New Images: Columbia River Gorge

As you may know, Jay and I generally travel and shoot together. Our trip to Oregon was no exception. The weather was just right for a trip to the Columbia River Gorge. Occasional rain kept the mosses and stones wet – and helped to bring out rich colors. Overcast skies gave us perfect, even lighting for waterfall shots like the ones you see here. And when the skies cleared up, we spent some time photographing nearby peaks and scouting for other locations.

Here are a few of the shots we took at Elowah Falls on McCord Creek. This is an easy-to-access spot, and it’s incredibly beautiful. Locations like this are great because the options for compositions are unlimited.

Up close, blowing mist is a constant problem – especially in Spring when more water is falling. Varina set up her camera on a slippery rock just beyond the falls. She chose her composition, selected the appropriate camera settings, and wiped her lens clean before replacing the lens cap. With everything ready to go, she needed to wait for clouds to cover the sun, and a moment of calm wind. She protected her camera from the water with her jacket, and when the moment was right, she removed the lens cap and released the shutter. A quick check of the histogram was enough to be sure the photo was just right. And then it was time to get the camera – and the chilly photographer – out of the wet mist.

After drying everything thoroughly, Varina set up her camera for a second shot. This time, she wanted to show more of the gorge surrounding the falls. Since she was further back, the mist was no longer a real problem – but she still needed to wipe the lens before shooting. This was a quick and easy shot – camera settings were already just right, and the sun stayed hidden long enough for her to snap a quick image. Notice that both compositions avoid the sky. Without the sky, the waterfall is the brightest element – and it can claim the full attention of the viewer. The image is less complicated in terms of composition, and is much easier to process as well.
Jay decided to climb right into the creek to shoot the falls. Luckily, he’d remembered to bring along his neoprene water shoes! He wanted to hide the human element – the bridge – and he found that he could do that be placing it behind the large rocks in front of the falls. Notice that Jay’s image is a bit darker overall. Because he was lower in the gorge, the shadows are more obvious. He also waited until the sun went behind a cloud. That meant that the camera could capture the entire dynamic range of the image – from the dark shadows under the rocks, to the bright water of the falls. He needed to process the image twice – once for the water, and once for the rest of the scene – but he was able to get all the detail from a single exposure.

The beautiful golden glow you see in all three images comes from the filtered sunlight as it touches the mosses and trees. We’ll definitely take students to Elowah Falls when we return to the Columbia River Gorge for a workshop.

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6 replies
  1. Steve Eshom
    Steve Eshom says:

    Beautiful stuff! I love Elowah Falls. Do be careful on the slippery rocks though. While down at the creek a few years ago I slipped on one of the rocks and went for a nice mid-March swim in McCord Creek! Brr. Fortunately all the gear was safe in the backpack!

    • Jay Patel
      Jay Patel says:

      Thanks everyone for the comments. We love going to Oregon in Spring. The moss and the vegetation has fresh spring look to it and with overcast skies the warm green color make everything glow. Similar phenomena occurs in southwest when you visit canyons and light bouncing of the walls makes the opposite side glow.


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