[/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] 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.
[/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 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] 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] Ramona Falls is a great 7.1 mile hike within the Mt. Hood National Forest. I have meant to hike this trail for several years but I always chose to hike in an area that gave me a grand view of Mt. Hood. I finally chose to hike to Ramona Falls on one of the busiest days of the year…Labor Day! However, it was a great time to hike to the falls since it was overcast and rather chilly. You couldn’t see the mountain so the hike made perfect sense. However, the water level was rather low and all of the summer flowers were long gone at this point. The Ramona Falls loop is about 7.1 miles and the elevation gain is about 1,000 feet. The trail starts out through a mossy forest of small alders and hemlocks and parallels the Sandy river and Ramona Creek. The most scenic of the trail loop follows the mossy bank of Ramona Creek which also passes the huge granite cliffs just east of the trail. You can jump across the creek and look up at the immense granite facade and walk along the many fallen granite rocks resting on the floor of the cliffs. Most of them are covered by moss but many seem to have just broken from the cliffs and tumbled near your feet. This is a great spot to take some photos of the granite rock wall and the trees hanging along the cliff edge. There are many spots to take of the creek’s many small water falls that parallel the trail. The forest floor is teaming with mossy areas that create a very scenic and tranquil setting. Though my main goal was to photograph the falls, most of my photos that I took were mostly from the forest, the cliff’s, the creek and the forest high above the Sandy River. However, I was able to take several photos of the falls since it’s a very photogenic waterfall. However, I could only imagine how much water passes down the waterfall in early Spring. To get this shot, I was using my 18-55mm canon lens and had the focal length at 24mm. I was using my tripod along with my bubble level and remote switch. I was using the shutter mode and had the shutter at 3.22 seconds. The glare was too intense to increase the shutter time. The ISO was at 100 and the White Balance was at -2 due to the glare from the waterfall. The lens aperture was at F-22 since I was using my CIR-PL and my warming filter. I would highly recommend this trail since it’s a great area to get several different types of photos as well as offering a very scenic and calming environment.
[/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] Friday was another great day to view the Falls in and around the Gorge. Most of the vegetation is out but there are still some vegetation that is just not ready yet. However, there were plenty of neon greens to create a great landscape with the creeks and waterfalls in the background. I decided to take as many pictures along the gorge in one day. I started my morning atop the Womens Forum State Scenic Viewpoint and eventually finished near Hood River atop Mitchel Point, a grueling but quick hike that overlooks the entire gorge. The day was filled with downpours, wind, sun, sprinkles and cold. The waterfalls are currently so thunderous that it’s almost impossible to get a pictures near the falls without ending up with water spots covering your lens. I was forced to delete most of my photos due to this. I was able to photograph over 10 of the waterfalls and visit three viewpoints that are high above the gorge. I decided to post this picture of Wahclella Falls since it shows just how green the vegetation is and how scenic the gorge is. There were several other smaller waterfalls pouring over the basalt cliffs as I was trying to take this picture high above the basalt grotto. This waterfall is one of the most difficult to photograph due to the speed and strength of the falls. The speed of the water coming out of Wahclella Falls is so great that it’s really hard to get the mirrored effect without distorting the rest of the falls and creek. To get this shot I hiked just above the main trail and used my tripod to steady my camera. The exposure mode was set at auto exposure and the exposure program was set at shutter priority. The shutter was set at .8 seconds and the focal length was set at 15mm. I was using my 12-24 wide angle lens and had attached my warming filter and my CIR-PL. I set the ISO to 100 and the F-stop was set at 18. The rain had just started again when I took this picture. The hike to Wahclella Falls is easy and very scenic. There are hundreds of areas to stop along the creek to take pictures of the vegetation clinging along the creek as well as the many moss covered rocks seemingly floating just above the water.
[/caption] Friday was a great day to hike to the summit of Kings Mountain. However, the weather during the afternoon was much better than the morning. And I chose to hike to the 3226′ summit during the morning. It was cold, windy, rainy and very overcast for most of my hike. I was able to get this shot at a time when the sun was barely poking out for just a few minutes but for the most part it was pretty nasty. There was still some snow hovering around the higher elevations and it was a little slippery near the cliffs at the edges of the summit. This is the second time that I’ve hiked to the summit of Kings Mountain and it’s not for the fainted heart. It’s a grueling 2.5 mile hike straight up towards the summit with 2780 feet of elevation gain. This is probably one of the best vantage spots to gaze out towards the Coast Range with views in all directions. Some of the spring flowers were starting to come out but it was still a little bit early with very few wildflowers along the upper ridges. To get this shot I made sure that I was using my tripod since the wind was pretty bad. I used my 18-55mm lens and the focal length was set at 24mm. The F stop was set at 8 since it was pretty gray with limited light. I set the ISO to 200 and I used my warming filter as well as my CIR-PL. This is a great hike so I will be heading up again as soon as the weather improves and the wildflowers are at their peak. The Wilson River is also just below the trail with several other trails and picnic areas nearby. There are also several small to medium sized waterfalls close by.