Tread Carefully

A snail crawls across a fern frond in the Columbia River Gorge

Walking in the Columbia River Gorge you’re likely to come across slugs and snails underfoot, such as this snail (maybe one of our lancetooth species? I know nothing about snails) near Latourell Falls. It was just crossing over the fern frond that had fallen to the forest floor, not dining on it, I think lancetooths are carnivorous and eat other snails. The little creatures of the forest are one of the reasons I value short close-focusing distances in lenses, it minimizes the need to switch to (or even carry) a dedicated macro lens when you only need to get close, but not macro close. This was taken with the Sony-Zeiss 16-70 f/4 zoom lens, a lens I wasn’t sure about initially but which I’ve really come to like.

Basalt of the Earth

Ferns grown in columnar basalt at Latourell Falls in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge

At Latourell Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, ferns grown not just in the earth but on the columnar basalt near the falls. The ferns must be able to get enough purchase in the cracks of the basalt to not get blown off by the wind, and that wind brings enough water over from the falls (just to the right of this picture) that they can survive. There is lichen growing here too, but not the dramatic yellow lichen that grows further up the cliff face.

I love this place.

A Bench to the Left of Me, A Waterfall to the Right

A horizontal view of Latourell Falls through the forest

I was heading up the loop trail around Latourell Falls when I saw a bench beside the trail and I wondered why it was there, when I looked to the right and all became clear as I saw the waterfall plunging over the basalt cliff. You have a lot of choices when photographing this waterfall, there’s a spot right near the parking lot with a nice distant view of the falls through the forest, you can go right to the base of the falls with a clear (and maybe wet) view of the falls, or you can photograph it here as a view through the woods. I like them all. You can clearly see the yellow lichen that drew me to the falls, although from his high vantage point you can only see a bit of the columnar basalt that also caught my eye.

There are other choices too, such as the classic choice of horizontal or portrait orientation. I like the horizontal picture best for this shot, even though my framing choice leaves out most of the blue wildflowers (delphinium?) blooming below, as I liked the symmetry of the leaves at the top and bottom. With the waterfall I also had to choose a fast shutter speed or a slow shutter speed to either freeze or blur the movement of the water. I prefer some waterfalls one way or the other but I think this one looks good both ways. I prefer the frozen shot as it shows how the shapes the water takes change as it plunges down the long cliff face, and although the picture has more noise due to the much shorter exposure, modern cameras handle this amazingly well (in previous years I would have been more inclined for the slower exposure to minimize color noise).

But it’s the 4K video that really shines. It was hiking in the Columbia River Gorge many years ago that almost convinced me to buy a video camera, solely for the purpose of having long videos of mountain streams that I could play in the background. I’d really like to figure out if there’s an automated program that could find a good place to start and end a track so it would play naturally on an endless loop, as that’s what I’d really like, to be able to just loop the video on the TV and have endless hours of waterfalls as a soothing background.

A vertical view of Latourell Falls through the forest



One of the reasons I went to Latourell Falls was to see if I could get close-ups of the massive yellow lichen patch near the waterfall. I brought my 100-400 Canon zoom and hooked it up to the Sony A6500 and found the biggest difficulty while trying to manually focus was that, as I had the peaking indicator set to yellow, and since I was photographing a fairly flat scene, the whole screen would practically light up yellow when the scene was in focus. But since everything was already yellow …

You can change the focus peaking color but I couldn’t remember how and since I was in no hurry I was able to zoom in on the display and get the focus set. If I could have seen a bit better I would have shifted things slightly so the plants on the far left would have been a little further inside the picture, but I was pretty happy with this as a first attempt.

I’m amazed by the diverse forms that life takes, and how often life can take a foothold even in inhospitable areas.

First Hike

Upper Latourell Falls

I spent this lovely spring morning on my first hike of the Latourell Falls loop in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge. I wasn’t familiar with this waterfall even though it isn’t far from the others I visit as the trailhead is past where I normally turn off to go back to Portland. They featured the waterfall during an episode of Oregon Field Guide on Oregon Public Broadcasting and I was hooked when they showed the lichens and basalt of the main falls, so I had some fun photographing them this morning with my 100-400 lens. I then took the loop up to Upper Latourell Falls (shown here) before heading back down to the main falls. The return loop takes you down to the base of the falls where a group of photographers was huddled with their tripods around a small bridge. I didn’t stop for pictures and just admired the view instead, I’ll head there first on my next visit.

An absolutely lovely morning, I don’t know how I missed out on this hike having been in Oregon for 20 years now but I’ll be back soon. I’m always a little nervous about new hikes in the Gorge as some of them I can’t do because of my fear of heights, but this one was easy (I’d give it a 2 out of 10 on the Boolie Utter Panic Index). There is an optional loop that takes you onto a little outcropping above the main falls, which I would rate a 10 out of 10, but you don’t have to go anywhere near it if you don’t want to (and I didn’t).