Photography and photojournalism in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest



Fire up the waterfront

Fire up the waterfront

Steel wool spinning creates some intriguing images, especially when you’re already in an interesting environment. This shot was taken on the east bank of the Willamette River in downtown Portland just north of the Morrison Bridge. With the last remnants of the blue hour in the sky, the flaming wool makes for some really colorful light painting.


The Dog Days of Christmas

Dog Days of Christmas


It was so nasty outside here in the Portland area on Christmas day I felt like I had to go search out some snow. That took me 40 miles east into the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington side of the river, where I spent maybe 20 minutes photographing Dog Creek Falls, above, as it got dark. This is jokingly referred to by some as an “old man’s” waterfall because it requires about a 25-yard “hike” from the highway to get down to the creek itself. In the fall, salmon and steelhead can be seen struggling up the creek, which is barely a foot deep, even now in December. With a coating of snow, though, this spot takes on a darker appearance overall because of the heightened contrast.

It’s a fun little spot to pull into for a spell, just one of many along SR 14 east of Stevenson. Skamania County is one of the best spots in the Pacific Northwest for its concentration of waterfalls; Dog Creek Falls is just the beginning.

Lower Lewis River Falls is a photographic favorite

Lower Lewis-6 Web

Lower Lewis River Falls is just one of several noteworthy Pacific Northwest waterfalls on the Lewis River west of Mt. Adams in southwest Washington, but it’s probably the most widely known because of its unique geology.

Lower Lewis-5 web copyThis provides it with its distinctive multi-cascade appearance, as well as the mossy rock shelf that allows one to walk out into the river until you reach the edge of the splash pool. A virtual black hole, the pool beneath the falls is full of currents that could potentially disappear the unwary.

Oregon and Washington landscape photographers both flock to this waterfall in the autumn, when the fall color is at its height. It’s hard  to find a poor vantage point, either, whether you’re sitting in the middle of the river (above) or up on top looking downriver. Long exposure or short, it’s an extremely photogenic area.

Perhaps the dark emerald water provides the drama in any photograph of this amazing location. Maybe it’s the sheer drop from the top over the falls in all directions. More likely it’s all that and more. At any rate, this is a spot not to be missed.

For more information check out this Lower Lewis River website.

Off the Oneonta Trail

I went for an early morning scramble up the rock walls of Oneonta Creek in the Columbia River Gorge and found what’s shown in the photo above. That was only the beginning of a long morning spent a half-mile upstream of the famous Oneonta Gorge and the Lower Oneonta Falls.

Instead, I headed to the Upper Oneonta Falls, which you really have to work to find. It’s not far off the established Forest Service trails, but it’s rugged enough that most people probably don’t think of coming up this way. You have to work your way around a number of fairly deep pools like the one above. During periods of high water flow, I don’t think it would be passable for lengthy stretches. Now, however, it’s the end of August and water levels are about as low as they’re going to get in the Gorge.

The pool above is probably six to eight feet deep in the middle, so wading through it wasn’t really an option. I had to crawl on the 45-degree basalt rock walls at the edge of the pool instead. But it wasn’t too steep to prevent me from setting up the tripod for a series of shots.

And all this before reaching Upper Oneonta Falls. I’ll show you what that looks like in the next post.

No such thing as a routine arrest

There’s no such thing as a routine arrest. That’s a big part of why Richard Sheldon, a deputy with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon enjoys his work. There’s also the bit about getting to take drunken drivers, such as the gentleman above, out of commission when they endanger everyone else around them. That’s even more of a treat for Sheldon, who has made detecting drunken drivers one of his specialties.

A certified drug recognition expert, he also is trained to ferret out drivers who might be high on prescription medication, methamphetamine or even the notorious bath salts. Sometimes, as in the photo to the right, there is nothing more than fatigue involved in someone’s erratic driving.

I recently spent a 10-hour night shift with Sheldon as he patrolled the south Portland metro area. It was a bit ironic to realize that the arrest of the gentleman above, who Sheldon witnessed driving erratically and at high-speed before he pulled into a Wilsonville apartment complex, was made possible by an act of leniency. Just minutes before, Sheldon talked to a 19-year-old who admitted to drinking alcohol despite his age. Instead of writing a citation, he gave the boy a lift home instead. That took us several miles out of our way to the south end of Wilsonville, where we dropped the boy off at his home and quickly witnessed the man above as he tore down a city street at over 50 mph.

Had I ridden with Sheldon the following night, instead of an intoxicated driver I might have been party to the manhunt for a Happy Valley man suspected of shooting his girlfriend and killing her mother. While a lot of people in the Portland area are quick to jump on local police agencies when there is a controversial incident, it’s definitely helpful to view the work of law enforcement from this side of the flashing lights. It might not make a difference to someone’s political leanings or opinion of the role of civilian policing in society, but it sure gives a better understanding of the human side of things.

Columbia River Gorge waterfalls 7


Here’s a horizontal view of Ponytail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. I shot probably 1,100 or more photos in the gorge during the two weeks I was on vacation, and I am really enjoying being able to post a steady stream of interesting material here. This waterfall actually presents a nice photographic challenge, as it is easily accessible by day hikers, hence heavily photographed from the surrounding trails and other obvious vantage points. Admittedly, even wading into the stream as I did here is not difficult for anyone so inclined. But at least it gives a somewhat different perspective than someone who is only paying attention to walking behind the waterfall, beautiful as that can be. I guess I’m going to be getting up pretty early some mornings this summer, otherwise I won’t be able to find time to realistically continue with my Gorge series of landscapes, which is rapidly turning into my seasonal photo project. Does anyone else find that a single shoot ever turns into an ongoing obsession when you’re behind the camera? Don’t worry, it’s probably a good thing as a photographer, so I’ll go with it.

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls 5


Here’s a photo taken last week of the Triple Falls in the Columbia River Gorge here in Oregon. Each of these three waterfalls feature a drop of over 100 feet, although it’s difficult to gauge the scale from this viewpoint, which is virtually the only place you can get a good look at the falls without rappelling down ridiculously steep cliffs. I definitely did not time this stop properly, as the midday sun and its shadows make difficult the type of long exposures I was looking to create. At other times during the same day, however, the sun remained hidden for the type of diffusion that makes for lovely water photographs. That’s Oregon, though. Unpredictable.