Photography and photojournalism in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest

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The Rush of the Gorge

Multnomah Creek-2

Does anyone else run out of interesting, yet descriptive names for landscape photos? This image shows Multnomah Creek just below Dutchman Falls. It can be found less than a half-mile from where Multnomah Falls pours 600 feet over a rock ledge to the Columbia River below, and  it’s one of the most beautiful spots on the entire creek.

The three mini-cascades team up to form a powerful current that is actually pretty brisk when you’re standing in its midst. Friend and fellow photographer Gary Meyers and I enjoyed a recent morning on this creek and came away with a portable hard drive’s worth of nice images, thanks to the perfect shooting conditions. This past week has been prime waterfall shooting weather in Oregon, and I’d like to think we took full advantage of it.

Thanks for viewing!


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.


Shooting the Milky Way

Milky Way-5

This is my first try at shooting the Milky Way, which fortunately presents itself nicely to us here in Oregon if you’re willing to travel away from urban areas. In this case, Mt. Hood provides a perfect backdrop and setting for long exposure night shots, despite a bit of light pollution from Timberline Lodge further up the mountain. This was taken last week during one of the last dry days we’ve had since then. I borrowed some settings from some more experienced astrophotographers and set off to see what I could capture with my aging D300S.

I was surprised by the results, actually. I didn’t expect to really come away with recognizable photos of the Milky Way, but 30 second exposures with my Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye lens did the trick here, albeit not fantastically. This lens worked slightly better than my Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 wide-angle in capturing starlight, but I still am not sure why it was so noticeable. This image was shot on the road up to Timberline using my D300s at ISO 3200,  and the 10.5mm fisheye at f/2.8 and 30 seconds’ exposure.

The photo at right was taken with the 11-16mm lens, also set at f/2.8 and using a 30 second exposure at ISO 3200. For the age of the camera, I think it turned out fairly well for a first try, although the way these photos display on Word Press doesn’t seem to be the best. What do you think?


Fairy Falls, Columbia River Gorge

 

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.


Panther Creek, Skamania County, Washington

Panther Creek-5

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)


Dutchman Falls, Columbia River Gorge

Dutchman Falls

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)


Telling a story: A school’s fight against cancer

Doernbecher Assembly web-12

Although they aren’t scenic like the Gorge waterfalls I’ve come to love, photographing the faces of people has always been fascinating to me because of the memorable expressions or emotion. The photo above is a case in point. Taken during a fundraising assembly at Wilsonville, Ore., High School, it shows two girls who are donating their hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit group that uses those donations to craft custom wigs for cancer patients, especially children. When I first saw the image above, I knew at once I would be using it for my assignment for the Wilsonville Spokesman newspaper. The girl, senior Hayley Bird of Wilsonville, was definitely not used to having a foot of hair lopped off in one go, and it clearly showed. The combination of shock and joy was magnetic even as I released the shutter.

In a similar vein, chemistry teacher Jim O’Connell, right, volunteered to allow students to shave his head once they met a pre-determined fundraising goal of $4,000, to be donated to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Ore. It didn’t take long to reach that mark, resulting in a string of students taking their turn to carve chunks out of what used to be a perfectly respectable haircut. Sharing the same sense of shock and joy, I caught O’Connell laughing almost to himself as a student gleefully whacks away with the clippers. A successful photograph shares with the viewer a story. And to me, both these images richly fulfill that goal.