Late Winter and early Spring are the best times to catch a glimpse of a bald eagle almost anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. They have been making such a great come back that I’ve had the privilege to watch them for several months over the past 5 years or so. Many of the juveniles are finally starting to leave the nest and the parents are seen nervously hanging out by the nest as they wait for it to return. It really is awesome to watch the parents standing like statues as they gaze into the horizon hoping to spot the younger eagle. If your lucky you can even watch the young eagle practice their fishing tactic when they swoop down onto a lake or river and then stretch out there talons like they’re about to grab a fish. You really know that the juvenile eagle is getting close to home when the parents start to squawk like mad and then carry on when the juvenile gets closer to them. I took this shot along the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon. If you want to guarantee an opportunity to see some eagles, I highly recommend that you plan a visit Astoria. There are several eagles within the city and you can pretty much just camp near the river and wait for one to fly overhead.
[/caption] You can drive from Portland to Astoria and spend the day without having to get a hotel but there are so many things to do that you might want to stay for at least one night. In fact, you can get some great sunset views if the weather is nice. If you’re planning only a day trip I would leave early and stay for the sunset. You will just need to drink plenty of coffee for you drive back to Portland. Astoria is considered the little brother of San Francisco, CA and looks very similar but only in a much much smaller scale. It’s a great city to visit and probably offers the most to do compared to any of Oregon’s other coastal towns. The park that surrounds the Astoria-Megler bridge offers several photo opportunities and the walking/biking pathway in the city travels the entire length of the town and parallels the Columbia river. In this photo you can see the hotel in the bottom left, which used to be one of the old canneries from days past. There are several old buildings along the banks of the Columbia river that offer great photo opportunities.
[/caption] What a difference a day makes. I took this shot on Sunday. My previous two posts were taken on Saturday when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. However, Sunday was much different. The clouds had moved in from the Pacific which made for some great backdrops when photographing around the piers. I wasn’t able to get as many shots of the ships steaming under the bridge as I would have liked. I’m sure a lot of this had to do with the fact that it was Sunday. This shot really shows just how massive the Astoria-Megler bridge is. It completely dwarfed all of the ships that traveled under it. Again, I was blessed with great light. I was able to set my Exposure comp./AEB setting to between 0 and 1. I used my warming filter and PL-CIR to ensure that the exposure and composition were perfect. The only time I really had to increase the exposure was when I was directly under the bridge. I never had to use my tripod, which allowed me to cover a lot of ground along the piers and also allowed me to take a lot of photos.
[/caption] Blue sky and the Astoria Column. This photo was taken last Saturday. The sky was so blue that I had to include this photo on my blog. I have never seen the sky look so blue. You would never believe that this was taken in early March. I used my wide angle lens to capture the awesomeness of the column and I cropped the photo to remove some of the blue sky. This way I could include more of the column in the shot. As you can see, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky the entire day. However, it was windy and a little chilly at the top of the column.
[/caption] I went to Astoria on Saturday and stayed until Sunday. This was one of my most awesome photography weekends EVER. Saturday didn’t have a cloud in the sky. The sky was a deep blue, there was no wind and the temperature was perfect. Sunday was overcast but it made for awesome stormy pictures while photographing near the Astoria-Megler bridge. The best thing is that it never rained and the temperature wasn’t too bad. I can honestly say that from the 1500 photos that I took, I saved over half of them. That’s how good the day went. I would recommend visiting Astoria if you haven’t already. There is plenty to do. I was able to get some of my best panoramic photos from the top of the Astoria Column. This is a 125 foot tower that was built in 1926 and has a 164 spiraling staircase to the top. The city of Portland needs something like this. The column was in great shape and the park was immaculate. You can see Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helen’s looking east. You can really zoom in to the ships, bridge and town if you have a descent telephoto lens. Since Astoria is the oldest settlement west of the Rockies, there are plenty of old houses, buildings, piers, old pilings and other attractions that make for a photographers dream. I never had the time to tour any of the several museums or old military bunkers. I think I counted 12 visitor sites in my book. However, I did make time to photograph the Goonies house and the elementary school where kindergarten cop was filmed. Since Astoria sits right on the Columbia, you can watch several tankers and barges steam under the bridge and see them anchored in the channel. Again, I could have taken over 2500 photos just of the ships along the river. There are also two great lighthouses to visit in Washington…Cape Disappointment and North Head lighthouse. However, I was surely disappointed in the conditions of each of these lighthouses. Maybe I’m just used to the Oregon lighthouses, which are in much better shape. I was short on time, so I wasn’t able to hike many of the trails that intersect both of the lighthouses so I plan on going back when I have more time. In fact, I was so rushed to find a good sunset spot that I eventually settled on an unfinished viewpoint area just north of the North Head lighthouse. To get to the lighthouses it’s a relatively short drive from Astoria. You just take the Astoria-Megler bridge north and then it’s about 15 miles. We spotted a bald eagle on our drive. We also passed Fort Columbia and several spots that would make for great sunset shots. Since I have so many photos that I think people would enjoy, I will be posting some more on my blog asap.