Thursday, September 13, 2007
Photographing the Columbia River Gorge
The last 2 summers I stopped off in Portland on my way to photograph Mt. Rainier. I'm always trying to cram in more than I should and the Columbia River Gorge is truly worth a trip all on it's own. I was only able to stay overnight each time. I like to stay in Troutdale which is just outside Portland and very close to the Gorge. The main freeway along the Gorge is the 84 but it's better to get off at Corbet Hill Road (Exit 22) and follow the signs towards Crown Point. (You''ll be turning onto Crown Point Road.) The road changes names and eventually becomes Historic Columbia River Highway. All of the main waterfalls are along this old highway. It's 2 lanes and very narrow in spots. You'll drive under canopies of trees and cross over some old moss covered bridges.
I like to make my first stop Chanticleer Point which is cared for by the Portland Women's Forum. It's a small parking lot that has a view of Crown Point. It's a great location at Sunset. Sunrise isn't bad here, but so far the early morning fog has pushed me to Crown Point itself.
It's a short drive to Crown Point and it too offers many spectacular views of the Columbia River Gorge. There's more of a crowd here at Sunset, but almost no one at Sunrise. With a long lens you can pick out the sweet spots. (See Last Shot.)
Moving down the road you'll find many waterfalls, but the granddaddy of them all is Multnomah Falls. If you're coming from town take the main exit (for Multnomah Falls) off the 84 freeway you'll end up in the lower parking lot. If you take the Old Highway from Crown Point you'll be in the upper parking lot right next to the falls. There's a large Restaurant and Gift Shop and if you arrive late in the day you'll find bus loads of people. I recommend going very early, right after Sunrise, while the falls are in shade. After you get your main shots of the falls continue up the hill. Here you can get a few shots of the upper falls as well and you can cross over the bridge.
It's been sunny both of the times I was there, but if it's overcast I think I'd hike in to one of the other falls there. On sunny days with the extreme contrast of bright daylight and deep shade it's best to just enjoy the hike. You'll have the place all to yourself. I've never see anyone else on the trails. I hear Panther Falls, which is on the Washington side, is one of the best locations. There's a host of other falls listed in Robert Hitchman's Photograph America's Photo Guide. These are great guides and a true bargain. Please don't follow my poor example. Take your time and gorge yourself. (Did I say that?)
For More Photos see my Oregon Gallery.
For info on Mt. Rainier see my previous post Photographing Mt. Rainier.