In my last post I mentioned we would be taking an eight day road trip around Oregon after starting in California. I’ve wanted to visit Oregon for a long time after seeing countless photos of its scenery and hearing a lot of good things about Portland. Oregon is very heavily photographed. There seems to be a whole gang of people in the Pacific Northwest who are out there in the best weather the state can offer (photographically) so I didn’t really want to go there to come back with the same shots as everyone else. As I came to see I would barely come back with anything.
Going back to the subject of image editing for a second, Oregon is one of the places that seems to suffer the most from this polarising topic. A lot of the photos I have seen from Oregon are very heavily processed, with crazy midtone detail, and everything pretty apocalyptic in terms of light and conditions. Saturation is turned up to eleventy seven. I really didn’t know what to expect. Would I see similar things or be disappointed by small trickles of water that had been turned in raging waterfalls with the magic of Photoshop? As it turns out, it didn’t really matter.
We continued from where we left off in the Redwoods of California and drove up the coast to cross the border into Oregon. Almost immediately over the border you enter Samuel Boardman State Park, which has to be one of the best stretches of coast line I have ever seen. I hear there are similar things up in Washington State, but that doesn’t detract from what Oregon has to offer. Rugged cliffs with tree covered sea stacks cover a large stretch of the coast line. The beaches are picture perfect to match. All seemed like I was set for some amazing photo making opportunities, but it appears the Oregon coast didn’t like me. For four days travelling up so we were level with Portland there was not a single cloud in the sky. Not one. Morning, day, evening, just blue. This made it great weather to be driving and sightseeing in, but awful for photography. I managed to take a few pictures I liked, one evening making use of the clear sky to try a shot of the Milky Way from one of the rocky outcrops at Samuel Boardman. I’ve got to say I didn’t really enjoy the process of making this image. Alone in the pitch black in the middle of nowhere, climbing over some railings on the edge of the cliff to get a clear view point with the Pacific waves crashing around below…If you slip you’re probably dead. I won’t be doing that again in a hurry.
The other photo is from a failed sunset down at Pistol River beach. Having watched the sun set with the usual blues and oranges that come with a featureless sky I gave up and started to trudge back to the car. I turned around to have one last look just in case and noticed a pattern in the sand like a miniature sand dune ridge, with the purple of twilight providing a nice subtle contrast. I snapped away and headed back for a beer.
We continued up the coast via Bandon Beach, which would have been a photographer’s dream in good light. With no photo opportunities really presenting themselves I satisfied myself with the best crab sandwich I have ever had at Tony’s Crab Shack in Bandon town. The last stop on the coast was Lincoln City where we finally had a bit of cloud (i.e. rain) so we walked along the beach to a restaurant and I had a mess about on the way trying to make some moody and abstract images
The next morning I headed up to Cape Kiwanda for sunrise, which I have to say I loved. The sky wasn’t playing ball with a distinct lack of anything cumulus or cirrus looking but I snapped away just happy to be near the ocean and some huge waves. The wind wasn’t even up that morning so I can imagine this place is utterly insane if there’s a storm going on.
From here we headed inland to Portland, stopping in the Willamette wine valley for refreshment at one of the vineyards. The area is easily one of the most attractive I have seen in the US, probably because it comes across as somewhat European. Lots of wine, lots of good food. The same goes for Portland which has one of the best words to hear after a long day of driving…”microbrewery”. The city has loads, so we headed out to explore. Several beers, some chicken and waffles and 8 hours sleep later we drove further inland to start the first of four days in the Columbia River Gorge, staying in a town called Hood River. We probably hit the Gorge at the worst time imaginable from a photography perspective. We had great weather, dry and warm all day every day, but the long and hot summer had more or less dried the place up. The waterfalls were still flowing, but all but the largest had been reduced to what seems like a tenth of their peak flow. The heat meant a lot of the foliage was also dry and brown instead of the vibrant green that you see in most photos of the area. We still visited some great places (Punchbowl, Elowah, Multnomah, Metlako etc.), but from a photography point of view it was a washout. The one exception was one morning where we headed over into Washington to Panther Creek falls which was still running at a decent volume (and just to tick off another state). I took a few shots I liked here whilst getting covered in spray and going for a bit of a wade into the run-off to see if I could find an alternative viewpoint.
We left Hood River after the four days of hiking around and three evenings of microbreweries to start the trip back to California, stopping at the McKenzie river for one night so we could visit Proxy Falls. This was the place I most wanted to visit in Oregon, but in the end it was largely a waste of time. The area is pretty dead and in the middle of nowhere, so once you’ve visited the falls there’s nothing else to do or shoot. On top of that Proxy Falls was significantly drier than I expected and all the moss was brown and dead. I tried my best to make something of it but didn’t come away with anything I like really. It’s a shame as I don’t think I’ll ever go back there. Given its location it really is a visit just to see Proxy and not much else. After one night staying near the falls we drove back to California via Crater Lake which is a pretty cool place, but very busy. There’s also not a whole lot here you can do other than take the same shot as everyone else
So that’s Oregon. It really is one of my favourite states I have visited in the US and I’d love to make another trip back there to shoot the coast and gorge in better conditions, but I think that’s a long way off. Given the sheer volume of pictures from others of all the natural wonders of the state it’s tough to get something different without living there and being able to visit the more remote or unknown corners.