Three Mountains

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Columbia River Gorge Part 2 – Wahkeena Falls

Along the Historic Columbia River Highway, you pass Wahkeena Falls before reaching the better known and more frequently photographed Multnomah Falls.  Wahkeena Fall is much smaller in scale, but absolutely beautiful!

Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls – 40mm, 1.5 sec @ f/16

I was here in 2003 with my Canon Powershot G3, a few months before I got my first digital SLR, the EOS 10D.  I love the old cement and stone bridge crossing over in front of the waterfall.  Moss grows easily here because in the winter, this north-facing fall rarely sees direct sunlight.

Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls – 24mm, 1.5 sec @ f/16

This photo shows a little more environment around the fall.  When I find a good subject, I always try shooting both vertical and horizontal orientations, because sometimes I am surprised which one looks best in the end.

Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls – 21mm, 2.0 sec @ f/16

Let me explain a little about my technique for shooting these photos.  As with any waterfall photos, I set up and shoot on a tripod.  I could probably shoot a little more quickly using a cable release (an electric, wired remote these days), but I just used the 2 second timer.  This way my hands are not touching the camera (or moving it) when the photo is taken.

I also used “Live View” and used the camera’s LCD screen to compose the shot.  A side benefit of this is that the mirror doesn’t slap up right before the photo is taken.  This could cause a small amount of camera shake, which you don’t want on longer exposures.  With fast shutter speeds, like 1/500, the mirror flipping up doesn’t cause enough shake to effect sharpness.

Choosing a small aperture does 2 things:

1. It causes the shutter speed to be longer for the same exposure value, and longer shutter speeds produce that nice “angel hair” effect with waterfalls. One to two seconds seems to create a nice blur effect but still retain some detail in the water.  Longer speeds with more blur make the water look more like cotton candy – more fantasy and less real.

2. As this last shot illustrates, while the rocks around the fall are sharp, so is the cement bridge rail and path right in front of the camera.  Smaller aperture (bigger number value) means greater depth of field (area from near to far, which is in focus).

I hope you enjoy the photos or have a chance to visit someday!