Spring is in the air and it feels like it outside. On the last day of February…… it’s sunny, warm and you can even see snow capped mountains in the distance. It’s already shaping up to be another standard Pacific Northwest Spring like debacle! Debacle you say! why yes! I say that because the forecast for tomorrow is calling for a severe storm system to move in and blanket most of the state with rain in the valleys, snow in the mountains and much colder temperatures in the Cascades. Government Camp may only get a high of 17 degrees even though today it’s partly sunny and much warmer. However, this isn’t any different from all the other years in the Northwest. People in Chicago, IL have a saying… if you don’t like the weather just give it a few hours. That’s nothing, compared to our seasons in the Pacific Northwest. We can have Spring weather on one day and then winter the next. This is much different than just rain one day and then sun the next. We experience complete seasonal changes within just a day. However, I’m totally ready for the Spring weather as well as hoping that we get some descent snow storms in the mountains, so I can revel in both worlds. I’m ready to take out my 50mm prime lens, for some great tulip shots and get out my 17-70mm lens so I can take it up to the mountain while snow shoeing through some rugged powder. Another great thing about the Pacific Northwest is that it’s really easy to experience several seasons on the same day since you can admire in the spring flowers while taking in the views of snow capped mountains.
Tulips have some of the most amazing colors and magnificent features. However, sometimes changing them to black and white offers you the chance to showcase their features without their colors stealing the show. This photo was taken of red and yellow tulips sitting side by side. I wanted to created a really interesting profile so I rested on my stomach and tilted my camera up towards the sky and tried not to get as much of the flowers in the frame without having any distortion. The sun was at a perfect angle, which was at about a 90 degree angle and the light was coming through the flowers as well as their stems. There were no clouds in the sky which allowed me to perfectly cast the tulips as though they were floating in mid air. I was using my Canon T1i and attached my Tokina 12-24mm wide angle lens. I was trying to get the most panoramic photo as possible as well as create a large field of view so I set the focal length at 14mm so there wouldn’t be any of the flowers out of focus. I set the ISO at 100 and kept the white balance at 0 due to the high glare and overexposure of the sky. I had the camera in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was set at F-6.4 and the shutter speed at 1/100 second. I attached my warming and CIR-PL filter and I wasn’t using a tripod since the camera was only a few inches from the ground.
[/caption] Springtime in the Pacific Northwest offers some of the best opportunities to view the wildflowers all along the region. I took this photo just minutes from my suburban neighborhood. I noticed hundreds of these flowers growing along the base of several massive Douglas Fir trees. They were growing like weeds but really brightened up the shady parts of the area. They only grow about a foot above the ground and offer some of the most amazing photographic opportunities.
[/caption] If you are prepared to see some of the fastest moving water in the Columbia River Gorge I would recommend going very soon. The waterfalls and creeks are absolutely thundering right now and you will not be disappointed. Even though the foliage isn’t completely out yet, you will at least be able to see more of the waterfalls before the dense vegetation covers them up. The spring wildflowers are amazing right now even though they haven’t peaked yet. I spent the day trying to visit as many parts of the gorge as possible in order to capture as many epic photographs that I could. I took this photo while visiting Wahkeena Falls. This photo was taken under the small foot bridge that takes you over the creek. While I was photographing parts of the Wahkeena Falls I noticed this rock shelf and the speeding water was going so fast that you could see some of the water actually bounce backwards and against the rock wall. the foot bridge above created the perfect shadow effect but also allowed the foliage to reflect some light from the fast moving creek. I had to crouch in a very peculiar position but it was well worth it. To get this shot I used my Sigma 17-70mm lens and attached my ND8, CIR-PL and warming filter. I was about 3 feet from the creek and I set the focal length to 28mm. I put the camera mode in TV/shutter priority and set the speed at 20 seconds. I was trying to capture as much movement as possible in order to show every nook and cranny in the rocks below the water. As you can see, I was pretty successful. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at +0.7. It was about 5:35pm and the sun was still pretty strong, even though I was nearly under the bridge and was completely shrouded in the foliage.
[/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] 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] 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] 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.