[/caption] Springtime offers some great photo opportunities along the Gorge and only the vegetation decides when it’s time to take pictures. The one deciding factor that designates the best time to travel along the Columbia River Gorge in order to photograph the pristine waterfalls and neon green vegetation is when the vegetation decides to come out of its dormant stage. It becomes a waiting game as you find yourself hiking along the tall trees and view the many different ferns that create the perfect canopy below the massive forest. However, you never know when the forest will come out of its dormant stage and usually it’s only after the weather warms up and the rains begin to subside. Sometimes you have to wait until mid June but sometimes you’re lucky enough to start in April. this doesn’t only apply to the Gorge but to the entire areas west of the Cascade mountain chain.
[/caption] If you find yourself hiking along any of the hiking trails throughout the Columbia river gorge, you will find yourself in a scene just like this the photo portrayed here. Almost every hiking trail follows a creek with several small or large waterfalls emerging from the canyons and rocky creek beds. Just make sure that you bring your tripod, bubble level and remote switch or you won’t be able to take any photos that aren’t blurry. The tripod will enable you to get a pristine photo of the fast moving water barreling through the narrow, steep and rocky creek beds. If you are also wanting to include the wispy movement of the water, be sure to attach an ND filter so you can leave your shutter open for a minimum of 4 seconds so you can eliminate the glare from the water and light but end up with the blurred effect with the water cascading over the bedrocks. I actually had the shutter open for 10 seconds on this photo and attached my ND4 and CIR-PL to eliminate any glare. You will also want to open your lens to a wide angle view so the field of view is large. This will help ensure that the entire scene is in focus. I set the focal length at 17mm and was standing about 2 feet from the creek. It’s also important to take photos of moving water on only overcast or rainy days in order to reduce the strong overexposure elements the sun creates as well as the high glare emitted from the water.
[/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] The trail that follows along Herman Creek that cuts through the cliff walls along the Columbia River Gorge displays some of the most awesome scenic views in the Gorge. There are also several additional trails that you can choose from that offer difficult hikes. The Gorton Creek trail will take you directly over the Gorge 2700 feet above the Columbia River or you can also hook up with the Pacific Crest Trail within just a few miles on a different trail. However, the Herman Creek trail is my favorite since you follow through the steep walls of the Gorge and takes you along many viewing areas of the forest along with spectacular views of the creek. During spring and early summer you can photograph some of the most beautiful flowers that dot the trail. I took this shot on 6/3/10 at 10:48am during a fairly overcast day and when the water levels were extremely high. I was standing on a bridge that is just just .4 miles off the main Herman Creek trail. I like this shot because I am standing directly over the creek which allows me to encompass the water and the vegetation that looks as though the river is bubbling right out of the forest. I was using my Canon EOS Rebel T1i along with my Canon 18-55mm kit lens. Since I wanted to get the flowing motion of the river along with a long shutter speed I had to use my ND8 filter along with my UV and warming filter. Normally I only use my ND4 but the glare was still pretty intense due to the amount of water and the fact that it was traveling at such a high speed. A slower moving river or waterfall is much easier to photograph than one that is moving much faster. In fact, I was only able to set the shutter speed to 4 seconds. I had the camera mode set at shutter priority and the aperture was at F22. The F stop was at F22 since I had the ND8 filter on the lens which only allowed a small amount of light through the lens. I also set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -1.3 due to the glare of the water. Taking photographs of fast moving rivers and waterfalls really requires you to master the art of utilizing and understanding light and your subject. I can spend hours changing my filters and settings in order to take the perfect shot. However, I am rarely disappointed when visiting the Columbia River Gorge. The photo opportunities are endless. I normally avoid the Gorge when the water levels are low and if the vegetation is still sparse or too dry due to the time of year. Late summer and winter isn’t the best time to get the best shots.
[/caption] Sunday was nothing but sunshine and huge crowds along the Columbia River Gorge. I normally avoid the gorge on weekends when the weather is nice but I had a childhood friend visiting that also enjoys photography. So, I decided to take him to some of Oregon’s best waterfalls closest to Portland. Since we got such a late start I figured that we would start at Multnomah Falls. The crowds were outrageous but the sunlight was pretty awesome. Even with the crowds, the almost perfect sunlight made for a worthy experience. The sun was just far enough west that you could capture the glow of the neon greens and still be able to use your shutter to capture the movement of the falls. We eventually drove to Elowah falls where we hiked along the gorge trail via Yeon Park and again took advantage of the great lighting. We also stopped at Cascade Locks to photograph some of the sailboat racers cruising a small course on the Columbia River. I decided to post this shot since I rarely get many chances to post pictures of the forest. Forest shots always seem to elude me. However, this time the soft light and ample greenery of vegetation made for a great opportunity. I used my 18-55mm lens and had the focal length at 29mm. I set the ISO at 100 and kept it in Auto Exposure. The F-stop was at 4.5 and I was using my tripod. The exposure time was at .125 seconds. I had my warming filter along with my CIR-PL to create a subtle appearance.
[/caption] I decided to spend a day trying to take some pictures of the falls and creeks along the gorge but I found that most of the vegetation is still fairly sparse and somewhat brown. There are a lot of spring plants and flowers starting to come up but it’s still a few weeks away before it will turn to it’s most notable green of greens. Most of my hike was rain free but once I got above triple falls it started to rain pretty hard. To make things worse, I hit my leg on an old log and gave myself a really bad charlie horse. I spent the rest of the day limping along the trail. This really put a damper on my day. I decided to return to my car and maybe drive towards Hood River to see if the rain might let up. Boy was I wrong! the clouds had thickened and the rain had become even worse. I eventually decided to call it a day and drive back to Portland. The wind was especially bad and the rain progressively got even worse as I drove past Multnomah Falls. I used my ND8 along with my warming filter and my CIR-POL to capture this shot. Since the sun was high enough, there seemed to always be enough light to over expose any of my shots, if I didn’t have my ND8 filter attached. I set my ISO to 200 and my focal length was at 55mm. The F-stop I used was F10 in order to allow enough light in due to the use of the ND8 filter. The shutter time was 1 second while using the Auto Shutter Priority.
[/caption] I went to Astoria on Saturday and stayed until Sunday. This was one of my most awesome photography weekends EVER. Saturday didn’t have a cloud in the sky. The sky was a deep blue, there was no wind and the temperature was perfect. Sunday was overcast but it made for awesome stormy pictures while photographing near the Astoria-Megler bridge. The best thing is that it never rained and the temperature wasn’t too bad. I can honestly say that from the 1500 photos that I took, I saved over half of them. That’s how good the day went. I would recommend visiting Astoria if you haven’t already. There is plenty to do. I was able to get some of my best panoramic photos from the top of the Astoria Column. This is a 125 foot tower that was built in 1926 and has a 164 spiraling staircase to the top. The city of Portland needs something like this. The column was in great shape and the park was immaculate. You can see Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helen’s looking east. You can really zoom in to the ships, bridge and town if you have a descent telephoto lens. Since Astoria is the oldest settlement west of the Rockies, there are plenty of old houses, buildings, piers, old pilings and other attractions that make for a photographers dream. I never had the time to tour any of the several museums or old military bunkers. I think I counted 12 visitor sites in my book. However, I did make time to photograph the Goonies house and the elementary school where kindergarten cop was filmed. Since Astoria sits right on the Columbia, you can watch several tankers and barges steam under the bridge and see them anchored in the channel. Again, I could have taken over 2500 photos just of the ships along the river. There are also two great lighthouses to visit in Washington…Cape Disappointment and North Head lighthouse. However, I was surely disappointed in the conditions of each of these lighthouses. Maybe I’m just used to the Oregon lighthouses, which are in much better shape. I was short on time, so I wasn’t able to hike many of the trails that intersect both of the lighthouses so I plan on going back when I have more time. In fact, I was so rushed to find a good sunset spot that I eventually settled on an unfinished viewpoint area just north of the North Head lighthouse. To get to the lighthouses it’s a relatively short drive from Astoria. You just take the Astoria-Megler bridge north and then it’s about 15 miles. We spotted a bald eagle on our drive. We also passed Fort Columbia and several spots that would make for great sunset shots. Since I have so many photos that I think people would enjoy, I will be posting some more on my blog asap.
[/caption] I had to go to Portland on the last day of our sunny weather so I could take some photos and enjoy the weather. The sky nor the sun did me any favors but it was nice to spend the day along the water. It really felt more like the middle of spring rather than the last week of February. Due to only a few of the vegetation blooming, I wasn’t very satisfied with 99% of my photos. The Willamette was pretty dark, which also didn’t help. However, I did find some great spots that I will return to once the trees and plants bloom more. Gotta love the Portland waterfront when the sun is out. Especially when it’s in February.