Oregon is famous for the distinctness of its four seasons. Spring, with its rush of growth and renewal; summer’s brief but merciless sunny sting; fall’s passive-aggressive decay; and winter’s long and beautiful clutch. But it wasn’t always so. In fact, 35 million years ago, Oregon was decidedly tropical – more akin to Hawaii than the fresh pine forests we know and love.

Near the eastern Oregon town of Mitchell is a prehistoric flood plain where soil deposited during alternating wet and dry seasons created a wonder that people come from across the world to see. The Painted Hills are known for their bands of color that seem to change with the light. They’re beautiful, to be sure, but less recognized is what the bands reveal about the unique geology of this place.

This image is composed to show the correlation between the layers and the dominant slope of the land around them. It tells the story of this prehistoric flood plain and the cycles of deposit and erosion that continue even today.