Elowah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge is one of the most easily accessible of the major waterfalls near the Portland metropolitan area. You still have to get your feet wet to take full advantage of this spot as a photographer, though, which is where things get really fun. On this day, though, I was kind of stuck for compositional ideas and ended making compromises that I didn’t like with regard to placing different elements in different spots. Plus, this waterfall always is a challenge to expose properly because of the tree cover shading the creek below this huge boulder to the left. That relative window into the amphitheater of basalt and lichen, though, is one of my favorite views in the entire Gorge and I never tire of seeing it.
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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.
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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).
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.
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.)
This waterfall photo was taken last week at Bridal Veil Falls in the Columbia River Gorge as part of am ongoing waterfall series that I’m doing while on vacation from my regular photojournalism duties. Taken at sunset, I was able in this image to capture some interesting lens flare coming from the right side of the frame. This is one of the more accessible waterfalls in the Gorge and you’re likely to encounter at least one or more photographers while visiting. And looking at this waterfall, it’s easy to see both how it earned its name, as well as why it’s a popular destination for hikers, nature enthusiasts and photographers.
Interestingly, it’s a simple matter to overlook the fact the old scenic highway passes right over the top of the falls. The way the road is situated, you can’t see the waterfall even if you’re looking for it. After spending several evenings last week in the Gorge I seriously wish I was on vacation all the time. (Nikon D300s, Tokina 11-16mm lens with circular polarizing filter, ISO 100, f/11, 0.8 second exposure.)