Spring in the Gorge

It has been quite some time since I ventured into the Columbia River Gorge with a camera, a tripod and time to dally.  My hiking partner was under the weather this morning and encouraged me to go alone.  Our plans had been to visit a couple of waterfalls and get some hiking in before the summer crowds descend. I went east with more than a bit of guilt festering in my head.  I decided I’d alter our original plans and work my way through the waterfall series from west to east and end at Wahclella Falls.  Fewer steps but more variety.

First stop was the ever-popular Latourell Falls.  This was the first time I had a real scene on which to use the new 10-24mm lens on the Fuji X-T1.  I was not anxious to get a bunch of spray all over the front element so I headed to an area that was a bit more protected from the gusty down canyon winds.  It is such a treat to use a smaller, lighter camera that can produce such high quality files.  The new lens worked well IMHO.

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I tinkered around with some native bleeding heart blooms on the way back to the car but none of the frames will find their way to this blog.  More practice is called for… and less wind.

I drove east and went right by Shepard’s Dell, Bridal Veil and Wahkeena Falls.  Past experience has jaded my view of these falls – at least photographically.  I pulled into Multnomah Falls and was pleased to see that there were few people around.  Being one of the most photographed scenes in Oregon my goal here was not to produce a bit of wall art but simply to get some experience with the new lens.  What would the scene look like compared to the ones I’ve shot with the Nikon gear…. over and over and over.

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After sitting for a short time to just enjoy the scene at a time when there were not tens or hundreds of people swarming the viewing deck I moved on toward Wahclella Falls.  It really is note worthy when you have Multnomah Falls to yourself.

I parked at the nearly empty trailhead for the short hike into Wahclella Falls.  One other car.  Again, an unusual experience at one of Portland’s favorite family hikes.  I set out for the one mile trip into the falls stopping a couple of times to record some views of the creek.  It’s a beautiful time of year with the greens being saturated and fresh. Everything was wet from fog and dew.  Unfortunately, the light was not really the best to show the scene.  Still, quite nice though.

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I sat for a minute and thought about what Stephen Gingold would do with such a scene.  Close in on the details of the small falls?  Change the shutter speed?  Process differently?  I know I admire his images of water and flowers a great deal and always try to imagine how he shoots and processes for presentation.  Some day I’ll try to shadow him on a photo outing.

Once I arrived at the falls I set out to find a composition I enjoyed.  Typical of waterfall shooting, one gets wetter as you get closer to the falls.  I don’t mind being wet but I do tire of trying to keep the lens dry and spot free.  I was fussing around with the tripod when I noticed another man had arrived.  He too was shooting with a Fuji camera so we shared our praises of the cameras and tried to stay out of each other’s frames as we both went about shooting.  It is always nice to meet random people who share the photographic interest.  Some of my friends were introduced during chance encounters with our cameras.

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This view was shot while standing on a foot bridge that crosses the stream.  The setting is far enough away from the falls that most of the mist is not a worry.  It’s a bit of a luxury to be able to stand on a solid surface and make a photo.  All too many times I’m standing or kneeling on a precarious perch, steep slope or vulnerable to a variety of mishaps.  Not so here.

There is another classical view of this falls that requires one to hike up a hill to a higher vantage point.  The site also lets you incorporate an intermittent falls into the foreground of the frame.  Not today.  The hillside above me was bathed in bright light and I knew that shooting into the sun would only end with files being discarded once home.  On I went along the trail back toward the car.  But I got interrupted by a couple of small views on the return hike.  I stopped to admire the stream and had the luck to look down.  There were numerous small groups of mushrooms at my feet.  I switched lenses to the 55-200 and dropped the tripod down to ground level.  Another advantage of the Fuji is the tilting LCD screen.  With the camera mounted to the tripod and hugging the ground I was able to sit comfortably and view the scene without laying on my belly.  This is not a trivial thing as I age and, er, expand?

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Then, a short distance down the trail I ran into a small group of emerging flowers.  I’m not sure what these are but I enjoyed the new growth and bright colors.  The image feels almost “Gingold-like” to me.  A bit too much clutter in the background perhaps but the blossoms are quite nice.

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The quiet of the hike was over as I headed down-trail.  Lots of people hiking in.  A young couple, each with a front kid carrier passed by.  Another man holding the hand of a young girl who I guessed to be about 4.  A group of dreadlocked guys stopped to admire a banana slug working its way across the trail.  Other groups passed by with head knods or a polite greeting.  I thought to myself… what a lovely place to be.  Then I thought about my ailing wife back home and picked up the pace to get back into cell range so I could check on her.  She greeted me with good news about feeling much better.  My guilt about enjoying the day without her was tempered a bit but not totally gone.  I pulled the car back onto the freeway and headed west into the city of crazy drivers that we call home.

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