The creeks high above the Columbia River Gorge are so swollen that much of the vegetation that grows along the creeks banks haven’t been able to grow their leaves. The many wildflowers that usually come out in May have also been unable to bloom due to the cold weather. It looks like another record event in the Pacific Northwest. It’s still snowing in the Cascades with record snow falls along with the Willamette and Columbia river at record levels. However, this makes for some spectacular waterfalls and raging creeks all over the Northwest. This photo was taken about 3 miles up from the Columbia river as I was standing along the creeks edge. The water is moving so fast that it’s hard to set your shutter priority due to the high volume of water raging over the rocks. The fast moving water tends to create a glare as well as hide the rocks that normally create a barrier for the water to wind around. However, you can look for parts along the creeks that are otherwise non photogenic. I have photographed along this creek for several years and have never seen this type of scene before. I ended up spending over an hour photographing the water carving around these boulders as some small plants started to flourish along a wet rock. Normally these boulders are high and dry but since the water level is so high you can see the nook and crannies flooded with moving water. I was using my Canon T1i along with my Sigma 17-70mm lens. I had the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic photo as I could without having too many distractions in the frame as well as create a high field of view. In order to create this type of image I stood right along the creeks edge and stood directly over the creek while balancing myself and my tripod above a very slippery rock. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake or blur since the shutter priority was set at 15 seconds. Luckily, the sun was shrouded in a low layer of clouds and it only drizzled for a short period of time. The aperture was at F-22 since I had the ISO set at 100 and the white balance at -1.7. It was about 2:30pm and the sun was positioned directly in front of me.
[/caption] Beacon Rock State Park is a great place to visit if you’re looking for access to the water along the Columbia River or if you are interested in enjoying some grueling hiking trails. Beacon Rock is an 848 foot Basalt Monolith that has 47 switchbacks and several railed catwalk bridges. The views of the summit are stellar but there is limited standing room at its summit. It’s actually a small volcano that erupted over 57,000 years ago with deep Native American history. I took this shot while using my Canon Rebel T1i along with my Sigma 17-70mm lens. There are limited spots to get a photo looking directly up at the rock so I stood just above the highway and looked for a spot where the sun wouldn’t overexpose the landscape too much. I wasn’t using a tripod since the sun was very bright and I found myself moving several times looking for the best photo opportunity. I had the camera in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was at F-7.1 and the shutter speed at 1/100 second. Because the sun glare was so intense I was able to have the ISO at 100 and reduce the white balance to -1.7. I took this photo at 4:00pm and the sun was pretty much directly overhead and just to the right. The hike to the summit is a fairly simple hike but if you’re afraid of heights you may want to avoid this hike. There are plenty of other scenic hikes available around the park. You will have the opportunity to see bald eagles, hawks and osprey at almost any time of the day.
[/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.