Yesterday, I made my second outing this spring into the Columbia River Gorge. I paid a visit to Multnomah Creek, which feeds the world-famous Multnomah Falls before it plunges over 600 feet down to the Columbia River itself. Because of the that, the waterfalls above the main falls, such as it is, are often overlooked by photographers and hikers. But they are absolutely worth the visit, even if you don’t have a camera in hand.
In the photo above, Weisendanger Falls is shown in the background, with the onrushing creek coming straight at the viewer. Weisendanger is a 50-foot waterfall that pours into a beautiful little ampitheater, while just upstream sits the even taller Ecola Falls, which tumbles off a basalt ledge and around a sharp corner past the splash pool.
Downstream from Weisendanger, probably no less than another 200 yards, sits the multi-tiered Dutchman Falls. It’s one of the most scenic stretches of water that Oregon has to offer, and that’s saying something. In this shot, I played around with shutter speeds a little bit to get the detail in the water I was looking for. I used speeds ranging from 1/8 second to 15 seconds in an attempt to find as wide a range of looks as possible.
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.
This 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.
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.
Lower Lewis River Falls in Skamania County, Washington, is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the Northwest, especially in the fall. I recently visited this spot with a fellow photographer (Gary Meyers, shown above) just before a particularly severe rainstorm raised the water level several feet and made impossible some of the images we made. When the water level is low, however, you can walk out into the middle of the Lewis River and shoot from perspectives like the one shown above. It’s an amazing sight, and the sound of the rushing water is even better.
I woke up at dawn this morning and couldn’t sleep. So I threw my camera gear together, grabbed the tripod and headed up the Columbia River Gorge. I wasn’t quite sure where I was going to stop, but that turned out to be Wahkeena Falls and the trail above. I hiked to Fairy Falls, above, and a bit beyond, taking several hundred photos of this beauty, along with Wahkeena Creek and Little Necktie Falls.
Fairy Falls is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Oregon, despite being barely 25 feet tall. Its perfect fan shape and innumerable small cascades all combine to make it a photographic heaven, though. And the fact you can walk right up to the waterfall, touch it and experience barely any spray means you can shoot close up and get some interesting angles like the shot above. I’ve often found that including only part of a waterfall in the frame can produce very interesting photographs, and this was no exception. (20mm, f3.5 at ISO 200, 0.5 second exposure).
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)