The waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge are revered by photographers around the world, and for good reason. But the streams that feed them and flow on to the Columbia River can be just as interesting to photograph once you get down and close to the water and examine the detail. The stream pictured here flows away from Wahkeena Falls and on to the mighty Columbia, passing under bridges, around rock formations and under the vegetation along the way. The flowers provide detail in this frame, while the bridge in the upper left corner gives context and scale to the overall scene. If I could, I’d probably spend 10 hours a day shooting photos in the Gorge. But that would mean missing out on a lot of other fascinating photography, as well as rock ‘n roll music, so it’s not a long-term option, unfortunately. (Nikkor 20-35mm wide angle zoom, ISO 200, f/16, 1.3 second exposure with a circular polarizing filter.)
I’ve shot a boatload of compelling waterfall and water photography images during the past week in the Columbia River Gorge. On Saturday, I hiked up Forest Service Trail 424 to the Triple Falls viewpoint, as well as the Ponytail Falls trail. Upper Oneonta Falls, shown above, is found on the latter trail and is an easy hike from the historic Columbia River Gorge highway. The next time I find myself here, I’ll likely scramble down the hillside to the stream below for a different angle. But this view of the top of the rugged Oneonta Gorge still forces one to sit and stare for a while. (Nikkor 20-35mm wide angle zoom, ISO 200, f.8, 1 second exposure.)
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!
Wahkeena Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge has provided me with a wealth of photographs this week. One result of this is that I cannot decide which I like better; the more distant images showing waterfalls or the many shots I’ve taken from the middle of the streams carrying water away from those waterfalls. I shot the creek above from numerous angles and perspectives, and in many of the photos I felt like the rocks resembled the heads of animals. This helped guide me in framing certain images, including this one, a 1.3 second exposure taken with a Tokina 11-16mm lens and circular polarizing filter at ISO 200 and f.11.
It’s been nice having a little bit of extra time to explore the Columbia River Gorge and its dozens of waterfalls this week. The photo here was taken at one of the upper levels of Shepperd’s Dell Falls just west of the more well-known Multnomah Falls. I used a polarizing filter with my Tokina 11-16mm wide-angle lens and shot this at 4/10 of a second at f.8 and 200 ISO, not that it’s all that important. The scenery here, as it is throughout the Gorge, is incredibly lush and probably familiar only to natives of somewhere like New Zealand. Which is probably why Peter Jackson chose that location to film Lord of the Rings. But that’s another conversation…
Here’s one more photo from Monday’s trip to the Columbia River Gorge and Wahkeena Falls. This is a slightly longer exposure than the previous two images at around 2.5 seconds at f.16 using the same Tokina 11-16mm lens and a variable neutral density filter. I also find it interesting that an extra one to 1.6 seconds of exposure gives a distinctly different look than the other images, with the water appearing much smoother and with less of a sense of motion. So the next time anyone tells you an extra second doesn’t make a difference, tell them water photography begs to differ.
The Columbia River Gorge is known around the world for its scenery, and there’s really no excuse not to pay a visit regularly when you already live in the Portland metro area.
The photo above was taken in the Gorge on a cloudy afternoon near Wahkeena Falls, which is less than a mile from the much better known Multnomah Falls. The area has dozens of waterfalls, rivers, streams and other water features to photograph. And that’s before you consider the nearby Columbia River.
Slow exposure photographs like the one above are a favorite of mine. A strong variable neutral density filter allows me to lengthen the exposure by one, two, three or more stops. Some people like the choppy look that water typically gives with exposures of roughly a half second or faster. I, however, prefer the smoother look that comes when you expose water for a second or more. The shot above is a one-second exposure at f.11 using an 11-16mm Tokina wide angle lens.
It’s fun to get outside and splash around like this, as my photojournalism work normally keeps me indoors under fair to downright awful lighting. This is a nice change, for sure.