Landscape photographer almost dies at Thor’s Well

Two years ago I went out to shoot Thor’s Well during a rain storm. It was, at the time and still today, one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I was by myself, there was a storm coming in, and no one knew where I was or what I was doing.


Recently, someone almost died in the same exact manner I imagined a dozen or more times that day. My photos of Thor’s Well were terrible for a number of reasons, all of which came second to the main reason: I didn’t want to get close enough to get the good shot. The lighting was bad too and the sky was greyed out from the storm, but even still, it was acute awareness of the possibility of being sucked down 30 feet into that hole that kept me from getting in a good position.

I knew my shots were going to be terrible and this photo does not show the enormous scale of the hole itself:


I must have stood out there for an hour, safely back from the water, watching that hole suck down water and shoot it back up again every so often. it was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen. It was raining sideways by the time I left.

On that same Oregon trip when I tried to shoot Thor’s Well, I also shot at the Oneonta Gorge. Someone had died there the year before climbing the mountainous, slippery logjam that you have to cross to access the rest of the canyon. In the summertime, I’m sure this is easier as it’s drier. In the spring, during a series of storms, it took an hour to get up and over the logjam. On the other side, glacier-water up to your chest awaited.


The thing about nature, especially the places I seem to go to often (Death Valley, deep in the Mojave desert, Costa Rican jungles, far-away mountain slot canyons) is that it only takes a second to go from a “Lovely afternoon stroll/photoshoot” to “I almost died today.”

I understand weather patterns more than the average person, and I understand going out alone can be dangerous and sometimes the last thing you’ll ever do. I try to keep that in mind every time I set out. I’ve been lost in the mountains, I’ve had flat tires in Death Valley, I’ve been in a slot canyon during monsoon season. I’ve been prepared for [almost] all of those times but that doesn’t make them any less scary.


I’m glad that dude is okay but jeebus. Seeing that GIF brought back all those memories. Why can’t I have a normal hobby?

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2 Responses to Landscape photographer almost dies at Thor’s Well

  1. jean Unterseher new Orleans LA. says:

    My grandson a student at Lewis n Clark is a hopeful film maker. While camping n photographing Thor’s well he was hit by a wave, slammed into rocks n was going down. His roommate dragged him out. Is in hospital with 7 broken bones. Bones r set but he is now awaiting a skin graft. Treacherous experience. This happened Feb. 10th 2017.

    • HOLY SHIT. I am so glad he’s ok. I was so scared out there when I shot there it was unreal. He is so, so lucky. Wow. How’s he doing now (I’m just seeing this on March 4th.) And, dare I ask, did he get a good shot before he went down?

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