The PhotoWalk on Saturday was a day of urban immersion. I enjoyed meeting several photographers and wandering around as a group to take photos of whatever. But I can’t help feeling somewhat out of place in the city even though I worked there for 15 years. I know my way around but it never feels as comfortable or natural as being in rural settings be it wildlands or open agriculture or a wildlife reserve or…
Dianne and I had not spent time hiking or just being out without some dedicated photo mission in several weeks. Our coming week is full with wedding, high school senior and engagement photos. We took Sunday as a day to get out and get recharged. Once we got the decision about whether to go to the coast or to the mountains behind us (yeah…. life in Oregon is SO limiting… ocean…mountains…desert…what to do, what to do) we headed for a waterfall that neither of us had seen before.
One reference we use for waterfalls is “Waterfall Lover’s Guide” by G. Plumb. It’s a handy little reference for locating waterfalls and showed a 2 mile hike to the falls. I checked a website for info on the falls and saw a 7 mile round trip distance… hmmmm, nearly twice the hike. Being human, I opted to accept the shorter distance as “real” and we headed out. Not that it would have made any difference to us but a 4 mile hike just seemed more in keeping with our day.
Plumb’s book says to drive 3.7 miles off Hwy. 26 and then veer right onto the Muddy Fork road. My first sense of making the wrong choice of who to believe came when we got to the road intersection in 4.2 miles. Hey, how hard is it to clock a distance in a car? Onward. At the trailhead I checked the Forest Service map and it showed a distance of about 2.1 miles to falls and about 2.3 miles coming out on a loop trail. Maybe Plumb was close after all. For once our little Garmin GPS got a signal and held it. We headed out to the falls.
We passed a group of 4 as we moved up the trail. We hiked without seeing anyone else for 3 miles. Hmmm… where are the falls? We were nearly a mile beyond what Plumb and the Forest Service said was needed to be at our destination. I figured we had taken a wrong trail somewhere and we turned to go back and correct the error. Trail signage was scarce to non-existant. But we really didn’t care. We were content to just be “out there” and enjoying time together and with nature. After a short distance the group of four met up with us and convinced us that the falls were just ahead of us. They’d been there before and assured us that the 7 mile trip was correct but that the falls were really nothing spectacular. We can’t miss them but they really aren’t much… or so they said. We turned again and followed them to the falls… now at 4 miles given our path forward, back, forward.
When we got to the falls we found several other people there. People with large packs who had been camping in the Mt. Hood Wilderness. Day hikers like ourselves. People with cameras. Couples, families, individuals. Really quite startling to see so many folks. I went about setting up the tripod and taking photos as Dianne took a photo for the group of 4 who we had been hiking with. They teased us a bit and wanted to know if we thought it was worth the extra distance. Of course we did.
Ramona Falls appears to be the result of a spring driven stream tributary to the Sandy River. The cascade over the basalt outcrop creates a wonderful variety of steps and distinct character. In broad context, the falls are a complex arrangement of smaller features. After recording the grand view of the falls I switched lenses and started poking around in the intimate, smaller pictures within the picture. My friend Deigh (link) and I agree that there is a great richness of character and photo possibilities within the details of almost any waterfall. Given the magnitude of these falls I could have stood there for some time just recording details. Actually, I did. Many people entered the area and left while we stood there recording the falls and playing with different compositions. Great light for once… only a few bright spots on the steps of the rocks. Deep shadows came out with exposures in the 3-6 second range. Little wind to blow branches around. Really, just about an ideal set of conditions for waterfall photos.
I think you could pick any part of the falls and find nice compositions. I was looking at edges and corners to frame the viewer’s reaction to the photo. My goal of shooting with greater purpose and intent kept nagging me to slow down and think about what excited me as I looked at the falls. The steps? The logs? The light? I just really love the complexity of the images shown here. I hope you can feel the coolness of the setting and the slight mist in the air. The sound was remarkably muted due to the complex step pattern of the falls. What a great way to spend a day. The hike was definitely worthwhile.