Naturalist photographer Hugh Paradise captured a breathtaking perspective from a tough spot. Jean Sherrard repeated the shot decades later.
I IMAGINE MANY Pacific NW readers have explored the region’s adventurous roads and highways. And I’m confident that among these explorers, several will have driven to within a few feet of this week’s featured subject, but then missed it.
Our “then” photo was shot by photographer-essayist Hugh Paradise. It takes about 2½ hours to drive to this spot, a half-paved shoulder about 200 feet above the Yakima River. Sensibly, the Washington State Department of Transportation does not encourage parking here. It can be found by following the ensuing instructions:
About 4 miles south of Ellensburg, the now-nearly-century-old Yakima River Canyon Road, while keeping for the most part close to the river, follows the eroding trout stream’s serpentine cut through the Umtanum Ridge. The ridge takes up most of the skyline in both of our photos. The highway curves its way through about 10 oxbows (that is 20 curves, some of them hairpins) on its way to the lower Yakima Valley. After about the eighth curve, the Canyon Highway reaches the landmark Red’s Fly Shop, which is actually a sumptuous lodge, and begins a half-mile climb to the unmarked parking spot from which our “now” photo was taken. At the top, if you suddenly enter a highway regrade that cuts through the bluff you were just ascending, you have gone a few feet too far. Turn around, and try again.
Paradise was born in 1912 in Montana and died in Seattle in 1979. His obituary described him as a “retired free-lance writer and photographer, who resided in the Seattle area for over 40 years.” I have studied and admired Paradise since a friend shared a few hundred of his negatives with me several years ago.
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His name fits. Paradise wrote short essays illustrated with his photographs for Sunset magazine. An appreciative Sunset editor described him to me as “poetic.” Paradise married Anne Marie Van Cleve in 1942. He frequently posed her in the middle distance of the Northwest landscapes that attracted him. Paradise also was exceptionally smart. He belonged to Mensa and the Triple Nine Society, societies for people with high intelligence scores. His obituary describes his “major interest” as “the world about him.”
Paradise had a breathing condition that prevented him from ranging far into the scenery he photographed. For this photo high above the Yakima, he was forced to stay near the side of the road. In the 1960s, this magazine’s predecessors, The Seattle Times “Charmed Land Magazine” and The Seattle Times “Color Rotogravure, the Sunday Pictorial Magazine,” published several examples of Paradise’s intimate art. While I never met him, I continue to collect his photos.