[/caption] Spring offers the best time to head out the Columbia River Gorge in order to capture the waterfalls and foliage at their best. With all of the waterfalls and vegetation, you can find yourself losing track of time and immersing yourself in it’s splendor. However, you will want to make sure to bring your tripod, remote switch, additional batteries, extra memory cards and as many ND filters that you can carry. It’s not hard to run out of memory cards or battery life since I’ve been able to set the shutter speed as long as 30 seconds during broad daylight and only to find that I run out of battery life before it’s time for dinner. There are also thousands or millions of photo opportunities above the waterfalls, since this is where you will find the smaller and slower paced creeks and streams burrowing through the foliage and basalt rocks. There are endless amounts of smaller waterfalls and hidden pools just asking to be photographed. You will literally be consumed by the sheer magnitude of photographic opportunities.
[/caption] If you find yourself hiking along any of the hiking trails throughout the Columbia river gorge, you will find yourself in a scene just like this the photo portrayed here. Almost every hiking trail follows a creek with several small or large waterfalls emerging from the canyons and rocky creek beds. Just make sure that you bring your tripod, bubble level and remote switch or you won’t be able to take any photos that aren’t blurry. The tripod will enable you to get a pristine photo of the fast moving water barreling through the narrow, steep and rocky creek beds. If you are also wanting to include the wispy movement of the water, be sure to attach an ND filter so you can leave your shutter open for a minimum of 4 seconds so you can eliminate the glare from the water and light but end up with the blurred effect with the water cascading over the bedrocks. I actually had the shutter open for 10 seconds on this photo and attached my ND4 and CIR-PL to eliminate any glare. You will also want to open your lens to a wide angle view so the field of view is large. This will help ensure that the entire scene is in focus. I set the focal length at 17mm and was standing about 2 feet from the creek. It’s also important to take photos of moving water on only overcast or rainy days in order to reduce the strong overexposure elements the sun creates as well as the high glare emitted from the water.
[/caption] Fall Creek is located just off the Cascades lakes highway and offers one of the most scenic hiking trails in Central Oregon. The trail starts just feet from where I took this photo and I was actually standing just a few yards from the picnic area. I was pretty lucky to get this shot since I had the shutter speed at 3.2 seconds in order to get the effect of the moving water and without having too much glare and overexposure. I had to make sure to eliminate the sky since it was the middle of July and several hours before sunset. I made sure to attach my ND4 along with my CIR-PL and warming filter. I was fortunate to have the aperture at F-25 in order to avoid complete overexposure.
[/caption] The weather in Central Oregon is summertime at its best. I was amazed at how much water was still in the Central Oregon high desert. The abundant snow and rain fall has caused every single lake, creek and river to swell well over its banks. Almost all of the hiking trails are still covered in snow and I have never seen so many pine trees flooded near the banks of the alpine lakes and rivers. I took this shot while driving on Century drive/Cascade Lakes Highway while returning from Green Lakes. It was about 7:20pm when we noticed these 4 bucks and a single doe grazing in the meadow. The doe was mostly laying in the grass as the 4 bucks crowded around her. I wanted to have Broken Top in the background along with the meadow and the dear in the entire frame so I attached my Sigma 17-70 mm lens and set the focal length at 57mm. Since I was sitting in the backseat I wasn’t able to set up my tripod so I had to try and be as still as possible without blurring the camera. This was especially difficult since it was getting late, the sun was low and I was using my CIR-PL and warming filter. I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -2 in order to saturate the landscape. The camera was in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was at F-5.6 and the shutter speed was at 1/128 second.
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] Unless you plan on wading out in a foot of frigid water to get this type of shot I wouldn’t plan on making the trek until the water level starts to drop. The water level is so high that the rocky beach is almost completely underwater. I have never seen the water level in the gorge this high since I started hiking the gorge over 20 years ago. As you can see from this photo Punchbowl Falls is beyond swelled. In order for me to get this shot I had to take off my socks and shoes and wade out in about a foot of water before I could get a clear shot of the falls. The water is moving pretty fast so you need to steady your tripod as firmly as possible and hope that it doesn’t move. In case I did lose my footing and found myself swimming in the frigid creek I made sure to leave my photography bag, with all of my other lenses, at the safety of the creeks edge. The creek was so cold that after about 30 minutes I completely lost feeling in both of my legs from the knees down. The pebbles and rocks that you are forced to stand on are pretty jagged and hard but once my feet became numb I lost all feeling and was forced to rely on my tripod to steady myself as I scrambled back to the edge. Next time I will bring my Teva’s so I don’t have this problem again. Though the vegetation is starting to spring there are still several plants that still haven’t bloomed as well as several of the old growth trees that have only just begun to show their buds. This created a challenge since I wanted to take advantage of the swelling creeks and waterfalls but not include any of the shots with the bare vegetation. The harsh winter and cool and rainy spring has really made it tough on the gorge this year. The wildflowers are even somewhat confused. Several of the flowers are growing along the high cliffs but most of the wildflowers that grow along the creeks are barely out. I chose this shot in order to show just how much water was thundering over the falls as well as ensure there were no bare branches. I was using my Canon T1i along with my Sigma 17-70mm lens. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake. This was especially difficult since the tripod was in the middle of the fast moving creek. I attached my ND8, warming filter and CIR-PL so I could have the camera in Shutter Priority mode. The focal length was at 58mm and I had the shutter open for 4 seconds. The aperture was at F-16 and I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -0.7. I spent about 45 minutes in the creek so I had plenty of time to adjust the focal length and the shutter speed and white balance but I was forced to basically just adjust and shoot as quickly as possible. The morning and afternoon was overcast so the sky was perfectly covered and it never even tried to rain. The trees should start blooming within the next week so I hope that my next trip here will offer more color but still plenty of water.
[/caption] If you are prepared to see some of the fastest moving water in the Columbia River Gorge I would recommend going very soon. The waterfalls and creeks are absolutely thundering right now and you will not be disappointed. Even though the foliage isn’t completely out yet, you will at least be able to see more of the waterfalls before the dense vegetation covers them up. The spring wildflowers are amazing right now even though they haven’t peaked yet. I spent the day trying to visit as many parts of the gorge as possible in order to capture as many epic photographs that I could. I took this photo while visiting Wahkeena Falls. This photo was taken under the small foot bridge that takes you over the creek. While I was photographing parts of the Wahkeena Falls I noticed this rock shelf and the speeding water was going so fast that you could see some of the water actually bounce backwards and against the rock wall. the foot bridge above created the perfect shadow effect but also allowed the foliage to reflect some light from the fast moving creek. I had to crouch in a very peculiar position but it was well worth it. To get this shot I used my Sigma 17-70mm lens and attached my ND8, CIR-PL and warming filter. I was about 3 feet from the creek and I set the focal length to 28mm. I put the camera mode in TV/shutter priority and set the speed at 20 seconds. I was trying to capture as much movement as possible in order to show every nook and cranny in the rocks below the water. As you can see, I was pretty successful. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at +0.7. It was about 5:35pm and the sun was still pretty strong, even though I was nearly under the bridge and was completely shrouded in the foliage.
[/caption] Silver Falls State Park offers 10 spectacular waterfalls that are showcased as you hike the 7.5 mile of trails that span the 9,000 acre park. However, Upper North Falls is actually off the beaten path but only a .2 mile hike from the main trail. Unless you pay close attention to the hiking map you may miss the waterfall or just decide that it’s not worth the short hike. It’s actually one of the most impressive waterfalls within the park and it’s set in a very private and surreal setting. As you can see in this photo the trail literally stops at the waterfall and in order to get a really great shot you need to carefully walk along the slippery and unpredictable creek below. The lighting can also be a real challenge since its so well forested that only a fraction of the suns rays reaches along the falls. Spring is usually the best time to photograph since the sunlight is a little more predictable and the lush vegetation hides some of the black basalt that can wash out the picture due to the low light. I took this shot on 5/7/10 on a very sunny morning and the time was 7:48am. I was facing due east just as the sun was directly behind the falls but as you can see the light was still limited. I was using my Canon T1i along with my Canon 18-55mm lens. I attached my ND8 along with my warming filter. Without the ND filter I wouldn’t have been able to set the camera mode to shutter priority. I was trying to ensure that the field of view was high so everything was in focus but I also wanted to make sure that the waterfall was the main subject in the picture so I set the focal length to 24mm. I was using my tripod, bubble level and remote switch and ended up lowering my tripod just enough so I could make it as though the creek was rushing into the photo but without reducing the field of view. The aperture was at F-14 and the shutter was at 1 second. The ISO was at 100 and the white balance was at +0.3. You could spend an entire day cris-crossing the trails in order to take several different photos of the waterfalls within the park. I’ve actually hiked the entire trail twice in one day so I could get the morning shots and then the early evening shots in order to take advantage of the changing light. Each waterfall literally changes its personality as the light changes.
[/caption] I am now starting to look forward to an early spring this year. I have all but lost hope in a snowy and amazing winter in the Northwest as they had predicted. Therefore, I am starting to give my attention to one of the most amazing places to visit during spring and that is the Columbia River Gorge. Both Washington and Oregon share in its beauty but the Oregon side has a lot more waterfalls and creeks to hike along. I snapped this photo last spring on 4/30/10 and it was later in the day around 4:15pm. The sun was out for most of the day and there weren’t many clouds to shade the gorge. However, since I waited until later in the day I was able to get this great shot of Tanner Creek with the unbelievable greenery surrounding the creek. However, I was only able to set the shutter speed to 1/2 second due to the light and glare still being created by the fast movement of the water. I was using my Canon EOS T1i along with my 18-55m lens. I set the focal length to 24mm in order to allow the vegetation and rocks to frame the photo. Since I was using shutter mode while in Program the aperture was at F-11. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -0.7 in order to prevent too much glare but still get some of the blur from the movement of the water. I was using my tripod, bubble level and my remote switch as well as attaching my ND4, warming and CIR-PL filter. This allowed even a smaller amount of light to enter the lens. I can’t express how amazing the gorge is during spring. Especially since the snow is melting in the Cascades which creates a thunderous amount of water spilling through the waterfalls and engulfing its creeks. The vegetation explodes with neon greens and the flowers turn to all colors imaginable. Clearly a most epic scene that one must enjoy every year.
[/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.