Fall is now upon us and the foliage is starting to show their brilliant colors and the Pacific Northwest puts on one of the best displays! Lately, the Pacific Northwest has been getting hammered with rain and wind storms but the weather is now starting to turn cooler with parts of fog. This is one of the perfect ingredients to cook up some awesome Fall colors. The only thing missing is some sunny weather with just a dash of warmer temperatures. Luckily, we are predicted to get just that so be prepared for the foliage to put on a heck of a display over the next few weeks. Dust off your lens and make sure to remove your CIR-PL and don’t forget to either turn on your IS or bring your tripod because you can plan on having a pretty spectacular experience. However, if you plan on visiting any of the numerous waterfalls, you will want to bring a tripod but if you are going to be walking along some of the many neighborhoods or state parks, you can get away without a tripod as long as you can keep a steady hand and have a very good understanding of your camera’s settings. I always make sure to remove my CIR-PL, turn on the IS and mount my bubble level on the camera, in order to ensure that the photo is always level.
[/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] The Pacific Northwest offers some of the most abundant species and highest concentration of ferns on the planet! If you live on the west side of the Cascade mountains you will find yourself immersed in some of the most diverse and neon green fern species you’ll ever lay your eyes on. However, because they require a lot of water and enjoy modest heat, it’s best to visit them during late spring to early summer. They are dormant during the winter months and become very brown and less photogenic when they’re at this state and the heat causes them to wilt and produce less color. Ferns are the best foliage to have when photographing waterfalls since they offer some great shots and love to grow along the edges of water. No surprise that they are at their peek at the same time the waterfalls are swollen with their most abundant amount of water spilling over rock ledges and traveling towards the Pacific Ocean. British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and parts of Northern California offer the best chance to really immerse yourself in these amazing plants. To get this shot I used my Sigma 50mm prime/macro lens and stood less than a foot from the plant. I wasn’t using a tripod so I made sure to keep a steady hand and removed the CIR-PL in order to avoid any camera shake or blur. However, I did attach the warming filter in order to bring out the vibrant green color.
[/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] 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] This hike along the Washington side of the Gorge is one of the best trails along the northern part of the gorge. There are two amazing waterfalls and the scenery from the top of the trail are stunning. You can see Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood as though you can almost touch them. The trail to the summit of Hamilton Mountain is a grueling 7.6 round trip hike and gains a total of 2,000 feet of elevation gain. There are several sure drop views along the trail and you are welcomed with some of the most stunning views of the gorge. I wouldn’t recommend this hike if you’re afraid of heights or get dizzy easily. You can sometimes hear the distant sounds of gun fire from the nearby shooting range and the Bonneville Dam can be somewhat of an eye soar. Though I still think that the views are still worthy of this challenging hike. Hardy creek is one of the most scenic creeks and I really enjoy photographing this area. On this hike, I decided to only hike to the bridge that crosses Hardy Falls since I was planning on an additional hike the following day. I had climbed down from the bridge and carefully navigated my down along the creeks edge. The rocks and moss made it challenging and I eventually found out that my hiking shoes still keep my feet dry when I slipped into the creek. I ended up planting both feet in the creek when one of the many rocks rolled as I stepped on it. The morning was mostly overcast and it rained periodically but the sun eventually came out as I settled on this photo to post on my blog. Again, the water was thundering from high above and the moss was just starting to show its neon green that makes it famous around the gorge. I had to set up my tripod on a very narrow rock and plant my feet at the very corner of the creek. I used my 18-55mm kit lens and set the range at 18mm. I set the shutter speed to 1 second and the F stop at 18 since the glare from the creek was pretty high. I set the ISO to 100 and kept the sensor at Program mode. I used my warming filter as well as my ND4 and CIR-PL filter. I have hiked this trail several times and I would recommend it to anyone that wants to get a grand view of the gorge as well as two volcanic mountains.