It’s true I enjoy shooting waterfalls and landscapes. But I’ve never shot a waterfall that is anything close to resembling Willamette Falls, which spans the Willamette River in Oregon between the cities of West Linn and Oregon City. This is the second largest waterfall in the United States after Niagra Falls when measured by the volume of water that passes over the falls. I had a hard time believing that, but all my trusty online sources assure me this is true.
So there I was tonight, a gorgeous, warm sunset fading away. I had just finished an assignment shooting photos from a boat near the dam shown here for a feature story. I actually saw this viewpoint as I headed up the hill to leave in my car and I immediately slammed on the brakes. I grabbed my tripod and camera, jumped out and spent the next 20 minutes shooting long exposures of the most industrialized dam I think I’ve ever seen. It’s a far cry from the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls I regularly visit, but it’s fascinating all the same.
Portland General Electric says the dam across the falls generates up to 14 megawatts of electricity, while white sturgeon live at the base of the falls under the 100-year-old Oregon City arch bridge that currently is undergoing restoration. The photo above shows just a fraction of the industry or history surrounding this stretch of the Willamette River. But the dam, as well as a seasonal temporary wooden dam, is visible in the light of the halide lamps.
I’ve been posting plenty of beautiful scenery in recent weeks, thanks to the Columbia River Gorge. But south of Portland, in the northern Willamette Valley, the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility houses over 1,100 women who do not get the same opportunity to enjoy the local landscape. At least not until they’re released from prison.
One small group of current inmates will have a much better chance at succeeding when that time comes, thanks to a coveted slot in the prison’s eyeglass recycling course, run jointly with the Lions Club of Oregon. Last month saw the graduation of the most recent crop of a dozen women, who now are trained and certified by the state of Oregon as optometric technicians. This, obviously, makes employment upon release much more feasible. It’s possibly the single biggest hurdle a former inmate must overcome in light of the reluctance of employers to hire convicted felons.
The occasion was marked by plenty of heartfelt words and a lot of tears. And afterward, inmates who at one time faced disgrace and ruin in a distant courtroom were able to embrace family members and loved ones in a moment of redemption.