[/caption] The Columbia River Gorge can offer some pretty spectacular scenery but there is nothing better than catching a scene like this. After spending a sunny morning and afternoon along the Gorge a monster of a storm was moving in from the northwest, so I decided to drive up near the Vista House to see what kind of shots I might be able to get. The sun continued to peak out from the fast moving storm clouds so I was able to take some shots as the sun moved down and along the river below. I started taking several photos just as the sun had shined directly over the Vista House and the surrounding trees. You don’t get many opportunities like this so I felt pretty blessed even as I had just taken some of my best photos of the waterfalls earlier in the day. Spring is the best time to take pictures in the Gorge and May is the best month. This shot was taken last year on 5/18/10 and it was about 5:25pm. The sun was actually directly behind me but I was able to take advantage of my position as you can see from this photo. Though very few good photo opportunities arise when the sun is behind you, this was surely an exception to the rule. The sun was low enough to create some awesome cloud shapes as they quickly engulfed the mountains and river below. I was using my Canon EOS T1i along with my Canon 18-55mm kit lens. I attached my warming filter and CIR-PL and made sure that I was using my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. I maxed out the focal length to 55mm but you can see that the field of view was high so I wasn’t worried about any blur. In fact, I had to max out the focal length in order to avoid any of the tall trees near me to show up in the photo. This would have ruined the photo for sure. The camera was in Program/Normal mode and the aperture was at F-7.1 and the shutter speed at 1/125 second. I had the ISO at 200 and the white balance at -0.3. Each time I set the ISO to 100 it was too dark and increasing the white balance wasn’t enough to offset the need to increase the ISO. It’s finally April and now there is only one month until May and I hope to spend as much time as possible trying to get more photo opportunities like this.
[/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] It’s been raining a lot this Spring so I decided to take advantage of the one dry day which was of course last Monday. It seemed that the best weather in the Pacific Northwest was along the gorge, so I again headed east of Portland. I have to admit that I’m getting somewhat tired of waterfalls about now. I have been itching to get some panoramic views of the Cascades. Who am I kidding, I love waterfalls. I could photograph them 365 days a year. Gotta love the Northwest. Since the rain clouds were kind of settling just east of the Bonneville dam I stopped at the Multnomah Falls parking area and again hiked above the falls towards Larch Mountain. I was able to ditch the crowds once I got to the top of the falls as I made my way towards the higher elevations. Monday’s are always a great time to avoid the masses. I set out to take advantage of the overcast sky’s so I could test my luck on setting my shutter between 10 and 12 seconds and I wasn’t disappointed. I was able to get this shot while setting my shutter speed to 10.37 seconds. You can really see the complete path of the water as it heads downstream. Every nook and cranny can bee seen, along with the neon greens of the vegetation. To avoid too much unwanted light, due to the long shutter exposure, I attached my ND4 along with my warming filter and my CIR-PL. Using my ND8 would have been overkill since the sun was perfectly blocked by the overcast sky’s most of the time. I was like a kid in a candy store on this day. You couldn’t have taken a bad picture. Most of the vegetation is out, along with the many spring flowers. I set my camera to shutter priority and had the ISO at 200 since it was a little dark on the trail. The F stop was at 25.8 and I was using my 18-55mm lens which was at 34mm focal length. I used my tripod on this shot as well as the entire day. Now is the time to hit the trails if you want to take advantage of the spring light around the Western slopes of the Cascades and the gorge. The rivers and creeks are cranking out their best right now and pretty soon the heat will be upon us and many of the smaller creeks will be mostly dried up.
[/caption]It looks like summer is officially here. Nothing but clear blue skies and thundering rivers with cascading waterfalls dotting the Washington’s Lewis canyon. I’ve been wanting to hike the Lewis river trail for a while so I decided that mid May would be a good time to see the river swelled to it’s maximum. Each of the waterfalls cascading through the river were so high that it was flooding it’s banks and swallowing the lush neon green moss that usually protrudes out of the waterfalls. The water was moving so fast that I was forced to use a much faster shutter speed. The drive from Portland to the Lewis River is fairly long (100 miles one way) but it’s still a perfect day trip. Highway 503/90 are well maintained with only about 1 mile of gravel road to get to the park. I take this same highway whenever I’m going to the south flanks of Mt. St. Helen’s. Many sections of the trail were hit pretty hard by landslides during the rainy season which made parts of the trail fairly tricky. The forest service had a sign posting near the lower falls stating that the trail was closed at one of the many bridges that cross along several brooks and creeks. I decided to drive to the upper falls and work my way down to as far as the middle falls before driving back to the lower falls. The Lewis river was swelled to it’s fullest capacity. The waterfalls were thundering so fast that many of the smaller falls were overshadowed by water leaping over them and plunging to the other side. I was forced to set my shutter to as fast as 1/4 second due to the quickness of the falls. I witnessed several hawks cruising just above the river, probably hunting for trout. There were several catch and release trout signs posted so I’m assuming the fishing must be pretty good. To get this shot I had hiked just below the upper falls which has a really nice pool area with hundreds of drift wood resting on shore. I decided to get a shot with the blue sky in the background. I set the shutter speed at 1/4 second and the ISO at 100. Because the sun was so bright and it was so late in the day I ended up having to stack my filters in order to keep out the glare. I stacked my warming filter, ND8 and my CIR-PL and used my tripod. The F stop was at 10 and I intentionally under exposed the shot so I could bring out the blueness of the sky and the greens of the vegetation. I used my 18-55mm lens and set the focal length to 28mm. I highly recommend this hike. There are several waterfalls as well as small brooks and creeks that you cross over on small footbridges and there are several areas where the water is cascading down moss covered rocks. There is also an awesome trail called Big Creek trail just 10 miles west of the park. It’s a 2.5 mile trail that takes you to two huge waterfalls (Big Creek Falls at 125 feet and Hemlock Creek Falls 250 feet) and right to the edge of the Lewis Canyon with panoramic views of the area. Hemlock Creeks Falls are on the other side of the canyon so you will want a descent telephoto lens to get a closer shot. The other side is probably 2 miles or so.
[/caption] Silver Falls State Park is Oregon’s largest State Park and has the highest concentration of waterfalls in the state. The park boast’s 10 waterfalls and they’re all within the hiking trail. I always try to start out as early as I can in the morning in order to take advantage of the early sun and the lack of crowds. By noon, there can be hundreds of hikers crowding the trail, which can really frustrate any photographer trying to capture a serene shot of the falls. This is especially true since some of the trails go directly under the falls. Five of the waterfalls are over 100 feet and if you go in early Spring they’re swelling with intense amounts of water thundering towards the basalt rocks below. The falls can be really empty in summer, winter and fall, so I recommend spring. However, some of the vegetation is still not out yet. We’ve been experiencing some of the strangest springtime weather. Normally the waterfalls throughout the western slopes of the Cascades are completely covered with all of the neon greens. I’m assuming it’s due to the late snow and colder weather that we’ve been receiving. At this rate I hope that the waterfalls stay swelled along with lots of vegetation. I spent the entire day photographing at the park. I started at 7:00 am and finished around 6:00 pm. I tried to capture the early sun in the morning and the soft sun in the evening. Since the waterfalls are deep in the canyon, the sun is usually pretty soft throughout the day. Lower South falls is one of my favorite falls to photograph. The waterfall is 93 feet high and the trail goes directly under the falls. You can get a great shot from either side and since the trail travels up several hundred steep steps you can sometimes get a great shot from high above the falls. I took this shot around 11:00am and I used my ND8 and my warming filter. I set my exposure mode to shutter priority at 1 second. The F-stop was set at 20 and the ISO was at 100. I was using my 18-55mm lens and had the focal length at 43mm. I was also using my tripod. Due to the popularity of the park, I would recommend going on a weekday and getting there as early as possible. Weekends can be busier than a parking lot on Christmas eve. May and June are also the best times to go there.
[/caption] As you can see there was plenty of sunshine when I took this picture. This was taken on the same day that I climbed Kings Mountain earlier in the morning. The weather was much different later in the afternoon. In fact, the sun was so bright that I really had to work to get some pictures along the Wilson River with the waterfall in the background. Both the river and the waterfall were almost directly in the sun so I decided to try something a little different by using the direct sunlight to my advantage. I either had to find something to stand behind whenever I found a good vantage point or I would stand some place when the sun was temporarily blocked by one of the massive trees high in the hills. The Wilson river flows right along Highway 6 towards the coast. There are several great places to take some pictures. There are also plenty of hiking trails to take so you can have hundreds of opportunities to get some pictures of the river and the forest in the background. I chose this spot since this waterfall was crashing towards the river just above the waterline. The Highway is just above the top of the waterfall. You can see the stones just to the right. The waterfall is also coming out of a large aluminum pipe so I made sure that it wasn’t in the picture. There is also a really nice waterfall on the other side of the Highway with a trail going to its base. You just need to cross the Highway and walk about 200 yards. If you park at the day use area you can walk on a trail that parallels the Highway and then cross a suspension bridge that takes you directly to the waterfall and a popular swimming hole during the summer. However, the river is really raging in April and the rapids looked like class 3 to me. To get this shot I set my shutter to only .5 seconds since the sun was so bright. The F stop was at F/9 and the ISO was at 100. I used my 18-55mm lens and set it at 37mm focal length. I also had my warming filter, ND8 and my CIR-PL attached. There was no way to use the shutter without stacking as many filters as I could. I almost added my ND4 as well but that was too many. I also used my tripod.
[/caption] I spent a fantastic day at the gorge yesterday. This time I wanted to take some pictures of the falls while the sun was out. I was hoping to get some great shadow features in my shots and I wasn’t disappointed. I decided to post this picture since it shows just how fast the water was moving and it details how diverse the vegetation is. This isn’t my favorite shot but I thought it summed up my day pretty well. The water was moving with so much force that I had to reduce the shutter speed in order to avoid the heavy glare from the sun reflecting off of the water. The water is currently thundering down from the Cascades with unbelievable force. If you look closely, you can see that the creek has spread to every nook and cranny of the basalt, winding it’s way towards the Columbia river. Now is the best time to see this in it’s rawest form. However, some of the vegetation still hasn’t come out. Also, many of the spring flowers are starting to bloom. I would give it another week or two before all of the neon greens break through the soil. To get this shot I stood behind a tree in order to block some of the suns light. I set my shutter speed to one second and set the F-stop to 8. I used my 18-55mm lens and had to use the 55mm focal length since I was standing high above the falls. I set the ISO setting to 100 and used my tripod, as I always do when photographing moving water. I’ll be posting several more shots on my business facebook page.
[/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] This is another awesome and scenic trail through the Columbia River gorge trail system. It starts at Horsetail Falls and continues past 4 waterfalls and then continues to Larch mountain. Oneonta Falls has always eluded me due to the heavy vegetation that covers most of the falls. However, I was able to get a great shot in Winter since there are less leaves blocking the view. I again got soaked on this hike. I was able to make it past the first bridge above Triple falls but then it started to pour. I had to dry out my photography bag for the first time. However, it made for a great hike with lots of solitude and the fog was winding its way through Oneonta Gorge during the hike down. I was able to use my NDx4 without using my CIR-POL.