Archive for the ‘Columbia River’ Tag

Plan B   3 comments

A colorful sunset decorates the winding Columbia River, as viewed from Larch Mountain, Oregon.

A colorful sunset decorates the winding Columbia River, as viewed from Larch Mountain, Oregon.

The alternative, the plan B: what a wonderful aspect of life.  I’m not talking necessarily about the planned-for plan B.  I think it is much more fun to either stumble upon a plan B or come up with one on the fly.  Both happened over the past couple of days when I went out to get late-day photographs.

A vibrant dusk descends on the Columbia River, viewed from Larch Mountain, Oregon.

A vibrant dusk descends on the Columbia River, viewed from Larch Mountain, Oregon.

I am dealing with an injury, so have been hanging around the house a lot.  But the pain is not so much that I can’t force myself to go out for sunset pictures.  On Easter Sunday I headed up to Larch Mountain, which is a mountain near Portland where I live.  I have blogged about this place before.  The view from the top is sublime, and it promised to be a  gorgeous sunset.  It also was destined to be a great example of stumbling upon a plan B.

 On the way up I noticed a few snow patches.  Then I rounded a bend and came upon the closed gate I had been worried about.  The Forest Service had not opened the road yet!  I turned around in utter disappointment and headed back down.  The forest is thick on Larch Mtn., and so views are very hard to come by.  But looking off to the right and seeing an opening, I reacted and whipped over to a wide spot along the shoulder.  With not much time before sunset, I walked into the woods and entered the clearcut I had spotted from the road.

The Columbia River in Oregon is peaceful at sunset.

The Columbia River in Oregon is peaceful at sunset.

Clearcuts are common in the Pacific Northwest.  Loggers still use this extremely destructive form of harvest, and I always feel sad when I see them.  But in this case it was a blessing.  I was able to walk the dirt tracks made by the trucks until I found a place with a view west over the Columbia River.  Climbing atop a large stump, I shot out over forest below me, and the shots above are the result.

A pile dike stretches out into the lower Columbia River in Oregon as dusk deepens.

A pile dike stretches out into the lower Columbia River in Oregon as dusk deepens.

Then yesterday I headed out to the Columbia River Gorge.  But the clouds were much too thick up in the Gorge, so I stopped not far in and wondered what to shoot.  Just then the sun peeked out from the clouds to the west, and I walked west toward it.  Stumbling along the riverbank, I finally came to a spot where a pile dike (row of wood pilings sticking out into the river) made a nice foreground for a sunset shot.

There was one problem however.  I could not get a clear view of the sunset because of all the brush along the river bank.  So I came up with a plan B on the fly.  I quickly shucked my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants, and waded out into the water.  Brrrr!  I was reminded that the Columbia is mostly made up of snow-melt this time of year.  I was able to wade far enough out to capture the images here.  A pleasant surprise was a sea lion, who was cruising the area for dinner (image below).

A seal cruises the lower Columbia River in Oregon at sunset.

A sea lion cruises the lower Columbia River in Oregon at sunset.

Hope you enjoy the pictures.  Simply click on the images for access to high-res. versions suitable for framing.  Once you are there, click the appropriate tab for purchase options.  Remember these are copyrighted and not available for free download.  Sorry.  If you have any questions or comments you don’t want to put on the blog post, please contact me.  Thanks very much.

A peaceful dusk descends along the lower Columbia River in Oregon.

A peaceful dusk descends along the lower Columbia River in Oregon.

Horizontal vs. Vertical: River of the West   9 comments

The Columbia River rolls west toward the Pacific, as viewed from the mossy banks on the Oregon side.

The Columbia River rolls west toward the Pacific, as viewed from the mossy banks on the Oregon side.

 

A short post on one of my favorite places to go when I sense a nice sunset coming up.  The River of the West is of course the Columbia River.  The North American continent has some big rivers, most draining the older eastern part of the continent.  But there are a few big ones in the west too.  The Columbia is one of these (The Yukon and McKenzie are two others).  The big river originates high in the Canadian Rockies and empties into the Pacific at the charming little town of Astoria, Oregon.  Lewis and Clark, the pair of explorers that Thomas Jefferson sent out west in 1804 to map a route to the Pacific Ocean from America, passed this spot.  Who knows, they might have stepped ashore here, stepping from their canoes to stretch their legs.

This spot is just 20 minutes or so from my house.  The river is wide here, and is influenced by tides despite being many miles from the ocean.  I scrambled down these rocks, nearly falling because of their slickness.  A rainshower had just passed, giving the moss, rocks and sky a fresh look that I think really adds to the photo.

I am posting both the vertical and horizontal versions.  I will often shoot both formats.  Sometimes one of them just jumps right out as the superior take.  But often I’m left wondering which one has more impact.  This might be the case here.

When there are many vertical elements in your composition, such as trees or tall buildings, a vertical composition is most often the best choice (not always though).  When you have an expansive composition, perhaps taken with a wide-angle lens, a horizontal composition often works better.  If there are layers in the scene, such as that provided by flat clouds or contrasting levels of ground, trees, mountains, etc., a horizontal composition is definitely worth it.  But do not think just because you have horizontal layers that a vertical composition will not work equally as well.

What I’d like to know is which one you prefer, the horizontal image above or the vertical one below.  Feel free also to post a pair of images on your own blog, same scene but one horizontal and one vertical.  Then post a link in your reply here so people can take a look and give their opinion on which format they prefer.  I suppose it would be a theme/challenge.  Thanks very much for looking!

The lower Columbia River in Oregon flows west toward the Pacific past the moss-covered rocks lining its banks.

The lower Columbia River in Oregon flows west toward the Pacific past the moss-covered rocks lining its banks.

 

The Gorge I   Leave a comment

The Columbia River Gorge stretches east from Crown Point in Oregon.

I am taking a two-post break from my African adventures to give some love to a reliable friend.  Close-by, always prepared, consistent and mellow but always ready for adventure.  It’s the Columbia River Gorge, the closest truly natural area to where I live in Portland, Oregon.  I can get to the near western end in under a 1/2 hour, and from there can take trails both mellow and super-hardcore steep.  It is accessible year-round, though the dead of winter involves icy trails.  In the heat of summer it offers cool, narrow side-gorges where you can walk through delicious streams up to waterfalls.  If you want to climb in the Cascades, you can start very early getting in shape, say February, getting in shape by climbing steep 4000 feet goat trails in the Gorge.  Driving, motorcycling, or bicycling the Historic Highway, which was built by the CCC during the depression, is a joy.  In short, it has something for everybody.

The top image is from “Women’s Forum Park”, an overlook along the Historic Hwy. near Corbett.  The building is Vista House, at Crown Point.  The image below was taken from the parking lot of Charburger in Cascade Locks, looking downriver through the heart of the Gorge.  The third picture is Multnomah Creek, just above Multnomah Falls, and you can easily hike the mostly paved trail from the tourist hotspot of Multnomah Falls.  The last image is from the hiking trail at Horsetail Falls.  All of my images are available for licensing and purchase as prints.  I personally perform quality printing and mounting on archival papers, using professional techniques.  If you click on an image and it takes you to my website, you can purchase directly from there, or contact me.  For those images that don’t take you directly to my site, contact me to buy a print or license to use.  Otherwise, for these images only, you can use them if you like, for personal use only please.

The Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

The Columbia River Gorge cuts a near-sea-level path through the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S, running right along the border between the states of Oregon and Washington.  It’s story starts about 17 million years ago when huge fissures opened in what is now eastern Washington & Oregon, emitting tall lava fountains for months at a time.  This happened repeatedly over the next several million years, until the entire area was covered in thousands of feet of lava, which flowed all the way to the coast.

This cooled and hardened to become basalt, the same type of lava-rock the ocean floor is made of.   Eruptions came streaming straight up through the crust, so the fissures ran very deep indeed.  The lava-flood formed the Columbia River Plateau, a significant pile of rock for the Columbia River (which existed but well to the south of its present course) to cut through.  It is one of the world’s few “flood-basalt” provinces.  The largest such plateau lies in Siberia.  Some geologists believe it might have been created by a giant meteor impact, but most think it probably had more to do with the start of rifting along the western edge of North America, a tearing apart that continues today in the form of the Basin and Range of Nevada and adjacent states.

The rise of the Cascades pushed the Columbia River to the north, and it began cutting through the lavas.  That process was happily proceeding at its own slow pace when, some 12-20,000 years ago, a series of huge glacial floods tore down from western Montana (where a dammed glacial lake was filled and breached many times).  These floods, called the Bretz floods (Bretz was the geologist who first recognized it), formed the channeled scablands in eastern Washington, and lower down, cut the Gorge.  They also filled the Willamette Valley with the silts that make up the rich farmlands there today.  So next time you bit into a juicy Oregon strawberry, think of the ice ages and the Pacific Northwest’s version of Noah’s story.

Multnomah Creek tumbles down the last step before plunging over the 600+ feet to the bottom.

When the floods over-steepened the valley sides, the hard basalt lavas resisted further erosion, forming cliffs.  But the valley walls often let loose in huge landslides, and that process continues today during wetter periods.  The landslide debris was carried away by the river, further deepening and steepening the Gorge.  It is really these landslides, along with the floods of course, that are responsible for the broad-bottomed, cliff-rimmed gorge we all gape at today.

The Gorge is a place to hike, rock-climb, picnic and boat, to windsurf and sail, to photograph and bicycle.  Waterfalls, made possible by the floods and landslides, along with the Northwest’s wet climate, are abundant, beautiful, and accessible.  The Oregon side is much wetter and more heavily forested (because it faces north, away from the drying sun).  So if you want a forest hike with waterfalls, stick to the Oregon side.  If you want more sunshine and open vistas, go to the Washington side, especially to the east where you begin to enter semi-desert climate.

A key advantage to the Washington side?  It is quieter, literally.  Interstate 84 follows the Oregon side, and it is quite audible until you hike a few miles back from the river.  Hood River, an hour east of Portland, is wind- and kite-surfing central.  The winds blow almost constantly through the Gorge, because climatic conditions are very different on the east side of the Cascades.  Often the west side has lower barometric pressure than the sunnier and higher east side, so winds funnel westward through the gorge from high to low pressure.  Next up is info. on visiting this excellent destination.

The Columbia River flows past Mt Hamilton and Beacon Rock in the Columbia River Gorge, viewed from the Oregon side.

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