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.)
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.
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.
With one day left of my stay-cation, I went a bit further east in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge today and stopped at the Wahclella Trailhead, which begins a fairly easy one mile hike to Wahclella Falls, shown above. The natural amphitheatre where the water pools before continuing its journey downhill to the Columbia River is several hundred feet deep and provides a beautiful setting for water photography and other fun. I sank my tripod in the stream and continued shooting until I came up with something like the image here (Nikkor 20-35mm wide-angle zoom, ISO 100, f/14 and a 1.6 second exposure). Edit: I also need to mention that I set my variable ND filter to cut out roughly two stops of light, allowing the slower shutter speed. I can’t do this type of photo without the neutral density filter, although a circular polarizing filter also serves the same purpose under slightly darker conditions, while also cutting into any glare from the surface of the water.
I’ve been lucky the past two weeks in being able to explore the Columbia River Gorge more thoroughly than I normally am able to manage. It’s been great for my photography, which normally covers a wide range of photojournalist subjects, but not normally landscapes or waterfalls. And tomorrow I get to go back to that grind, albeit with better command of slower exposures.
Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge has something like 75 waterfalls that are accessible to hikers, many of which are not surprisingly landscape photographers. Some of the hikes are relatively easy, while others require a bit more effort. Ponytail Falls, above, is one of the former, with roughly a two-mile hike involved. If you stop there, though, you’re cheating yourself out of several other nearby gems. Some which I’ve visited recently inclue the Triple Falls, Horsetail Falls and several others in the impressive Oneonta Gorge, which is now targeted for my next trip up the Columbia River, hopefully in the coming week.
The shot above was taken with a 20-35mm wide angle zoom lens at f.13 with a one-second exposure. Because of the nicely diffused light, I only used a one-stop ND filter, although that probably wasn’t even needed. I like this image because it nicely shows the old basalt flow above the waterfall. Those Columbia River flood basalts erupted across the Northwest from 14-17 million years ago and covered over 63,000 square miles in what now is Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada. This includes the entirety of what became the Columbia River Gorge. The soaring basalt columns can be seen as you travel along Interstate 84 on either side of the Columbia River, testament to the volcanic nature of our region.
As always, I’m open to comments and criticism, so if anyone has anything along those lines, please feel free to chime in. Thanks!