Photography and photojournalism in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest

Chaos at Spirit Falls

Spirit Falls-5

For landscape photographers it’s often true that the more difficult it is to reach a destination, the more rewarding the images turn out to be. Spirit Falls in Skamania County, Washington, definitely falls into this category. With no real established trail, and a demanding hike down into the canyon carved out by the Little White Salmon River, it is hard on the knees but very much worth the effort.

This spot is a favorite of extreme kayakers, who like nothing more than to run the 35-foot waterfall before plunging downstream through a notorious section of Class 5 rapids known simply as Chaos. The beginning of this section is shown above earlier this month after a heavy rain, and it’s easy to see where the name came from. It’s mesmerizing to watch the river plunge, churn and spit streams of water in all directions. Capturing this required faster shutter speeds than I normally use for waterfalls, but the resulting explosions of water made for some pretty captivating images.

In the photo above, shot at f/8 and 1/8th of a second, it’s easy to almost feel the icy water about to drench the camera’s lens. That’s what happened, and I was pretty thankful for the handy rain cover over my D700. Shots like this made the 600 foot vertical climb back out of the canyon a bit easier to manage, and I’m definitely looking forward to returning here when the water level is a bit lower.

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