Chapter 13 : Great expectations
Two days based in Portland to visit the Columbia River Gorge? Too short!! If you are planning a visit to this area and wish to take your time hiking and photographing the multitude of waterfalls here, plan longer. Our accommodation was located near Burnside in the eastern suburbs of Portland. This was still half an hour away from the start of the waterfall run. Some of our time was also unfortunatelyconsumed with finding a place to repair a flat tyre which a Les Schwab outlet did for us free of charge! Our plan on the first day was to visit a few of the closer waterfalls after Charlotte woke from her afternoon nap. As a travelling couple, Marianne and I used to be able to leave at the drop of a whim and be out the door in no time flat. These days, with the right amount of cajoling and giving in to Charlotte’s requests, we might take 30 minutes? A happier child in a car is still better than a grumpy one no matter what the non life-threatening agenda ! As such, we only made our way out at 3:30pm. On the first day we were able to visit Latourell falls and Multnomah falls which we accessed through the old highway and scenic drive (well recommended). At two years old, I can only be thankful that Charlotte still likes being in the carrier provided she is given enough distraction and stimulation. It seems that moving water works a treat
The walk to Latourell Falls is a short one. We approached from the park below the falls though there isn’t a dedicated parking lot. The main feature of these falls is the almost graffiti like lichen on the rocks and it’s basalt textures. Marianne shot the falls from a higher vantage point while I waded in the water with Charlotte (flowing water is a good distraction for her!)
Multnomah Falls is the ‘King’ of waterfalls in this area. The parking lots were full, visitors of all ages and agendas were present and it also happens to be the start of a great hike which we didn’t have time to do . Evening was a good time to photograph the falls as there were minimal sharp contrasts to contend with. After photographing these falls, we made our way back to Portland for a quick bite at a local Chinese restaurant. I might add a small note that if you haven’t eaten at Chinese restaurants in the USA, you’d be doing well to finish one menu item per person such is the size of the serves everywhere we went.
Chapter 14: Local knowledge
One of the highlights of the trip for me was meeting Tula Top, a local photographer who has an impressive portfolio of waterfalls in the region. Tula’s site is here : http://www.tulatopphotography.com . We had arranged to meet and hike for a day while Marianne did more ‘cosmopolitan’ things around Portland itself. After Multnomah, possibly the most photographed waterfall I have seen from the region is Punchbowl falls. I wanted to see this with my own eyes and Tula graciously obliged in playing host. As it was a beautiful day, an early start meant that we had the Eagle Creek trail nearly entirely to ourselves but as the day warmed, the crowds of hikers began to make their way up the creek.
Our first stop was at Metlako falls. From the top down perspective and view to its canyon I wonder if it is at all possible to wander up to its base?
After taking our time there, we pushed on to Punchbowl falls where we both witnessed some incredible lighting over the falls.Despite further falls tempting us further upstream, we decided to turn back and visit other falls in the area – the choice really made things difficult but by the time we arrived back at the parking lot, it was well after noon.
As time was limited, we chose one further fall to visit and that was Panther Creek falls north of the Columbia River. By this time, the afternoon sun was strong and there was no chance of any mists like we had seen earlier in the day which made photography difficult. It was interesting to talk to Tula and find out all sorts of things in common , none the least being that we were both physicians! By the end of the day, Marianne had arranged for our tire to be repaired (free of charge!) and we finished on a great note by having a delicious dinner at Ya Hala. We would meet Tula again later in the trip.
Chapter 15: Mad dashes
By now I must have mentioned the superb weather countless times in this series of blog posts? Originally we had no plans for our last morning in Portland but as I was feeding Charlotte breakfast, I took a look outside and saw fog! I am thankful that Marianne let me head off on another solo dash out to the gorge in the hope of getting some atmospheric type of shots which had been lacking in our trip’s images to date. The fog cleared about 10 minutes out of Portland on the highway! I chose Elowah falls , dashed up and down the path, spent 20 minutes in the stream before dashing back to Portland to finish packing. Our next destination at Mount Hood was only 1 hour away so we had some time to kill before leaving. It just so happened that for one reason or another, one of our tripod heads had become stuck whereby no horizontal panning was possible. Thankfully, camera stores in Portland were far better stocked than any in Adelaide and we were able to purchase a Benro ballhead during a brief sojourn into the CBD. Gitzo will be receiving a few ballheads from us for repairs when we get around to it! The GPS was set yet again, and it was time to head to our accommodation at Government Camp, Mount Hood.
Next Chapters: Hoodwinked!
Every cloud has a silver lining right? If there are no clouds, then either all is good or you have to invent a lining in order to maintain a positive outlook. The weather continued to be beautifully clear throughout the next leg of our journey through Silverton and Portland. When we were planning this trip, I had conceptualised that we would be doing it in thematic segments : City, coast, waterfalls, alpine and ‘the land’. The next four days would be our ‘waterfall’ segment of the trip starting with two days based at Silverton.
Chapter 11: Silver for second?
The drive from Pacific City to Silverton was not a long one. Along the way we stopped at the beautiful city of Salem, Oregon’s capital though far smaller than Portland. Fall colours here were in full view and we hoped that this would translate to our destination slightly further inland. The town of Silverton is a great location to base travels southward toward Silver Falls state park, or northward to Butte Creek and Abiqua Creek. We stayed in the quaint and pretty Silverton Inn & Suites as it offered two bedroom apartments. After coming from our unexpected mansion in Cape Kiwanda, motel rooming was somewhat more crammed by comparison but we would still recommend it to those travelling in the area. Silverton is also home to the pretty Oregon Gardens. Its opening hours however, did not quite fit in with our schedule hence we only managed a quick visit to its exterior. The comparison of the waterfalls in this area with the Columbia River Gorge is heavily skewed toward the latter due to its fame and proximity to Portland but if this area falls second to the CRG, it is only by a whisker!
Silver Falls state park is a 20 minute drive from Silverton along a well signed road. The trail of ten waterfalls is a 10+mile hike that will take you past ten waterfalls and countless other streams and opportunities to shoot depending on the prevailing conditions. With Charlotte on my back, we decided that we would visit a few falls at a time on separate outings so that a relatively easy ‘out’ could be achieved if things weren’t going to well with her. It turns out that she pretty much enjoyed all of the walks and even fell asleep once!
South Falls area: From the main car park at South Falls, we walked to South Falls and Lower South Falls. Fall foilage at the time appeared quite burnt and we wondered if we had arrived a little late in the area? The setting sun provided an opportunity to shoot images with very high dynamic range including from behind the waterfall.
North Falls area: From the North falls parking lot, the North Falls are a short walk away and like South Falls, includes a passage behind the waterfall. While based at North Falls, you can easily take a short walk to Upper North Falls.
Winter Falls area: Winter falls is a small seasonal fall which was flowing slowly at the time of our visit. From the winter falls trailhead it is possible to visit Lower North Falls and the remainder of the waterfalls in the park not mentioned. Due to time constraints we were only able to make it to Middle North Falls.
Chapter 12: The beauty of relative anonymity
Just north of Silverton lies the small town of Scotts Mills east of the 213. From here, Crooked Finger NE road winds its way toward two very understated falls. The first is Abiqua Falls. There are no signs to the falls and the best directions I found were from various hiking sites including the Portland hikers field guide. I followed these instructions and was successful EXCEPT that in the last 12 months a new logging road has been constructed. Unfortunately I happened to venture down this road instead of the correct one and ended up asking some friendly loggers for directions! At some point along this road , the rental car’s right rear tire received a nail for its troubles. Once you find your way on the correct road to the falls, you will notice that you pass an RV assembly area of some sort and at that point the road deteriorates. I would best describe it as a “hope that you don’t get a flat tire and hope no one else is coming the other way” type of road. The end of the line is a closed gate and some 30m back from this gate is a path leading down to the creek. I had read about how steep this path was and so when I came across a picnic area followed by an almost vertical forest with nothing resembling a path, I performed an ungainly glissade down the muddy slope wondering how I would get back up. Do NOT go down this path. If you see a picnic area, go back up to the road, walk a further 10m back from the gate and you will find the correct path with disclaimer signs put up by the Mount Angel Abbey. I only found this out on the way back when I happened to spot some helpful ropes over a fallen log. There will also be some ropes to guide you down. Once you do get down, this is some of what you can expect:
If you have limited time in the area, you can combine the Abiqua adventure with a foray to Butte Creek Falls. The turnoff to Butte Creek Falls is only a little further along Crooked Finger road past the Abiqua turnoff. Thankfully this road is only a little rough and the trailhead is well marked with a small parking area. The walk to upper Butte Creek Falls is a short one but it was all we had time for as we were on our way to Portland. One day we will return to spend more family time here and to walk to the lower falls. The sight of morning mists at the falls was definitely one to remember.
My tips for photographing these type of high contrast scenes (1) Have clean glass – flare and droplets could potentially ruin your well composed scene (2) Bracketing for these scenes is far superior to trying to use GND filters creatively (3) When taking your separate exposures, watch what the light is doing – if the mist is in different positions for your separate exposures , you may have great difficulty aligning light and shadow in your final blend.
After this brief foray, we intermittently pumped up the flat tire while heading to Portland with even more waterfalls to choose from!
Next up: Portland and decisions!
Is there such a thing as a paracetamol (acetaminophen) high? For the drive out of Seattle to Cannon Beach, I can only assume that drugs or expectations maintained my alertness. While the girls slept for large parts of the drive, I was trying to appreciate the scenery as we made our way past Olympia, Longview and Astoria. Once again, the home-made plan to base ourselves at Cannon Beach was to enjoy the day relaxing by the coast while branching out at the golden hour to various locations within reach such as Astoria, the Peter Iredale wreck and Hug point. Plan B came into effect as soon as the paracetamol high ran its course and faded into shivers almost precisely at the moment of our arrival.
Chapter 8: Provisions and Lodgings
We were back into the swing of our usual travel routines ; having choice. We could eat out if we wanted to, stay in if we wanted to, veg out watching TV if we chose or explore if we were physically up to it. Part of this lifestyle necessitates the occasional supermarket ‘raid’ for provisions , often in a manner not so nearly organised as a visit while at home. We tend to align ourselves to familiarity while travelling and on this trip, Safeway was our provisions haven! (Similar to ‘Bonus’ in Iceland and ‘Countdown’ in New Zealand). If you are reading this from Australia then you will be glad to know that supermarket prices in the USA are significantly lower than here! If you are planning to visit Australia then the bad news for you is that nearly every country in the world we have visited has offered more economical grocery shopping (even Iceland for certain things!). Our accommodation at Cannon Beach was this lovely two bedroom house : http://www.homeaway.com.au/holiday-rental/p469287vb
Chapter 9: The relaxation option
Usually , on these kinds of trips, I’m out at most dawns while we are all out as a family exploring a location around dusk. At the start of this trip, while Charlotte was still ‘sleeping in’ well past dawn, it would be nice to head out for a dawn shoot before settling down for a breakfast with everyone just getting up. As time progressed and the body clocks readjusted however, Charlotte’s wakings would often be quite early and just after dawn meaning that I would return home after or during breakfast. And sometimes when she woke at night, in her half awake state, she would say ‘Daddy taking photos’ (I know, she’s only 2 right????) . I knew it was time to cut back or at limit early morning forays to night photography and come back to wake her up. And so, I shelved plans to take any long drives out at dawn up to the Astoria area and limited my skulking to the beach itself so as not to miss out on the morning joys! Flu recovery meanwhile was happening slowly for me and even slower for Marianne. Most of the shots from Canon Beach and Cape Kiwanda were therefore just of these specific regions rather than anywhere more distant.
Cannon Beach is a very popular beach-side holiday town. It is part of a string of seaside towns along the northern Oregon coast and is home to the famous Haystack rock. These clouds were the last remnants of anything resembling bad weather for our trip.
I woke up too late to shoot the milky way over Haystack Rock. I shot these frames from left to right. Even within the 10 minutes or so it took to shoot this, the light changed quite significantly such that the exposures for the right half lacked stars and the sky was starting to blow. There’s always a next time to achieve this goal!
Ecola State Park is a short drive out of town and worth visiting for its beautiful forests and top-down coastal views southward.
Charlotte making herself busy at our rental accommodation.
Chapter 10: Making Hay …..
After our first evening at Cannon Beach , a weather system would settle over the Pacific Northwest which gave rise to calm, warm, sunny conditions. Those locals who I spoke to about it remarked about how unusual this weather was. From a health and general travel perspective, we all relished the ease of travelling in dry and sunny weather. From a photographic point of view , it meant that we really had to concentrate on composition and picking our moments as we weren’t going to have any ‘ready made’ eye candy shots based on skies alone. Generally speaking, we don’t like to ‘insert’ skies or foregrounds from different scenes hence the challenge given the conditions that we had. Fortunately, the dramatic patterns and crazy formations along the coast of Cape Kiwanda allowed plenty of foreground exploration. These conditions may have also been a positive given that most shots these days are not taken in plain sky weather. Actually, who am kidding right? Of course we would have loved roaring seas , thunder clouds lit by a fading sun, rainbows through a break in rainy conditions -BUT, given our health circumstances, the gentle weather was much appreciated During the rest of our time there, we were so comfortable in our accommodation that we only ventured a little way north along the Three Capes scenic drive route. Our time along the Oregon coast was simply too short!
The limestone rock features some amazing patterns in the rock . The coast can get battered but on our visit, the seas were quite placid.
Next up: Our Silver Lining Playbook
Part of the fun of holidays is imagining all the things you are going to do while away from home. Just wait until that destination gets a hold of the unleashed version of us running wild! Marianne and I had planned to do many things in Seattle ranging from cosmopolitan browsing to taking Charlotte to parks and places like the Aquarium. In between the long hours of the conference, I also had grand visions of shooting timelapse sequences and visiting different locations to obtain iconic views of Seattle and Mount Rainier. Of course what you don’t plan for is for influenza and by then, plan B becomes a little boring by comparison. With thoughts of trying to achieve balance between rest and not missing out entirely, these are the next chapters in our USA story!
Chapter 5: Roadside snaps
On the morning of our departure, the weather had already been closed in for the previous 36 hours. There was lovely mist and light rain around with occasional breaking moments of light. It would have been ideal to explore some of the creeks around the National Park but health meant pushing on back to Seattle and the medical conference. A 5 hour gap between checkout at Ashford and check-in at Seattle meant that we had plenty of time for detours. We chose to drive back up the 123 to Tipsoo Lake before heading down the north-eastern side of the National Park back to Seattle. Along the way, the fall colours were amazing and we hoped that they would persist until the end of our trip. One particular tunnel was striking and three weeks later on our return, all of the foilage had faded to brown. As we climbed in elevation , snow started to fall! Charlotte had never seen snow before and despite her illness, she was able to give a smile through her many layers of clothing and a new word in her vocabulary had been added. I finally made my way to Upper Tipsoo Lake where a hazy winter wonderland greeted me. No sight of Mount Rainier unfortunately.
Chapter 6: Confinement
As well presented and luxurious as the Grand Hyatt in Seattle is, single room suites aren’t suited to our style of travelling. At this stage, we were all coughing away at night which meant that none of us were getting the much needed recovery time that we needed from the flu. This , in combination with long conference hours really limited any kind of holiday type activities. On one evening, I managed to shoot part of a timelapse with Charlotte so that Marianne could at least have a period of reprieve. This ended in a toddler meltdown after some fun and cooperation in the preceding hour. *Head down 12th avenue and park at Rizal Park for ‘the’ view of the Seattle skyline* I didn’t end up shooting any night frames of Seattle which I had planned. Marianne meanwhile had planned a visit to numerous stores around downtown Seattle but only managed a brief tour and a visit to the Aquarium. On our last afternoon in Seattle, there was some allocated time off for the conference which led to a short trip to Snoqualmie. The fall colours there were in full force and had we more energy, I am sure we would have lingered longer in the area. Snoqualmie falls were a feature of the TV series ‘Twin Peaks’ and were roaring away. *Currently, the path to the base of the falls appears closed* Despite fevers and general unwellness, this was the best we felt and happiest we saw Charlotte for this leg of the journey.
Chapter 7: Snoqualmie Demons
Marianne and I are convinced that after returning from Snoqualmie falls, our child was possessed by another being. Never before and never again have we seen her behave the way she did on that evening. She was wailing for no reason every ten minutes all night and made all manner of trivial requests which if not met, resulted in screams. Thankfully, my theory may be correct and leaving Seattle may have been the exorcism she needed to escape back to her true soul. From what small glimpses I had outside of the conference room, I imagine Seattle and its surrounds to live up to its famed beauty but its full appreciation will need to occur on another trip in better health. On our departure, we headed back to our usual style of travel and hoped for a speedy return to health.
Next up: Coasting back to health (The Northern Oregon Coast)
Marianne , Charlotte and I have recently returned from a 4 week trip to the USA. One of those weeks was spent at a conference giving us three weeks to do the more exciting stuff! The conference was based in Seattle hence it made sense to travel the great Pacific Northwest ; a source of so many inspiring images and photographers. It so happened that our journey passed through Los Angeles in transit, hence we set aside a few days to take Charlotte to see urban sights and of course, Disneyland. During this trip, medical illness prevented us from keeping up to date with this blog but I will try to recount our journey and address small issues related to travel and photography in each section of the overall report.
Chapter 1: The outbound toddler long haul flight
This was our first experience at attempting such a long journey with Charlotte , now aged 2 years and 2 months. During the outward journey, Charlotte developed a high fever on the day of departure! This meant that she was fatigued throughout the whole flight but also very clingy to both of us. It meant that she slept through most of the journey but left one of us unable to sleep as she was sleeping on our lap. No sedation was needed and the security checks and immigration where relatively painless. It did not bode well for the rest of our journey as we knew we would be coming down with whatever illness she had.
Chapter 2: Accommodation choices and car rental.
Our car rental was based out of Seattle. Out of all of the companies hiring from the airport, SixT were by far the cheapest and our experience with them was all positive. The standard SUV category landed us with a well presented Hyundai Santa Fe. There were no issues with pickup or dropoff and the car looked in good condition. Our accommodation needs are quite specific so take this with a grain of salt if you are a hostel hopper or prefer hotel style accommodation. Marianne and I needed the following prerequisites for accommodation : (1) Near points of interest (eg. Pacific City for shooting Cape Kiwanda) (2) Fully self contained with the ability to prepare and reheat food. This was particularly important for Charlotte’s meals. (3) Two separate bedrooms so that we could all get a good night’s sleep. When I first started looking for accommodation of this sort, it was difficult as there would be many single roomed motels, suitable rental apartments with minimum stay requirements, or places meeting none of our criteria! It was all made easier when I happened to stumble across a page http://www.homeaway.com.au This site links in with a US site http://www.vrbo.com which lists a large number of homes for vacation rental. If this style of travelling is to your preference, then I would highly recommend basing your search around those sites. Having said that, our stay in Mount Rainier was made through phone inquiry as it was relatively late notice. There are many cabin style self contained facilities based at Ashford and Packwood. The southwestern entrance at Ashford gives easier access to Paradise and Longmire while the accommodation at Packwood gives easier access to the Stevens Canyon side of the park. We did not explore the northern section of the park. We would highly recommend the Copper Creek Inn as a base for making inquiries as they seemed most open to accommodation at short notice and did not require prerequisite Friday night bookings for a weekend (our arrival was on a Saturday evening).
Chapter 3: Health and your holiday
Our shooting at Mount Rainier was severely affected by two issues. The first was the US government lockdown which resulted in National Park Closures. This meant that we had to seek shooting opportunities outside of the National Park proper. I had planned to drive possibly as far south as Lower Lewis Falls on a long day trip but this kind of trip requires one very important aspect of travel : good health! Charlotte and Marianne were severely ill from the Influenza A virus they had contracted and as such, most of the time was spent within the warm confines of the cabin in bed. Our longest excursion was to a drop-in clinic at Puyallup over an hour away where we obtained a script for Tamiflu to help combat Marianne’s illness. Perhaps we have been a little unlucky , but in our last three trips, there has been illness of some sort requiring medical attention. Over and above the excitement of being in holiday, one’s health needs to take precedence in order to prevent any future consequences. Our travel insurance will help to foot the bill for the medical attention we received but we are glad to report that we are now fully recovered.
Chapter 4: Take your opportunities
The only shoot or outing we managed at dawn was on the first day after arrival before Marianne’s illness became severe. Due to park closures, I drove a long way round to get to Tipsoo Lake which was covered in snow. It so happened that the light that morning was incredible AND Mount Rainier was visible. I should have come home with some great images from the area but unfortunately, a lack of preparation meant that I missed out. Had I done the proper reading, I should have been looking for ‘upper’ Tipsoo Lake but ended up thrashing around in deep snow at Lower Tipsoo before I realised too late that the view of Mount Rainier was not as I had seen in images. Given the health circumstances, this one opportunity slipped by and several returns to view Mount Rainier never coincided with such fantastic light again. Lesson learned.
Next up : Sleepless in Seattle – the family flu continues.