictures in numerous books and hundreds of magazines, including Audubon, Sierra Club, and National Geographic.

He showed places that most people could only dream of; Images that looked and felt like treasures from Steve’s heart to ours.

Terrill died peacefully on January 5th after a tragic and protracted illness.

But his career has burned so hot for so long; Beginning with a catastrophic event that marked a moment for millions: May 18, 1980 on the mountain. St. Helens.

At that time, the budding professional camped with a small son in tow and a pass in the red zone on May 17th at Spirit Lake at the foot of Mt. St. Helens.

In 2005 he told me he thought he did it: sit in the front row of the mountain!

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But his little son Steve said they were in a bad place: “I just didn’t want to be there. You know it was one of her gut feelings. “

Elder Steve commented, “I was fucking crazy thinking I had the Pulitzer Prize there, I’m just sitting there and if something happens it’ll be great!”

So, unfortunately, he packed up and moved their camp for miles. They drove back the way in the dark and made a new camp.

The next morning, the mountain exploded in the history books and Terrill learned a tragic truth: Spirit Lake was buried under a mountain full of ash!

His voice was trembling: “I’m getting emotional! We were at Spirit Lake the night before and if it hadn’t been for my son I would never have gone and I – we wouldn’t be here now! Boy have i ever hugged my son “Said the emotional terrill. “I didn’t know what else to do! 25 years and I still come like this. “

As that day went on, so did Steve.

“The ashes were incredible and I saw lightning strike everywhere. The eruption created its own weather patterns. You feel that this was the beginning of man! “

Terrill got his shots. In fact, he got hundreds of them, including his most famous, which was later exhibited in the White House.

Terrill thanked his lucky stars for listening to a little boy for an important moment. “I recorded the story, but I would not have recorded it without my son. We would have been history. “

For nearly 30 years we caught up with him many times in many locations in Oregon.

I always found friendship!

Like the small back streets where small paths lead to great discoveries.

We met once on Highway 202 just off Highway 26 and then slowly snaked our way through the mountains to reach Lee Wooden Park. Steve was especially drawn to the breathtaking and beautiful Fishhawk Falls, which sped over the exposed and jagged ancient basalt.

“I capture what nature shows in front of me,” said the famous photographer. “That’s really all I do. Everybody can. Just open your eyes and look at the various things that really make this a natural backdrop for my photography. “

Cascade Mountain Trails were also Steve’s favorite hangout spots.

On another trip, we brought cameras and tripods to capture the locations along the four mile round trip to the Blue Pool.

“When I go into the forest, I walk slowly and look at things and go up and down. There are literally thousands of photographs – of reflections on the water, the alders and white bark, the lichen and the moss, the wood slightly discolored by the water. It’s a series of beautiful subjects and I feel like a little kid; always explore – always, “said Terrill.

The four mile hike paid off with amazing clarity at the birthplace of the McKenzie River called Blue Pool.

In the Blue Pool, also known as the Tamolitch Pool, the McKenzie River seeps to the surface through subterranean lava fields that flowed through the landscape eons ago.

Terrill gave a tip: “I am looking for something in the foreground that piques your interest and only captures the essence of where we are.” Most recently, and unfortunately for the last time, we joined him in the land of giants.

“Wow, wow, wow, wow,” Terrill exclaimed.

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He had never been here before. His eyes widened with wonder and pride as he stared at two rows of giant sequoias that stand like sentries just off Porter Road near Forest Grove. The trees are more than 140 years old and the little child shone through again.

“Just to get under and into these trees and show the beautiful, twisted, gnarled bark and twigs they each have. It looks almost magical and when you go in there you are almost in a magical forest. “

More than once I asked Steve, “What’s your secret?”

He smiled, winked and replied ironically, “Just set it up and be patient. That’s all I can say, be really patient. “

Steve Terrill was an Oregon sweetheart, and he makes us all the richer.

Be sure to follow my adventures in Oregon on Grant’s new Getaways Podcast as I share behind-the-scenes stories from nearly four decades of television coverage.

For more information on many of our favorite Oregon trips and adventures, check out the Grant’s Getaways book series, including Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures, Grant’s Getaways: A Guide to Wildlife Viewing in Oregon, and Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures with the kids . With hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon, the collection promises to keep a child of all ages engaged.

My next book, Grant’s Getaways: Another 101 Oregon Adventures, will be published in 2022.

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