Fairy Falls in the Columbia River Gorge is one of the most heavily photographed spots in both the Gorge and Oregon as a whole. It’s a unique spot, that I found slightly strange because it was not quite as attractive in person as in the many photos I viewed prior to making the 1.3 mile hike this morning. It’s not that it’s a dump, far from it. It’s a beautiful, 20-foot waterfall with a unique pyramidal structure and a mellow water flow that makes it easy to get up close and shoot photographs. It might be the battered wooden walkway behind the camera and to the left. Or it could be the bench one passes as you walk up to the waterfall just above where it flows into Wahkeena Creek. Once I got home and viewed the photos I had taken of Fairy Falls, including the one above, a variation on one of the two main compositions this location offers, I knew my hunch had been right. The images I saw were more attractive than I remembered the location being in person. It wasn’t the light, which was too bright for my liking. But whatever it was, I’ve got some photos that are better than the ones stored away in my head.
If Latourell Falls were almost anywhere else in the world it probably would be a lot more well known.
It would certainly be a destination spot for hikers, photographers and more. But it has the misfortune of being a 249-foot tall waterfall situated just a few miles from Multnomah Falls, which at over 650 feet tall dwarfs the rest of the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls, of which there are dozens. It seems strange that a waterfall that looks like this can be relatively anonymous both locally and further afield.
I guess, though, all that just means Latourell Falls will never be overrun with tourists like Multnomah Falls can be during the summer. Thus it was that a fellow photographer and I were out chasing water photos the other morning in Washington, only to be driven out of Panther Creek by a thunderstorm and some intense lightning. So we ended up here, at Latourell Falls, with not a single other person in sight. (ISO 100, Tokina 11-16mm lens at 14mm, f/7.1 and a 0.4 second exposure)
The light was very strange this morning when the thunderstorm passed overhead. The subsequent lightning also cut short the visit I was taking to Panther Creek Falls, in southwest Washington, with another photographer friend. We decided we weren’t going to risk being electrocuted standing exposed at the bottom of the 130-foot waterfall. Before we fled the scene for the relative safety of Oregon and our side of the Columbia River Gorge, we captured a few images of upper Panther Creek as it appears just a few meters from the edge of a part of the waterfall. As you can see, the bizarre light makes things appear almost …dirty? (Nikon D300S, Nikkor 20-35mm f/2.8 lens at 20mm, f/4, 0.4 second exposure at ISO 200)
There are so many waterfalls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, it often makes sense to combine one, two or many more destinations into a single hike. That’s what I did Friday morning at dawn on a stretch of Multnomah Creek containing three significant falls. And that’s not counting Multnomah Falls itself, which is by far the largest waterfall in Oregon with a drop in excess of 600 feet. At any rate, the first fall you’ll come to on Multnomah Creek prior to its final plunge to the Columbia River is Dutchman Falls, shown above. Or at least part of the three-stage waterfall is shown above. Because it is small and accessible, there are a wonderful variety of compositions available here and elsewhere on the creek. I spent three plus hours there Friday morning and ran out of time after the sun finally popped above the gorge walls and added too much contrast to continue with long exposures. The photo above was taken just before that point, with the sun adding nice side lighting to the basalt columns at camera left. This is one Columbia River Gorge spot I’m going to be heading back to in the future. (Tokina 11-16mm wide-angle lens at 11mm, ISO 100, f/11, 0.6 second exposure)
So, I’m changing the name of this blog to reflect the actual name I’m going to use professionally when I’m not on assignment for the newspaper or other publication. But I digress already. I went up Multnomah Creek this morning in the Columbia River Gorge in search of waterfalls and light and I found both. It was a little bit cloudy, which is perfect for waterfall photography, and it surprised me a little bit given how sunny and clear it’s been here in Oregon. It is mid-July, after all. Ecola Falls, shown above, was just one of the beautiful sights I found after a 1.7 mile hike to the top of Multnomah Falls and beyond. At peak flow, the spray is much more intense, I’m told. But here, the lower flow provides separate ribbons of water that really stand out in a photograph. Just another reason I love photographing the Gorge and its dozens of waterfalls in my spare time.
It seems like every time I head out to a new waterfall this summer to shoot landscape images I find my latest favorite spot. That certainly was the case on July Fourth, as I headed to Elowah Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge to shoot some early morning waterfall and stream photos. This place had the best boulders I’ve seen in terms of moss-covered caps. They were incredible to climb, lay and sit on while I took photos. Spongy beds of dry comfort for my tripod and myself, unspoiled by any other voices or footsteps. It pays to get up early.
This was probably my favorite vantage point of the day, despite the fact my attempted framing of the main falls with hanging branches was ruined by overzealous greenery. Nonetheless, when the leaves come down in the fall, I will be back to enjoy the view, and probably long before that. (Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens, f5.6, 1/5 second exposure at ISO 200.)
Bridal Veil Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge is yet another easily accessible and often photographed gem along the Historic Columbia River Highway that parallels Interstate 84. More than most waterfalls, it requires soft light to really bring out its best features. The contrast in light is extreme at times between the upper falls, which is exposed to daylight, and the pool where the falls continues its trip downhill to the river. Fortunately, this morning was overcast and provided a nice warm hue to the scenes for long exposures, including the one above. (Tokina 11-16mm wide angle, 100 ISO, f/11, 0.8 second exposure).