We’ve had waterfalls on our bucket list for some time. The problem was identifying an area that housed significant and easily accessible locations where the weather and surroundings were conducive to producing compelling images, especially of “silky” water flow using longer shutter speeds. We opted for locations in Oregon, in particular the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area which houses better than 75 waterfalls and fast flowing creeks in a literal rainforest where ferns and moss supplement the vibrant greens from trees as they leaf out in early spring. The locations here were for the most part readily accessible either roadside or on well-maintained trails. We found the hiking exceptional with the proviso that many of the best falls were well above road level where the switch backs and rocky terrain were literal “lung burners” for photographers our age. It goes without saying that we required frequent rest stops given the equipment we had to tote up the slopes. Although the assent on these hikes was steep, it was well worth the effort.
As we progressed past the Columbia Gorge area the locations we visited were basically “drive-ups” and allowed us the opportunity to see much of Oregon first hand. Our planning research relied heavily on a survey of northwest waterfall locations in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. It’s a great site (www.waterfallsnorthwest.com) that includes not only location descriptions but also directions and photography tips. We tended to favor iconic locations for our first visit and weren’t deterred by having to hike to reach several remote sites on our list. We focused on Oregon as the waterfall concentration and photogenic locations helped to minimize driving distance and time. We selected roughly 25 locations that looked promising and targeted the middle of May when the weather was forecast to provide high overcast conditions. This we hoped would assist with producing exposures that incorporated longer shutter speeds, creating a “silky” mood to the water movement as some of the more sheltered locations. We were not disappointed but did encounter some moderate wind and driving rain that made photography at several locations problematic as the mist from the falls created an instant coating on our lens.
Was there any further downsides to our trip? Definitely don’t visit the Columbia River Gorge on a weekend as it’s a popular and well attended destination, especially Multnomah Falls where it takes some time to create different and compelling compositions. We found out-of-the-way locations such as Salt Creek Falls to be disappointing as the access road was still snowed in. Although we “bush wacked” our way to the viewing area, the mist and canyon depth made photography from the railings almost impossible. Abiqua Falls was also a real trial as the 4X4 road was much longer than expected and in poor condition. The falls “trail” was an incredibly steep decent and we were forced to turn back at roughly the midpoint as the slick hillside provided precious little purchase. Nonetheless, we had an exciting and rewarding trip and would highly recommend Oregon if you want to experience waterfalls in compelling rainforest settings.