Archive for the ‘Crown Point’ Tag

Wordless Wednesday: A Rainbow!   9 comments

Rainbow over Vista House

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Friday Foto Talk: Cameras and Water   6 comments

Metlako Falls in the Eagle Creek Gorge (Oregon), as viewed from above.

Metlako Falls in the Eagle Creek Gorge (Oregon), as viewed from above.

First of all, let me say these pictures may indeed be the last ones my Canon 5D Mark II has captured.  That’s because it took a bad fall and bath.  I had climbed down through the steep brush in Eagle Creek Gorge (Columbia River Gorge in Oregon) trying to find an interesting view of Metlako Falls.  Metlako Falls is one of the tougher waterfalls in Oregon to access and photograph.  I ended up in a spectacular spot, looking down a tumbling stream toward the hidden grotto that the beautiful cascade spills into

The clamp on my tripod head had been a little loose lately.  I’d tightened it but apparently not enough.  I was trying to mount my microphone on the camera to take a video.  In sketchy spots like this, I usually have the camera strap around my neck for safety.  But I had taken it off to get the mic.  The camera was about 7 feet above the creek.

Metlako Falls in the Columbia River Gorge is difficult to access.  Here it's viewed from above.

Metlako Falls in the Columbia River Gorge is difficult to access. Here it’s viewed from above.

You know what happened next.  The camera slipped out of the clamp and fell directly onto a rock then into the creek.  I quickly grabbed it before it went over the edge and frantically dried it off.  But the damage was done.  There is a big dent in the top.  This camera has served me very very well.  It has given me zero problems and captured excellent images for about a year and a half.  I was planning to keep it at least until the next version of the 5D came out (or a new high-resolution full frame Canon).

One more of Metlako Falls, this from a small steep path that leads to this view.

One more of Metlako Falls, this from a small steep path that leads to this view.

Now of course that’s all changed.  Luckily my lens appears to be fine, but the camera is damaged goods, no matter whether it can be repaired or not.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  I’m using my backup, a Canon 50D.  It’s a solid DSLR, but it’s a crop-frame.  I’m too much the wide-angle enthusiast to shoot with it on a constant basis.  Also it doesn’t do video and has slightly lower resolution.  So with few financial resources right now I need to somehow get a new camera.  Though I’m curious about the 6D, I’ll probably just go with the 5D Mark III.

The Columbia River Gorge's high cliffs turn gold at sundown, reflected in wetlands formed during spring's high water flow.  This was captured the day before this camera took a fall.

The Columbia River Gorge’s high cliffs turn gold at sundown, reflected in wetlands formed during spring’s high water flow. This was captured the day before my camera took a fall.

Now to the advice.  Shooting in the Pacific Northwest gives one plenty of experience with water.  From plain old rain to splashing creeks and waterfalls, even the humidity, this area tends to be hard on cameras.  My 5D II was not the best sealed of cameras, so I needed to be careful.  I use a towell that sort of has a big pocket built into it.  It is very absorbent.  I found it at Walgreens.  The pocket fits right over the top of the camera, then I can drape it over the lens.  I do this when it is raining lightly or if I have waterfall spray.

You can buy quite expensive rain gear for your camera.  But nothing I’ve tried is very convenient for use in the rain.  I want to get a housing.  I would just love to start shooting underwater pictures at freshwater creeks and wetlands.  Housings are extremely expensive though.

There is one challenge that often goes overlooked when talking about this subject.  When it starts raining you need to quickly transition to camera protection mode.  How do you do this without getting the camera wet?  If you have an umbrella it might help.  But it’s often a stressful scramble when the sky suddenly decides to open up and take a big pee on you and your gear.

A fisherman tries his luck in the lake that sits beneath Crown Point in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.  This picture was captured with my backup camera the day after the "accident".

A fisherman tries his luck in the lake that sits beneath Crown Point in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge. This picture was captured with my backup camera the day after the “accident”.

I also shoot above rushing water very often.  I have a friend who uses a safety strap that connects the camera to the tripod.  If the head or plate fails, the camera does not fall to the ground or water.  But that still leaves the tripod itself vulnerable.  So I try to always keep the camera strap around my neck near cliffs or over water.  That way if a disaster develops I can save at least the camera/lens and probably the tripod as well.

There is a major Catch 22 here.  Often you want to be out shooting when the weather is “interesting”.  I usually am trying not to shoot in actual rain but just before or after.  I don’t regard grey skies and steady rain as interesting weather!  I think it is the edge of things that you want to target with your camera: the edge of a storm, edge of an ecosystem, edge of the day, edge of a facial expression, etc.

The walls of Oregon's Columbia River Gorge at day's last light.

The walls of Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge at day’s last light.

So my approach is to avoid having my camera out while it’s raining, to wait until the rain lets up before shooting.  And then I cover it with the special towel when I have it out shooting.  I think the electronics in this gear we have will never get along with moisture very well.  Of course if I was independently wealthy, or was somebody famous, sponsored by Canon (yes I’m talking about you Art Wolfe!), I would have a well-sealed Canon 1Dx.  If something happened to it Canon would just send me another.  If I had this $6000+ camera I would not worry about drizzle so much, though full immersion (and salt water) would still be a danger.

The last image below was captured the day after the accident.  I had done a sort of rock climb 100 feet or so up Rooster Rock.  A nearby osprey in her nest was not amused at my presence, and I clung to a precarious spot to get the shot.  I definitely kept the neck strap in place this time.  But I won’t ever stop putting my camera in dangerous spots just because of the possibility of an accident.  That’s just not me.  I know, what about putting myself in danger?  I don’t want to talk about it!

Hope you found this advice helpful.  It’s a mean world (at least for camera gear), so be careful and good luck out there!

A viewpoint gained after a short rock climb partway up Rooster Rock in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge gives a fine view of early evening colors on the river.  Captured with my backup camera the day after the accident.

A viewpoint gained after a short rock climb partway up Rooster Rock in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge gives a fine view of early evening colors on the river. Captured with my backup camera the day after the accident.

Crown Point: A Short Scenic Drive from Portland   3 comments

The rolling pastureland near Corbett in northwestern Oregon just begs to be ridden horseback.

The rolling pastureland near Corbett in northwestern Oregon just begs to be ridden horseback.

I recently visited this lovely place not far east of town at the west end of the Columbia River Gorge.  With the injury I can’t do much hiking, horseback riding (of course) or even the gym.  Long drives are a bad idea too.  So I’ve been going up to my favorite little photo spots nearby.  This is one of those spots.

To get there from Portland. drive east on I84 past Troutdale, east of Portland, Oregon.  A few miles from Troutdale you will take the Corbett exit.  Drive up the steep winding hill and at the top continue east (left) on the Historic Columbia River Highway.  You pass beautiful pastureland with  stunning views of the mountains on the Washington side of the river.  Not far down the road you’ll see a sign for Portland Women’s Forum Park.  This is a simple pull-out on the left that allows a view of Crown Point and on up the Gorge.

A view up the Columbia River Gorge in the Pacific Northwest, with Crown Point and Vista House overlooking it all.

A view up the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, with Crown Point and Vista House overlooking it all.

This view is justifiably popular with photographers, especially at sunset.  The low sun often spotlights Crown Point and the iconic Vista House on top.  Vista House was constructed, along with the Historic Highway, by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  The CCC was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help get Americans back to work during the depression.  The rock-work and rails are very well built and very picturesque as well.

The landmark Vista House at Crown Point, Oregon, settles under a dusk sky.

The landmark Vista House at Crown Point, Oregon, settles under a dusk sky.

You can continue along the Historic Highway past Crown Point and down along the river.  You will pass many waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls.  I wrote a recent waterfall post, so check that out for photos of some of the cascades in the Gorge.

The Vista House at Crown Point at the western end of Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

The Vista House at Crown Point at the western end of Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

 Thanks for reading.  Click on the photos to see the high-res. versions, which are available for purchase as prints, downloads and more.  Make sure and click “add this image to cart” to get the prices and make choices.  Don’t worry, they won’t be added to your cart until you see prices.  Thanks for your interest.

The largest river in the American West is the Columbia, which rolls westward to the Pacific at dusk in this image.

The largest river in the American West is the Columbia, which in this view from Crown Point rolls westward towards the Pacific at dusk.

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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