This is a very special portraits blog post for our photographer Steven! He and his father were finally taking their big vacation road trip together this year, which started from Seattle to San Francisco! One of the stops on this awesome trip was a small town (VERY small town) by the name of Frenchglen, Oregon! Believe it or not, this town has an official population of 11… It’s hard to believe that destinations like this still exist, but you can absolutely feel the stress of traffic and everyday life melt away as soon as you park your car in Frenchglen. It’s surrounded by wide open desert and the views of the Steens Mountain range! The main reason for our visit was to enjoy Oregon’s dark skies out there! Eastern Oregon is home to one of the last remaining truly dark skies, unaffected by any light pollution whatsoever, which is a rare treat in the continental US, given the growing level of light pollution planet-wide. Frenchglen happens to sit right in the middle of what’s called a Bortle Scale 1 sky area, which is as dark and ancestral as the starry nights get! It’s also home to the Frenchglen Hotel State and Heritage Site, which is a quaint bed and breakfast nestled on the main street of town, offering quite possibly the best bed/breakfast meals we’ve ever had. The manager of the hotel cooks everything fresh for guests, and on the first evening, Steven and his dad were happy to sit in the lobby and enjoy the first dinner. Frenchglen Hotel serves a family-style meal, so all guests of the hotel sit together and have the chance to meet and chat.
To Steven’s left was a very sweet couple, Shellie, and another Steven! We got to talking with all of the other guests at the table, but Steven and Shellie’s story really stood out to us. Steven is currently battling Stage 4 cancer, and his wife Shellie insisted that they start knocking out all of the bucket list items in Steven’s life. Traveling to Eastern Oregon and seeing some dark skies was one of those items, and Steven offered to caravan the whole guest list to a great stargazing location nearby. Turns out, Steve’s birthday was actually the next day, so our photographer Steven offered a portrait session for them both, and told them to dress however they like! Steve came with a great cowboy hat, perfect for the western scenery Frenchglen offers. They did such a great job in front of the camera, and you could really feel the love between them both. Photographer Steven asked them for a quick story about his journey with cancer, and Steve was sweet enough to write this for us:
“My name is Steven G. Copeland. I live in Redmond Oregon. Just a little bit of my background: In April 2022 I had some lower back pain. I was working as a custodian at Redmond High School of which by I started with them in 2020. The profession I was working at before the school was construction. I figured I had strained my back, as with construction you lift heavier items than you probably should. I also knew that I had a herniated disc in my back so I figured I aggravated that too. I went to see my doctor, he decided to do a CT scan with contrast. My doctor called me less than an hour later to inform me that from what he could see it looked like stage 3, possibly stage 4 cancer of the bladder. It had metastasized into my lymph system in my lower abdomen. The cancer had spread into the ureter tube in my right kidney and was causing it to die. I saw the urologist on a Tuesday and by Thursday I was going in for emergency surgery. It was confirmed that it was stage 4.
My wife Shellie and I were married in July of 2021. We first went to the Frenchglen Hotel in 2020. Upon returning to the Hotel this year, Shellie and I were blessed with meeting Steven Miller and his father, Jeff. Our lives are fuller for the new friendship.I started my chemo sessions in June of this year. I won’t lie, it’s been hard. I know that the Lord, He is with me through all of my journey and procedures. I believe that even when I’m flat on my back, I’m still looking up to heaven. To the Lord, cancer isn’t bigger than He is. It’s not on a higher level than anything else and it’s all under the blood of Jesus.
I’m looking forward to many more years visiting Frenchglen Hotel and the surrounding area. I hope to one day a reconnect with Steve and Jeff.”