Days of planning. Hours of climbing. One minute of perfection. How a small team of athletes and photographers pulled off the most iconic image of Eclipse 2017.
Surely by now, you’ve seen it. And surely at first, you didn’t quite believe what you were seeing.
A rock climber on Monkey Face at Central Oregon’s iconic Smith Rock State Park silhouetted by the total solar eclipse. An unbelievable image combining a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event with the creativity, inspiration, athleticism, and determination of a small group of photographers and climbers.
One of those photographers was Ted Hesser, a freelancer from San Francisco. He was in Central Oregon for the eclipse as part of project with Columbia Sportswear and Goal Zero, a solar and portable power products business. According to Hesser, he and his crew scouted the location for several days trying to find just the right place to capture a climber in harmony with the sun.
“My girlfriend and I scouted for a few days ahead of time, climbing different rock routes, looking for the best angles,” Hesser told us. “We then spent a few days rigging up the wall and finding the perfect position for the shot down below.”
Getting a climber into the right position was no easy feat – even for experienced climbers.
“Monkey Face is a famous tower for rock climbers. For many years, it held the hardest rock climb in the U.S. and perhaps the world – a 5’14 sport climb, which is a level only dozens of people can climb even today,” Hesser said. “The route that my girlfriend Martina Tibell and Tommy Smith climbed was much easier than this, but still involved an overhanging 100 ft section of aid climbing. Fairly advanced rope skills are required, and a lot of effort. One essentially does pull-ups to get up by pulling on quick draw placed into a bolt ladder. The rest of the route is straightforward for those who have mountaineering experience, but totally wild. ”
Hesser wasn’t alone in the project, joined by fellow photographers Andrew Studer and Michael Shainblum. Hesson told The Oregonian that the group started their efforts at 3:30 a.m. but weren’t allowed into the park until 5:30. Smith and Tibell started climbing around 7.
“Both Andrew and I had similar concepts in mind for the eclipse shot coming to Smith Rock. I have been a climber for 20 years, and so the idea of capturing someone on top of Monkey Face, which is an iconic tower for rock climbers, was really appealing to me,” he said.
As the moment of truth neared and the moon slowly began covering the sun, the group still wasn’t convinced they were going to get the money shot they hoped for.
But as darkness fell upon the path of totality, there was Smith – perfectly positioned in line with the moon and the sun.
“Tommy, it’s perfect, man. You’re in the pearly necklace of the eclipse,” Hesser radioed to his teammate above with the sounds of cheers echoing through the rocks. “It’s outrageous.”
Once Hesser posted his photo on social media, it quickly went viral. To date, the post has more than 60,000 likes on Instagram, 75,000 likes and nearly 96,000 shares on Facebook.
He gained tens of thousands of followers within hours. And as soon as the armchair critics started questioning the authenticity, Hesser, Studer and Shainblum were able to quickly douse the haters with videos documenting the planning and the moments the image was captured.
Days later, Visit Central Oregon’s apparel partner Columbia Sportswear, posted this short video documenting the event as well.
“Totally surprised by the reaction,” he said. “I was shooting the event for Goal Zero and mostly just wanted to do a good job by them, I had no idea this would go this big. I’ve tried to bask in the popularity but honestly ‘going viral’ is a rather stressful situation! There are a lot of real-time demands for one’s time/attention. Looking forward to things settling down a bit soon I imagine.”
Hesser’s Instagram feed is filled with breathtaking images from his adventures around the world. Yet, his most popular post involved something other-worldly.
And like many people who have described the eclipse as “life changing,” Hesser expects the experience to have a lasting effect on him too.
“I’ve never spent this much time planning and setting up for one shot. This experience has taught me how powerful that process can be,” he said. “I’m not sure what I will do with that insight yet, but it definitely makes me think that I can dig deeper and take more powerful images with proper planning and foresight.”
More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.
Smith Rock Ranch & Other Fall Experiences in Terrebonne and Beyond
If you grew up in Central Oregon, chances are that you picked your perfect jack-o-lantern pumpkin at Smith Rock Ranch—a huge pumpkin patch with spectacular views located in Terrebonne. But this Central Oregon pumpkin patch wasn’t always so grand. Farmer Matt Lisignoli grew up as a city kid in northeast Portland, and dreamt up the idea to start his first pumpkin patch on a rented farm in Redmond in 1998. While some people thought Lisignoli was crazy to farm pumpkins in the high desert, the operation, then called Central Oregon Pumpkin Patch, was a success.
Your Guide to Biking in Redmond, Oregon
Redmond, Oregon is located in the high desert between Bend to the south and Terrebonne—home of Smith Rock State Park—to the north. The city is perfectly situated to explore Central Oregon’s biking trails. As a lesser known destination for outdoor recreation, Redmond can sometimes feel like a local’s secret playground, featuring tons of trails to explore. From a pump track in town to the nearly limitless access to the nearby mountain biking trails of Central Oregon, avid bikers should consider a stop in Redmond for some adventure.
Favorite Year-Round Mountain Bike Spots
When winter comes and the snow falls, some of Central Oregon’s popular mountain biking trails become a little too muddy to ride – which means some of the unheralded spots in the region get a little more love. Places like Smith Rock can get scorching hot (and quite crowded) in the summer making it a great spot to head come winter. Want some good locals tips on where to ride? Ask the folks at Hutch’s Bicycles, Pine Mountain Sports or The Hub Cyclery for the 4-1-1, or set up a tour with Cog Wild Mountain Bike Tours and Shuttles.
The Ultimate Guide to Pumpkin Patches in Terrebonne, Oregon
Nothing signals the coming of fall quite like spending the day at a pumpkin patch. It’s tough to not feel the cozy spirit of the season when you’re solving a festive corn maze while bundled up and sipping a hot apple cider. Pumpkin patches in Central Oregon benefit from our desert climate and still get plenty of sunshine, even in late October. While smaller family farms all around the region will sometimes host fall events, the two most popular pumpkin patches both reside in Terrebonne: the Smith Rock Pumpkin Patch and the DD Ranch Pumpkin Patch.
How to Beat the High Desert Heat
During the dog days of summer, one of your best options to beat the heat is to head up to the high lakes and splash around. But when you’re on vacation with the family sometimes all you want to do is go and relax at the pool. Luckily, Central Oregon has a handful of great places to soak up the sun in between cooling off in the water.
Central Oregon Golf: Best Par 3s
Play a good golf course and chances are that when you’re back at the 19th hole, you’re talking about the Par 3s. The short one you made double on. The bear where you snaked in a 20-footer for your only birdie all month. They’re the “short” holes that can make or break a round. Some of the signature holes on the Central Oregon Golf Trail are Par 3s. Here’s a look at some of the best.
Pumpkin Patches + Petting Zoos = Fall Family Fun
As soon as the first hint of autumn rolls around, my three kids ask on a regular basis when we can go to the pumpkin patch. This is not simply because they’re eager to gather Halloween décor. To my kids (all under the age of 12), fall means visiting the farm and getting all the animal petting, ropes course playing and barbecue eating they can squeeze into one afternoon.
Outward Bound in the City: Central Oregon’s 5 Best Urban Hikes
Hiking in Central Oregon can take you deep into the wilderness, far away from worry and stress. But sometimes all you need is a quick break from reality…just a half hour or so outside in nature, on a trail, alone with your thoughts (or with your dog, husband and two kids.) There are hundreds of hikes and trails available in and around Bend, Oregon and Sunriver, Oregon. These “Urban Hikes” are the perfect remedy to slow down our all-too-busy lives.
Winter Isn’t Only About Snow in Central Oregon
It’s true that when winter rolls around in Central Oregon, most people’s minds veer toward things to do in the snow. With Mt. Bachelor, Hoodoo, sno-parks and more, there’s plenty of options for folks to get out and play.
Central Oregon Hiking Trails
Head east on Highway 20 (Greenwood Avenue) to the Pilot Butte State Park. The parking area and trailhead are just east of the butte. Walk on either the nature trail or the paved road. The road is also for vehicle traffic, weather permitting. It is a wonderful viewpoint for the entire Bend area. This hiking trail is one of the most popular in Central Oregon.