Columbia River pilings

If you have driven east from Portland, OR on I-84 you may have seen several locations where rows of pilings have been driven into the Columbia River.  I’ve often wondered about the history of these.  They could be tied to fishing, logging or river control.  I just don’t know.  I’ve always wanted to photograph some of these and decided that today I’d go with hopes of getting a minimalist type of shot with the pilings fading into fog across the river.  That didn’t happen but I did get enough experience to know what to do when the fog rolls in.


I started in Cascade Locks since I had seen some pilings on the east end of town when returning from eastern Oregon last week.  It’s darn hard to find anything in the dark and I left town without success.  I went to Hood River and had a bite to eat and some coffee while the sun came up.  Marvelous sunrise that went unphotographed as I parked.  I left Hood River and headed west with the intent to discover the pilings I’d seen earlier and then try to find out how to get access to them.  I pulled in at Tanner Creek and parked by the tracks.  Walking down the tracks brought me to the pilings.  Trouble was that there was about 50 yards of blackberries between me and the pilings.  The pilings were fairly sparse and quite far out into the river.  Not what I wanted and certainly not worth the pain of getting through the berry patch.

I returned to my car and headed west.  This time I pulled in at Dalton Point and walked a fisherman trail to the river.  The row of pilings I wanted was still about 200 yards upstream when I got to the river.  Walking on the bank rocks was proving to be more of a challenge than I wanted so I climbed back up to the highway and walked the shoulder until I got to the pilings.  Dropping down (literally) to the river put me next to the pilings. The far shore had a few houses and such that I wish weren’t there.  No fog and the far shore was pretty well lit up.  The wind was running pretty well…. did I say “no fog”.  But the grass on the bank caught my eye.  The current had been higher recently and the bent grass offered a great base of color next to the rock, the river and the pilings.  In my mind I saw some flowing water images against the still pilings and rocks and set about taking some long exposure photos.  I did not put on any polarizer since the sun was at my back.  It would have helped slow the exposure down more if I thought I needed it.  I did pull out the 2 stop ND grad and tried to pull the bright background down a bit.  Next time I’ll bring the mounting bracket for the filter since I seem to get my thumb or forefinger in the frame about 1/4 of the time.

I began timing waves and trying to get nice motion across the rocks.  That’s not as easy as it might seem.  I love the effect and am pleased with many of the shots.  It was a great morning to be out early.  The gulls kept watch on me as I shot and the traffic noise from I-84 behind me faded in my mind as I got more into the photography.  Once again, life is good.


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