Thursday, March 31, 2016

A visit to the Colombia Gorge, just outside of Portland, Oregon

Last week was spent in Portland, Oregon, where my wife and I spent 3 1/2 days celebrating our 25th anniversary. Since our daughter is attending university in Portland, and we had not visited her in a while, we decided that this would be a good trip to take.

But we also made some time for just the two of us to get out and explore. On Wednesday morning, we got up and decided to head out to the Columbia Gorge. My first time and my wife's second time there.

It was pretty funny. The valet brought our rental car to the front of the hotel and saw my tripod in hand. Without any hesitation, he said "Do you want any information about the Gorge?" I guess we were not the first people to photograph this area. :)

He recommended that we get off the main freeway (at Exit 22) and take the frontage road to get a more scenic drive. This was an excellent suggestion.

This drive took us past the Vista House (which you can see here on the right). As you can see the weather was pretty typical for Oregon, with overcast skies and light rain.

When I took the first photo I figured that the hills and overcast skies would look better converted to black and white. So, after editing the photo, I took it into NIK Silver Efex Pro (which is now downloadable for free) and converted it.

Our first stop was Latourell Falls, which was my favorite. This first shot of Latourell Falls was taken right from the viewing area on the side of the road. No hiking necessary for this shot. I was actually happy to have overcast skies, since this made it easier to photograph the waterfall with a slow shutter speed. Since the primary reason for this trip was not photography (although I can't help myself) I brought a limited amount of camera gear. I had my Canon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm lens, Gitzo tripod and Acratech ball head. I set the camera to ISO 100, f/20, and used my Tiffen HT Circular Polarizing Filter to help block some more light. This gave me a shutter speed of 1/3 second. The slow shutter speed helps to accentuate the motion of the water.

We then hiked up a small hill and I took this photo of Latourell Falls slightly off center. I wanted to include the moss on the walls of the waterfall and the moss lining the trees. Again, having overcast weather made for better photos without harsh sunlight and shadows.

Here is a photo of my wife and I on our anniversary. I set the camera on my tripod, put it in 10 second timer mode and ran into the shot.

After hiking towards the top of the waterfall, we decided to hike down to the lower portion of the falls. I love isolating portions of waterfalls like this. Most people try to get the entire waterfall in the photo, but I often find that these photos are more interesting.

To get more motion in the water, I set the Canon 5D Mark III to ISO 100, f/16, which in this dark scene gave me a 1 second exposure. This was also using the Tiffen HT Circular Polarizing filter. The filter really helps, not only to block out some light, but to remove the reflections off of the rocks in the river.

We actually visited the Gorge twice in two days. On the second trip to Latourell Falls , we brought Ali and her two friends from college. Well...actually, her roommate this year (Gabi) and next year's roommate (Taylor).

We could not visit the Columbia Gorge without a visit to the iconic Multnomah Falls. On our first visit, which was early in the day, there were a ton of people visiting these falls. Annette and I enjoyed the site, but were overwhelmed by the crowds. On the second day, we went later in the day and most people were gone by the time we go to this location.

I took this photo on the second day, because I could not even get to this shooting location on the previous visit. I set up the camera and took this photo with a 1.7 second exposure. This creates a lot of motion in the water at the bottom of the falls.

Since I was doing my normal "Jeff is taking too long taking photos", Annette and the girls walked ahead and went up to the bridge. I saw the four of them looking back towards me and took a bunch of photos. Since I was shooting with a shutter speed of almost 2 seconds, I needed them to stay pretty still for at least one frame. This was the one I wanted. And for those of you wondering why I did not change the settings to get a fast shutter speed, I still wanted the blurred motion of the water in contrast to them and the bridge.

This last photo was taken by the freeway. There is a secondary parking lot that is located away from the falls. Even though we did not park there, I liked the view from far back. So...on our exit from the falls, I pulled into this parking lot to shoot a wide shot.

If you are ever in the Portland area, make sure to bring your camera and visit the Columbia Gorge. We look forward to going back and exploring more of this beautiful area.


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