Tag Archives: hiking the gorge

The Gorge, Oregon

Spring is officially here and it will only be a few more weeks until the gorge will be ready for some serious photography hunting. I only say that because the gorge usually doesn’t become completely prepared for a photography hike until all of the foliage has come out of its dormancy and begins to clog the landscape with a sea of green. Early May or even as late as mid June is the best time to take advantage of the intense green landscape but it really depends on the weather. If we are lucky enough to get a more mild spring, then the gorge is more likely to see it’s foliage come out early. However, if we get a colder and wetter spring, then the foliage won’t come out until late May or mid June. However, you can always expect to still have a great waterfall and creek in your shot no matter what the weather is like. The water levels will still be high and you can expect some pretty thunderous waterfalls cascading through the basalt cliffs as they carve their way through the lower elevations. The photo that I posted is of Elowah Falls and it’s pretty easy to get to. It’s also a very popular waterfall since it’s only a short hike and it’s pretty awesome to look at. You can expect to get a little wet while crossing over the bridge and you can even take a swim in the fresh water pool that is directly under the waterfall. Since the trail can get pretty busy you may want to visit during the weekday, if you want to get some shots of the waterfall without having dozens of people in the foreground. You will also want to plan on drying your lens fairly often since the water spray is pretty intense and if you don’t you will end up with a bunch of photos with nothing but water droplets on your shots. I would also recommend that you bring along your tripod, bubble level and a remote switch. You would also be doing yourself a favor if you attach some ND filters. I normally set the shutter speed between 3 and 5 seconds and since the light can get pretty high, you don’t want to end up with any overexposure. A tripod will also allow you to ensure that they don’t come out blurry and uneven. Using a tripod along very uneven and a tricky landscape is a lot of work but you don’t really have a choice. Try doing this with a dog with you as well and this will really test your patients. Not only does the trail that leads to Elowah falls offer great shots of the waterfall but there are great opportunities to photograph the old growth forest, wildflowers, wildlife, creeks, moss, lichen and dozens of other photo opportunities.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

[/caption] Fast moving Tanner Creek carves its way through the moss covered basalt boulders that line the Gorge! Tanner Creek offers one of the most scenic and easiest 2 mile round trip hiking trails in the Gorge. The entire trail parallels the creek with several opportunities to photograph the fast moving creek as well as stop to admire some of the waterfalls. The trail ends at the foot of Wahclella Falls and then makes a short little loop before catching up to the same trail that you came in on. If you like to scramble up basalt rocks that are fairly steep, you can hike up about 500 feet to get a more panoramic view of the steep and intimate gorge that engulfs the area. There literally is no way out of this part of the gorge without turning back and returning the same way you came. I took this shot by making a short hike from the trail and set up my tripod just above the creek. I set the shutter priority at 4 seconds and made sure to attach my warming and ND4 filter.

Herman Creek, Oregon

[/caption] A short hike takes you to the Herman Creek Trail bridge with spectacular views of the swift moving water. The bridge is only a short and easy 2 mile round trip hike but if you’re wanting more adventure and more exercise you can add an additional 1500 miles or so since it connects to the Pacific Crest Trail. However, there are also a few other trails that follow along the creek from the north which offers amazing views of the gorge and the canyons below.

Columbia River Gorge

[/caption] When the storm clouds rumble through the Columbia River Gorge you can get some great photos when standing along one of the many cliffs that surround the gorge. This photo was taken on a very overcast and rainy early summer late morning last week. The clouds were so thick and abundant that I could have spent all day photographing them. Unfortunately I was wanting to beat some of the rain and try to photograph as many waterfalls as possible before I got soaked. However, I ended up getting soaked anyways but was fortunate to get some great shots of the gorge and the waterfalls. This is exactly why the Columbia River Gorge is one of the most spectacular places on earth… it offers some of the most amazing and abundant waterfalls as well as the most amazing cliff views in America. This photo was taken near the Horsetail falls trailhead and is only about a 1 mile hike from the old highway. You pass two awesome waterfalls on your way to the viewing area and there is plenty of room to set up your tripod and wait for the clouds to open up. However, on this particular day I was moving pretty quickly so I didn’t bother setting up with my tripod. In order to ensure that I wouldn’t end up with any camera shake or blur I removed my CIR-PL and made sure to turn on the IS. I was still able to keep the ISO at 100 and set the white balance at -1. The light was still pretty bright since it was about 11:30am and the clouds were somewhat thin above me. I did make sure to attach my warming filter and positioned the camera at about a 30 degree angle in order to avoid too much glare in the background. The camera mode was in Normal/Program so the aperture was set at F-7 and the shutter speed at 1/197 second. This helped prevent any camera shake or blur. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 38mm in order to keep the foliage from entering in the foreground. You just want to make sure and keep a steady hand and lightly press down on the shutter or you will end up with blurry photo.

Multnomah Falls, OR

[/caption] The water is a thundering in the Columbia River Gorge and the waterfalls won’t disappoint. The wildflowers are out as well as all of the vegetation that had been mostly absent. If you have been putting off your hiking trip to the gorge now is the time to lace up those hiking shoes and pack your snacks because the gorge has awaken. If your ears are sensitive to the piercing sounds of huge waterfalls plunging towards earth I would also pack some earplugs. I took another one of my road trips while visiting as many waterfalls as I could in one day and this was the first day that everything was perfect since there are plenty of wildflowers, green neon vegetation, overcast skies and plenty of water. This photo is of Multnomah Falls and I decided to post it since I was amazed with the amount of water as well as the color. I normally don’t even stop here due to all of the traffic but I decided to stop this time since I knew that the falls would be spectacular. I took this shot on Monday 6/6/11 at about 11:50am. Because the sky was overcast I was able to keep the shutter open for 4 seconds without having any overexposure. I had the camera in Shutter Priority with the aperture at F-14. I set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.3. I had to tilt my camera at about 75 degrees so I was concerned about sun glare since the sun was directly behind the falls. However, since I attached my ND8, CIR-PL and warming filter I was able to increase the shutter speed to 4 seconds. Unfortunately, there was one person standing on the bridge which kind of ruins the photo but at least they were wearing brown clothes so its less distracting. The waterfall was creating a pretty strong wind as you can see in the movement of the trees in the right and left corners of the photo. The water spray from Multnomah Falls causes a lot of water spray so I normally choose to stand as far back as I can. However, I was able to get somewhat close to the falls and open the lens to 17mm in order to photograph the entire waterfall as well as the splash below. 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 to avoid any camera shake or blur.

Tanner Creek at the Gorge, OR

[/caption] A neon green fern standing over Tanner creek as the water travels towards the Columbia River. The early parts of the trail towards Wahclella Falls follows closely near the creek before it quickly climb’s high above the water. The first 1/4 mile offers some excellent opportunities to stand along the rocky beaches and snag some great photos like this one. There are several areas where the huge mossy rocks create a slow moving pool so you can easily walk out along the creek and snap some photos of the forest lining the waters edge. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 31mm in order to frame the fern and use it as the main subject but keeping a large field of view so the entire photo is in focus. I set the shutter priority at 20 seconds so I could blur the water as much as possible and having no wind helped keep the foliage from showing any movement. I attached my ND8, CIR-PL and warming filter in order to set the shutter to 20 seconds. I was standing on the trail and used my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. The aperture was at F-14 and I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance to -0.7. This was my last photo of the day and it was about 6:20pm and there was very little light, which made it a great opportunity to open the shutter for a longer period and really take advantage of the low light. Now I just need to go back next week to see if the wildflowers are taking hold.

Columbia River Gorge, OR

[/caption] Wahclella Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. It’s located in one of the most dramatic and spectacular canyons that is bursting with neon green vegetation and massive basalt walls reaching 500 feet. When the snow melts from the Cascades or when the rains in the Cascade foothills begin to gravitate towards the lower elevations, there is only one place for them to go and that’s through the narrow Tanner Creek. The waterfall just above Wahclella Falls is only flowing when there is too much runoff for it to flow through the creek by itself. The waterfall is comprised of a very narrow bit of basalt rock which creates a thunderous bottleneck of fresh water leaping over the falls. In fact, there is so much water thundering into the pool below the falls that it pierces your eardrums as it crashes below and the wind draft will surely soak your lens. This photo was taken at about the time that the waterfall is at its maximum. It was taken on 4/30/10 and it had been raining throughout the week as well as the warmer temperatures were melting the snow near Mt. Hood. It’s impossible to set your shutter any higher that about 1/2 second since you won’t be able to see any difference between 1/2 a second or 60 seconds. The water is moving too fast and the amount of wind being created by the falls whips and pummels the surrounding vegetation. I took this shot with my Canon EOS T1i along with my Canon 18-55mm lens. I attached my ND4 and my warming filter in order to get as much water blur as possible. I was standing on the small bridge that takes you over the creek. There is a short loop that you can take around the waterfall. There are actually two bridges that take you over the creek at different spots. I had the camera set in the Shutter Priority mode so the aperture was set at F-16 and I set the shutter to 1/2 second. Even though it was totally overcast and raining at times I had to set the ISO to 100 and the white balance to -1.3 due to the glare being created from the waterfall and creek. This photo really shows just how dynamic the canyon really is. You can see the massive basalt rocks, the neon greens of the vegetation as well as the fast moving waterfall and creek. It’s important to come here on an overcast day as well as during Spring to early June if you want to capture a shot like this one. Anytime after early summer the water level really drops off and the vegetation isn’t as intense. You are also more likely to have sunnier skies since it can get very warm in summer. However, if you just want to enjoy the atmosphere anytime is a good time to visit the Gorge.