Growing up in the Bay Area I was surrounded by beauty. I knew I had family in Oklahoma, but between that and a musical named after it was all I really knew about the state. That is until I turned 14 and my family was relocated to the very center of it. My beaches and redwoods were gone, replaced by livestock and fields of crops in a town with a meager population of 10,000. It smelled and I hated it. What did my 14-year-old self really know though? As a teenager, my appreciations and aversions changed just as quickly as the Oklahoma weather.

I moved back to California when I was 25 but didn’t even make it a full year before I was homesick for Oklahoma. Somehow, unknowingly, the Sooner State and its people snuck into my heart, and so I began my return home to Oklahoma. I still miss California deeply, but I make sure to visit it as much as possible.

I’m asked rather often by strangers if Oklahoma is anything like the westerns they’ve seen on tv. The truth is, yes, in some parts (not all) of the state it still has that old western charm where residents can sometimes be seen riding their horses around their small towns. I’m now 31 years old and an award winning photographer and artist happily based in the beautiful state of Oklahoma. For my first post on Bored Panda, I thought it fitting to share a bit of my story and some of the beauty inspired by my state.

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Oklahoma City National Memorial

Out of all of the photos I have taken, this one holds my heart. I was but a child and not in Oklahoma when the bombing occurred, but I remember hearing of it. It was built to honor those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever.

Black Mesa State Park

Black Mesa State Park is unlike any state park in Oklahoma. It has mesas (obviously), rolling hills (as pictured), and is located on the borders of Colorado and New Mexico in the Oklahoma panhandle.

The Blue Whale of Catoosa.

This is a popular stop along Route 66 for tourists and locals.

Abandoned General Store

Even the nearly abandoned towns have an eerie beauty to them. This was taken in Reed, OK.

Sunset in OK

One of Oklahoma’s many famous sunsets. No birds were harmed in the taking of this photo. Those are real birds though, not photoshop.

Mountains in Oklahoma?!

We actually have mountains! Shocking, it’s not all plains here. This was taken along the Talimena Scenic Drive during fire season.

Reflections at Beaver’s Bend

Beaver’s Bend State Park is one my favorite locations of the state. The lake is surrounded by large trees on all sides. Perfect for a relaxing day of kayaking or fishing.

Robber’s Cave State Park

A former hideout for outlaws Jesse James and Belle Starr.

The World on Fire

The sunset kisses the vegetation with its last bit of warmth for the day.

Rock Lungs

One of my favorite photos from Robber’s Cave State Park. I’ve been told my several viewers that the rock formation reminds them of a set of lungs.

Crystal Clear Swimming Holes

We have crystal clear swimming holes hidden in Turner Falls State Park.

Ice Storm 2015

Even the winters are magical and seemingly transform our little slice of the world overnight.

Black Mesa State Park

More of the beautiful rock formations at Black Mesa State Park.

Flowers at Will Rogers Gardens