[/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] The St. Johns bridge is the Willamette Valley’s only major suspension bridge but at the time of its opening in 1931 it had the longest span of any suspension bridge west of Detroit’s Ambassador bridge. the main span length is 1,207 feet and the tower height is 400 feet above the water. The St. Johns is also the tallest bridge in Portland. There is pedestrian access for both joggers and bicycles and you have a pretty nice view of the Port of Portland and downtown Portland at about the mid point of the bridge. It’s worth making the walk and make sure to bring your camera and tripod. You can get a good view of the bridge from either side of the river. Forest Park, on the west side, has several vantage points and the St. Johns neighborhood, on the east side of the river has great views from the park. You also have a good chance of seeing Osprey, bald eagle or Hawks near the bridge.
One of my favorite places to photograph fast moving water is standing on a bridge that passes over a creek or river. This gives you endless amounts of photographic opportunities since you can either take pictures looking up the river or down river. Having access below the bridge also lets you use the bridge as a barrier from the glare from the sun. However, it’s important that the bridge is in a primitive area that doesn’t destroy the feel that you’re in the forest. The creek in this photo is Herman Creek which cuts through the gorge. The Herman Creek bridge trail is easy to find and is seldom used since the main trail forks away and the more popular PCT trail is just to the south. However, the trail will meet up with the PCT within just about a mile after you cross the bridge. The bridge is only about 1 mile from the Herman Creek campsite and is an easy hike that is teaming with views of the cliffs as well as the dense forest. I was using my Canon T1i along with my Sigma 17-70mm lens. I had the focal length at 19mm in order to get the most out of this panoramic photo opportunity. I made sure to attach my ND8, CIR-PL and warming filter in order to set the shutter priority at 15 seconds. The aperture was at F-22 and the sky was mostly overcast with almost no sun. I set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -2. I was also using my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake. I was standing directly below the bridge and even though there was limited glare the bridge helped reduce some glare from the fast moving water. The entire area was teaming with birds as well as some wildflowers that were just starting to show their colors. The vegetation wasn’t at their peak but I liked the darker colors around the trees that grow along the edges of the creek.
[/caption] The trail that follows along Herman Creek that cuts through the cliff walls along the Columbia River Gorge displays some of the most awesome scenic views in the Gorge. There are also several additional trails that you can choose from that offer difficult hikes. The Gorton Creek trail will take you directly over the Gorge 2700 feet above the Columbia River or you can also hook up with the Pacific Crest Trail within just a few miles on a different trail. However, the Herman Creek trail is my favorite since you follow through the steep walls of the Gorge and takes you along many viewing areas of the forest along with spectacular views of the creek. During spring and early summer you can photograph some of the most beautiful flowers that dot the trail. I took this shot on 6/3/10 at 10:48am during a fairly overcast day and when the water levels were extremely high. I was standing on a bridge that is just just .4 miles off the main Herman Creek trail. I like this shot because I am standing directly over the creek which allows me to encompass the water and the vegetation that looks as though the river is bubbling right out of the forest. I was using my Canon EOS Rebel T1i along with my Canon 18-55mm kit lens. Since I wanted to get the flowing motion of the river along with a long shutter speed I had to use my ND8 filter along with my UV and warming filter. Normally I only use my ND4 but the glare was still pretty intense due to the amount of water and the fact that it was traveling at such a high speed. A slower moving river or waterfall is much easier to photograph than one that is moving much faster. In fact, I was only able to set the shutter speed to 4 seconds. I had the camera mode set at shutter priority and the aperture was at F22. The F stop was at F22 since I had the ND8 filter on the lens which only allowed a small amount of light through the lens. I also set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -1.3 due to the glare of the water. Taking photographs of fast moving rivers and waterfalls really requires you to master the art of utilizing and understanding light and your subject. I can spend hours changing my filters and settings in order to take the perfect shot. However, I am rarely disappointed when visiting the Columbia River Gorge. The photo opportunities are endless. I normally avoid the Gorge when the water levels are low and if the vegetation is still sparse or too dry due to the time of year. Late summer and winter isn’t the best time to get the best shots.
[/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.