[/caption] Another iconic but little known waterfall high above Multnomah Falls! It’s official! July temperatures in Oregon have reached the 80 degree mark just like clockwork. Every summer the temperatures reach into the 80’s and unfortunately if you were hoping to get great photos of the lush and green Columbia River gorge time may just have run out. Once the hot temperatures reach into the gorge, the foliage begins to stress and wilt and the spring run off becomes much less predominant. In many of the creeks it becomes nothing more than a trickle and even some of the waterfalls dry up. However, there are hundreds of swimming holes that are ideal to cool off from the heat.
[/caption] There are several necessary ingredients when photographing waterfalls or fast moving water: First, you need to find the perfect subject such as a waterfall or area along a creek or river that looks like a photogenic spot. You then need to be sure that the vegetation is at its peak. That means that there can’t be any of the vegetation that is still dormant, dead or brown. This means that you will probably need to wait until late Spring or early Summer. However, you also want to have the water level fairly high since a thundering waterfall is more photogenic than a trickle. Therefore, your best opportunity is to take your photos when the vegetation is at its absolute peak and the water level is high. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you want to go out on a overcast or even rainy day since A bright sun can prevent you from setting a long exposure as well as create too much glare. The photo that I posted is a perfect example. I included some of the overcast sky in order to show that you can set a longer exposure and still include some of the sky in the shot. I positioned myself at a spot where there was plenty of vegetation so I could enhance the effect that a succulent landscape provides. I was able to extend the shutter speed to 4 seconds without any glare, even though it was taken at 12:30pm in the middle of June. There are several things that you can do as well to ensure a good exposure. You want to set your histogram on your camera so you can play back each of your shots and ensure that it’s not over exposed or under exposed. I try to get the histogram in the middle of the grid. Since I always attach my ND filters when taking photos of moving water, I have an advantage of someone that isn’t using them. An ND filter is critical and you pretty much can’t take any descent photos of waterfalls without one. I normally attach my ND4, CIR PL and warming filter. However, I also have an ND8. I then adjust the ISO to 100 and then adjust the white balance. The correct white balance setting is critical and many people overlook the importance since taking long exposed photos during the middle of the day can ruin a good quality photo. Another very important thing to remember is to always use a tripod. I also attach my remote switch and bubble level since I don’t want to take any chances of jerking the camera when I take the shot. The bubble level ensures that it’s not crooked and I don’t trust using the power of thirds grid that’s available on your camera settings. I also never use manual mode since I’ve never had any problems with the automatic setting. I either set the camera in program/normal mode or shutter priority whenever I want to set the shutter speed. The shutter speed on this photo was set at 4 seconds and I’ve found out that any more than 4 seconds isn’t really necessary. You will still get the flowing motion of the waterfall over creek and eliminate the chances of ending up with water spray on your lens or blurry leaves in the photo. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 21mm in order to frame the waterfall with the vegetation surrounding the scene. The aperture was at F-13 and again I set the shutter speed at 4 seconds. As you can see, the vegetation is lush and green with no dormant plants and the waterfall is thundering over the cliff. Waterfalls can be one of the most frustrating subjects to photograph but they can also be the most exciting since the end result can really be spectacular. Another thing to remember is that photoshop is a great tool to use in order to saturate the vegetation but make sure that you don’t overdue it. Rely on your camera settings when your out in the field and only use photoshop to do some cropping and maybe add a little saturation. However, sometimes I will sharpen the photo if needed.
[/caption] Falls Creek Falls is located in Washington State and you will have to plan on driving a bit if your coming from Portland, OR. However, your visit will be bittersweet but also amazing. This is because the waterfall is so huge but hard to view and you will become frustrated just as much as you will be stunned by its size. The best way to ease your frustration is to continue the hike above the falls where you can view the canyon below as well as get another view of the top portion of the falls. The waterfall is 200 feet tall but it’s broken out in several stages and you can’t even see the bottom of the falls or the creek for that matter due to the steep drop off where the trail ends. I mean you would literally fall to your death if you try to look too far over the canyon in order to catch a glimpse of the creek below. In fact, I don’t think you could see it anyways due to the canopy of trees and vegetation that dominate the area. The spray from the waterfall is so intense that you will also need to stand back a bit in order to photograph the waterfall if you want to avoid the spray from drenching your lens. The wind is especially good about pushing the water in your direction since there isn’t any other place for the wind to blow except towards the hikers standing below the falls. To get this shot I stood about 10 feet behind these two massive Douglas Fir trees and centered the waterfall so I could ensure that the field of view would be large enough to avoid any of the photo from being out of focus. You can stand much closer but unfortunately you won’t be able to get the entire waterfall in your viewfinder unless you mount an 8mm lens to your camera. The waterfall is just too massive and there are too many trees, rocks and other vegetation hindering your ability. However, the drive is worth it since the entire drive is scenic and the hiking trail is truly amazing. You can even ride mt. bikes on the same trail and there are additional biking trails near the falls. The trail to the waterfall is pretty short at 3.4 mile round trip and the distance to the upper portion of the falls is 6.3 miles round trip. You’re bound to see a few hawks, osprey and other smaller wildlife along the trail. Plan on packing a cooler full of food and drinks since this hike will take you all day.
[/caption] Some of the most spectacular views while visiting Mt. Rainier National Park is actually not of Mt. Rainier at all. In fact, the views of the Tatoosh Range from the lower elevations of Mt. Rainier offer some of the most spectacular views of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and of course the numerous jagged mountains that make up the Tatoosh Range. If you start hiking from the Paradise Inn parking lot you will begin to get a better view of the Tatoosh Range. They resemble what you might think you would find in Colorado or the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. There are also a few trails that take you into the heart of the range that offer great views of Mt. Rainier and to some amazing alpine lakes. I actually hiked upon a black bear foraging for berries while hiking the bench/snow lake trail which travels right in to the heart of the Tatoosh range. This photo was taken at the Alta Vista viewpoint which is at about 7,000 feet on the south side of Mt. Rainier. It was about 10:25am so the sun glare was pretty bright but this particular photo shows just how wide and massive the Tatoosh range is. You can see Mt. Adams in the background and Mt. St. Helens can barely be seen in the far right of the photo. You can also see Mt. Hood in the far distance but if the glare is really bad you have a hard time noticing it. You would need a fish-eye lens in order to get the entire range in the photo. And even then you probably wouldn’t get all of the mountains in the shot. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic shot as possible. I made sure to use my tripod and bubble level since it was somewhat windy. The camera mode was at Program/Normal and since I had the CIR-PL and warming filter attached the aperture was set at F-7.1 and the shutter speed at 1/197 second. I set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -1.3 since the sun glare was bright and I didn’t have any shade to block the sun.
[/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] Silver Falls State Park or also known as Silver Creek Falls State Park is Oregon’s largest State Park. As far as I’m concerned it should be designated a National Park. I took this photo on 5/7/10 and you can read my extensive article about the Park which I posted on 5/10/10. There are so many awesome waterfalls which are all accessible from the trail head that you could easily spend the entire day photographing them. Normally I will go back to some of the same waterfalls as the sun and shade moves about throughout the day. This is especially true if you are a serious waterfall photographer. This photo was taken around 8:30 am just as the sun was beginning to rise above the forest directly behind the falls. I wanted to have some light in the photo but without washing out the waterfall. However, I was only able to set the shutter priority to .8 seconds due to the intensity of the light. As you can see there was almost no movement showing in the foliage. Normally it can be pretty windy near the falls and the trail head due to the intense force created by the water thundering over the falls. The noise pierces your ears as the water crashes on the massive basalt rocks below. It literally sounds like a constant chain reaction of cars crashing into one another. I tried to keep the glare down as much as possible so I set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -2. I also used my ND4 filter as well as my warming filter. You could never get this type of shot without either using an ND filter or at least a CIR-PL. I find that using an ND filter when photographing waterfalls is usually the best choice. I was also using my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. These are also a necessity when photographing waterfalls since you will want to get the blur effect while using your shutter mode. I find that the best time to visit Silver Falls State Park is during Spring and Early Fall. I would also recommend visiting during a weekday since the weekends can get pretty busy. This is especially true if you are wanting to get some photos without people in your waterfall shots as well as having the opportunity to set up your tripod without other hikers having to walk around you.
[/caption] I have now posted my second photo that isn’t of the snow in the Cascades. I am really getting tired of all the rain/snow mix that has been falling in the Cascade mountains. I am beginning to think that this winter is going to be as bad as last years winter. I know that they are predicting the colder temperatures and snow to arrive by next Wednesday but I am starting to lose faith in their predicting ability. We Oregonians know that we normally get a cold snap with some early snow that allows the ski resorts to open but then to be sidelined by a quick and nasty warm and rainy event. However, I thought this winter was supposed to be different. How many times do we need to hear about La Nina. In fact, we usually have sunny but much colder weather in December. This month has turned out to be warm and very rainy. This is nothing like they predicted. I will now stop complaining about our winter in the Pacific Northwest and write a little something about this photo that I took along the Columbia River Gorge on 5/18/10. Last spring was one of the better springs that I have ever experienced in the Northwest. On this day, I was able to take several photos of the many waterfalls that string along the old Columbia Highway. I took this photo at about 6:45 pm. I was heading back from the east side of the gorge when I decided to stop at Lower Latourell Falls. I was pretty sure that I would have a great opportunity to get a good shot since the sun was lowering and the shadows were just starting to appear. I was using my Canon Rebel T1I along with my Canon 18-55mm lens. I also made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. Since the sun was still rather bright I attached my ND 4 as well as my warming filter. I was only able to adjust the shutter speed to about 1.3 seconds due to the brightness of the sky. I set the ISO to 100 and the F stop was at F-14. I had the camera mode on shutter and the white balance at -1.3. The Latourell Falls trailhead is one of the closest waterfalls from Portland and it’s a short drive along the Historic Columbia Highway. The hike is about 2.3 miles and it’s a very easy loop to hike. The lower falls is 249 feet and the upper falls is 100 feet. Upper Latourell Falls is about 1 mile from the parking lot and the trail winds around the falls and brings you back to the road which directs you under a really old 100 foot arch that is part of the historic highway. The trail is paved and its a great hike for kids and for taking photos.
[/caption] Three pools is one of the best places to visit when hiking along the Little North Santiam River. The 9 mile round trip trail begins near Elkorn and ends at the Shady Cove campground. The trail follows the river the entire way and it’s located on the opposite side of the road. There are several swimming holes and small waterfalls throughout this hike. There are also several spring trillium’s and mossy old growth forests dotting the wilderness area. There is also a short hike to the top of adjacent 4650′ Henline mountain, which allow for great views of the foothills of the Cascades. On a rainy day I would recommend hiking along the rivers edge in order to get some great photographs of the swirling river. The water is so clear that you can easily see the bottom and the water gives off a neon green glow. This is one of the best places to maximize your shutter time and really capture the movement of a beautiful and scenic river if the day is well overcast. If the weather is clear or partly sunny I would recommend hiking to the summit of Henline mountain. The views are awesome and you can really see just how massive the foothills of the Cascades truly are. To get this shot I was lucky enough to be here when the weather was rainy and very overcast. The rain was coming down while I was taking this particular shot. However, I was still only able to set the shutter to 10.37 seconds since the glare from the river was high. I was using my tripod, bubble level and remote switch so I wouldn’t have any camera shake. I was also using my 18-55mm canon lens and had the focal length at 24mm. I attached several filters on my lens, which included my UV, warming, CIR-PL and my ND4 filter. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance to -2. Because I took this shot in September, the water level was pretty low. However, I was able to capture the edge of the river bank that otherwise would be submerged. On a warmer day, one could easily traverse more towards the center and really catch the personality of the river.
[/caption] The best place by far to really enjoy the scenic wonders of Mt. Jefferson is at Jefferson Park, which is about a 10.2 mile hike with 1800 feet of elevation gain. The trail starts on the west facing side of Mt. Jefferson and the last 8 miles of the drive are on a well maintained gravel road. The entire hike is loaded with amazing scenery and it’s probably the most pristine place in the state of Oregon. I never saw any clear cut, heard any automobiles, nor did I hear or see any planes flying overhead. The only thing I saw was an awesome forest with miles of trees, dozens of views of Mt. Jefferson, as well as dozens of different types of wildflowers and alpine lakes within Jefferson Park. You also hike over several small creeks that make for a perfect spot to rest and soak in the pristine cold water. The trail is well maintained but it’s not as clearly marked as I would have expected. With Jefferson Park being hailed as one of the busiest trails in Oregon I expected it to be more clearly marked. I hiked the trail the day after we had two days of heavy rain showers and the higher elevations of Mt. Jefferson had received a good little dusting of snow. Unfortunately I took a wrong turn near the top of the first 1.5 miles and headed towards Triangulation Peak trail and ended up hiking about 4 miles total in dense forest with the rain water and dew clinging to the shrubs that had lined the narrow trail. Within 1/4 of a mile my socks, shoes and my entire lower body were soaked. I had almost decided to cancel my quest to Jefferson Park but I actually ended up missing the switchback that headed back to the parking lot and then again found myself on the Jefferson Park Trail. I was informed by some backpackers that I was now only about 2 miles from the Park at that point. I will for now on always make a copy of the trail and have it with me. The mountain finally made its appearance later in the afternoon and I was amazed at how close I was to it. I was able to see where the mountain had repeatedly sent an avalanche of snow throughout the years which had created a swath of downed trees that looked like a smooth carpet of grass with trees that looked like snapped twigs on the outer banks. Once you get to Jefferson Park you will see dozens of alpine lakes, wildflowers and thousands of vantage points. I could spend months photographing from within the park. However, there were several closed parts due to heavy traffic that had destroyed many of the Park’s fragile vegetation. The Sentinal Hills and Park Butte surround the outer parts of the Park which really gave it a true alpine atmosphere. I took this shot right in the heart of Jefferson Park and the small pond in the foreground didn’t have a name. You can see the alpine grass in the pond and the Paintbrush wildflowers teaming all along the Park. To get this shot I was using my 12-24 wide angle lens and had the focal length at 15mm. I had the ISO set at 100 and the White Balance was at -1. I had the camera on Program Mode which allowed the shutter speed to run at 1/60 of a second. I was using my CIR-PL, warming filter and my UV filter in order to cut down on the glare and increase the warmth of the setting. I was using my tripod, bubble level and my remote switch in order to avoid any movement since I was concerned about losing some of my photos due to camera shake. I didn’t want to take any chances on this photo trip. I would highly recommend this hike and next time I hope to backpack here so I can have more time to really take in this amazing place. I can only imagine how beautiful the sunrise and sunsets are here.
[/caption] One of my more grueling hikes that I’ve done so far this summer. In fact, this was one of my most difficult and longest hikes I’ve ever done. I’ve done this hike before but I stopped near Lamerson Butte which is at 6500′ and there wasn’t any snow covering the trail. This time I hiked to about 8500′ and had to use my poles since the last 3500′ were covered in snow with only some bare spots along the trail. Even the main trail disappeared at about 5500′. This made it more difficult when I was coming down since I had to find the trail through the spotty snow trails made from myself and some other hikers. The last 1500′ feet was especially tiresome since I had to go off the trail and blaze up the snow banks. However, I always enjoy hiking in the snow during the month of July. Especially when its 80 degrees at the start of the trail. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was pretty relentless. I could see several pockets of water growing from the many snow banks around the mountain. At least the snow was solid enough to make my hike much easier. The hike is pretty much straight up and then straight down, when returning to the bottom of the trail. I probably hiked between 12.5 and 13 miles total and ended with about 3500′ elevation gain. To make this hike, its best to start near the Mt. Hood nordic center parking area. The trail starts just before you get to the nordic center and there is a parking area right at the head of the trail. It’s best to follow the Elk Meadow trail and then veer left at a trail junction towards the Gnarl Ridge trail. You can actually hike all the way to Cloud Cap and Cooper Spur but that would make for a really long day hike. You hike across several creeks, which makes for some really good stations to cool down. There is plenty of shade for most of the hike and you have some spectacular views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier to the north as well as Mt. Jefferson and parts of the Three Sisters to the south. I was standing just up from Lamberson Butte when I took this shot. You can see where Newton Creek is born in this photo. You can also witness many of the boulders rumbling down Gnarl Ridge and then crashing down to the bottom. Usually it starts with an echoing sound and then you just have to look for the dust high in the distance. The best part is watching the boulders cascade at high speeds and then crashing to a halt. There are several wildflowers at the high elevations. Once you get above the tree line, the vegetation takes on a whole knew personality. Lichen grows on the rocks and all kinds of crazy but colorful plants and flowers grow in the volcanic soil. To get this shot I had to be especially wary of the glare since there were no clouds and the sun was high in the sky which caused a lot of sun glare. I was using my 12-24mm wide-angle lens in order to capture as much of the panoramic scene as possible. The focal length was at 15mm and the F stop was at 8. I set the ISO at 100 and the exposure compensation/white balance was at -1. the shutter speed was at 1/125 second. I had my CIR-PL, warming filter and UV filter attached. Since the field of view was so vast and there were no shadows, I knew that I wouldn’t be needing my tripod. Which is a good thing since I didn’t bring it with me. This hike is a must if you really want to test your stamina and leg strength. It’s a very grueling hike but you could go even further if you have the ability. Sometimes having to carry all of my camera equipment along with my supplies makes these types of hikes especially difficult. However, I will do it again next summer for sure.