When Wildfire Smoke Hits, Head to the Water(falls)
Tanya and I recently returned from a 9-day trip to the Bend, Oregon area. While there, I’d hoped to get some shots of the nearby mountains and lakes. After several relatively clear days, during which I photographed at Smith Rock, wildfire smoke blew into the region. Some days were worse than others, but it did really put a damper on my plans. I was bummed, but figured it wasn’t the best time of year to photograph the mountains anyway because they has so little snow (South Sister had a decent amount, but Mount Bachelor was essentially bare). So instead, I spent most of my photography time shooting waterfalls and the Deschutes River where the smoke was much less of an issue.
Tumalo Creek is a tributary of the Deschutes River west of Bend. There are several scenic waterfalls on the creek, the best known being Tumalo Falls (note: Tumalo Falls, and indeed Tumalo Creek, is not located in Tumalo State Park). While the flow of Tumalo Creek is diminished by irrigation and water-supply diversions by the time the creek reaches the river, these diversions are all below the falls. And, being spring-fed, there is a good flow over the falls even in late summer.
There is an 8-mile loop trail that starts at Tumalo Falls and goes by six other waterfalls (or seven depending on how you count). Due to time, I did not do the entire loop, but rather did a 6-mile out-and-back hike to Middle Tumalo Falls, which also took me by Double Falls (which is really two different waterfalls, in my opinion).
Tumalo Falls is considered one of the most photogenic falls in the State of Oregon. The view is good from the lower viewpoint near the parking lot (which fills early during the summer; additional parking is further down the road, with an official overflow parking lot a mile or more from the falls), but you can also work your way upstream from the bridge over the creek just before the parking lot on an unofficial trail for a view with the creek in the foreground (the featured photo above). The North Fork Trail, which forms half of the aforementioned loop, leads to an upper viewpoint at the top of the falls about 1/4 mile from the parking lot.
Beyond the top of Tumalo Falls, the North Fork trail continues, leading to the very pretty Double Falls, about one mile from the trailhead. Double Falls is really three waterfalls, two close together and the other a couple hundred feet upstream. The viewpoint along the trail is above the creek, on the edge of a canyon, looking down on the falls. The upper portion of Double Falls is about 300 feet further up the trail.
A mile or so further is Middle Tumalo Falls. Here the view from the official viewpoint is somewhat obscured by trees. However, it is fairly easy to scramble down to creek level for a closer look. Be sure to pack your wide-angle lens for all three of these falls.
South of Bend there are several other waterfalls. The Deschutes River southwest of Bend has three waterfalls, only one of which, Benham Falls, is readily accessible. Benham Falls, which appears like more of a very steep rapid than a waterfall, is a mass of white water shooting through a bedrock chute. The main viewpoint gives the only decent view from below the falls. Above the falls, there are several spots to shoot the top of the falls and other rapids above the falls, both above the river and at river level. Though located down a rough dirt Forest Service Road, Benham Falls get a fair amount of visitation.
For a more truly off the beaten path waterfall, try Fall River Falls, located in La Pine State Park. The road to reach this waterfall is not even marked (see directions on Photohound). Though not particularly impressive, there is a great swimming hole below the falls, and Fall River above the falls is very scenic.
There are about a half dozen waterfalls on Paulina Creek in and adjacent to Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The most popular is Paulina Falls, an unusual twin waterfall in the Newberry volcano caldera. Further down the creek there are a number of waterfalls, most of which are accessible only by hiking. The excepting being McKay Crossing Falls, which is located at the McKay Crossing Campground.
You can access additional information and see addition photos of these waterfalls on the Photohound website.
November is often a dreary month in the Pacific Northwest, and I find it hard to get excited about outdoor photography. The fall colors are mostly gone and it rains (a lot) west of the Cascade Mountains. The hope of winter photography is often yet not realized – if there is much snow in the mountains, it is often heavy, wet, and melting under dull gray skies. Okay, things aren’t quite that bad, but November is not my favorite time of year for photography.
That’s why I was pleasantly surprised last week when I tagged along with Tanya to her work conference in Vancouver, Washington and found some good November photography. While Tanya was being educated, I decided to drive down into the Willamette Valley of Oregon to visit a few wineries and take some pictures. It was sunny on and off throughout the day mixed with light rain. Not perfect conditions, but better than the steady downpours we’ve been having lately.
The Willamette Valley south of Portland is chock full of wineries and vineyards, and it can be hard to figure out where to go for photography. So once again I relied on an excellent photography guidebook by Greg Vaughn, this one about Oregon. In his section on the Willamette Valley, he lists several wineries that are particularly photogenic, so I picked out a few of those and plotted a route through the area.
Unfortunately, most of the grape vines had already lost their leaves, but I was able to find enough to take a few colorful late fall photographs. Mid-November is a bit late for color here, and based on what I saw, I’d think late October would be much better. But between the photography and the wine tasting, it was one of my better days photographing in November.
Unfortunate Accident with Kiwanda Benefits
On Christmas Day, Tanya received a phone call from a friend of ours. The friend and partner had been in a car accident on the Oregon coast and were in the hospital in Tillamook, though luckily the injuries appeared to be minor. Their car, on the other hand, was totaled. Was it possible for us to drive down and pick them up? Both Tanya and I love the Oregon coast, so it wasn’t too hard for us to agree to drive down.
We drove to Tillamook the day after Christmas. I hoped to get some sunset shots on the coast that day, but by the time we checked the friends out of the hospital, it was getting dark. Besides, it was raining. Maybe at sunrise the next morning? The friends wanted to sleep in, so perhaps I’d have time in the morning to run to the beach.
Tillamook itself is inland off the coast, but it is close to three capes and many beaches. The Three Capes Scenic Route leaves Tillamook and is extremely scenic. I’ve driven it several times, and I highly recommend it. However, last week I only had a limited amount of time, so I picked Cape Kiwanda, the southernmost of the three capes, to go to. Cape Kiwanda is quite unusual for the Oregon coast. It is formed by an yellow to orange sandstone, unlike the black volcanic capes common elsewhere on the coast. Plus it is more accessible and not totally tree covered like the other capes. I have been there once or twice before, but never had time to explore it beyond the adjoining beach. I also picked it because of an added bonus of high tide occurring in the morning – perfect for capturing images of waves crashing on the rocks.
I got up early and convinced Tanya to come with me. We drove down to Cape Kiwanda, about 25 miles south of Tillamook. We got there about 7:45 a.m., a little before sunrise. It was raining, but at least it wasn’t completely overcast like the previous evening. There were even a few patches of blue sky and pastel-colored clouds to the northwest. I bundled up against the wind and rain, walked down the beach to the cape.
Cape Kiwanda is formed by sandstone cliffs jutting out into the water and a large, tree-topped sand dune plastered against the mainland. It is not large as far as Oregon capes go, it only sticks out into the the ocean from the beach perhaps a 2,000 feet. Nor is it tall, with the sand dune rising to a bit over 100 feet in elevation and the sandstone cliffs being half that. It is quite easy to walk out onto the cape by traversing the side of the sand dune from the beach up to the top of the sandstone.
The first thing one notices when climbing up onto the cape is a fence with warning signs attempting to keep the public from getting near the cliff edges. The fence is very easy to cross (in some places, sand has piled up against it so you can easily step over without any effort). But don’t be mistaken, Cape Kiwanda is a dangerous place. IT is perhaps the deadliest place on the Oregon coast; six people have died deaths there in the past two years. The pounding waves of the Pacific easily erode the sandstone cliffs, which helps create their natural beauty, but also makes them unpredictable. The edges of the cliffs can collapse at any time. As a geologist, I agree getting near the edge of such cliffs, particular when waves are hitting them is foolish. Additionally, it contains an area known as the Punchbowl – an inviting rocky cove with a sea cave that becomes a cauldron of white water at high tide.
The waves aren’t the only factor in eroding the cape. It’s famous hoodoo, known as the Pedestal or Duckbill Rock, was destroyed by vandals in 2016. What a waste. (This is another example of photograph it while you can because you will never know if you will have another opportunity.) Prudence is definitely called for if you venture beyond the fence. However, I freely admit I did to get the shots shown here, though I was careful to stay away from the edge.
By the time I hiked up onto the cape, the rain had stopped, though the wind was still blowing hard. I set up my tripod and shot the Punchbowl from a couple different angles, trying to capture the fury of the waves. Though I shot a few images with slow shutter speeds to create water blurs, I was worried about the wind causing camera shake, even with the tripod, so I increased my shutter speed and ISO setting (with the sun covered by clouds, it was a bit dark). I moved around a bit and found a nice view of a sea arch being pummeled by crashing waves. Unfortunately, the rain returned with a vengeance, and I packed up the camera for awhile. But just as quickly as it came, the rain let up, and I continued shooting. The sun even came out for about five minutes, lighting up the tops of the cliffs.
I was running short on time (we needed to get back to Tillamook to pick up our friends), so I huffed up to the top of the sand dune for a quick overview and then headed back to the car. I easily could have spent several more hours there. Tanya and I headed back to town, picked up our friends, made a visit to the cheese factory (a seemingly mandatory stop in Tillamook), and drove back to Tacoma. It was a quick trip, the result of an unfortunate accident that, based on the shots I later pulled up on my computer, had real Kiwanda benefits.
Autumn in the Oregon Cascades
On my trip several weeks ago, besides visiting Silver Falls State Park, I drove through some of the Oregon Cascades. It was, perhaps, not the height of autumn color in the Cascade Mountains, but it was close. Prime time may have been last week, or maybe this one. Regardless, now is the time to be out there; the mountains in Oregon, and here in Washington, only surrender some of their green for a short time each year.
I hoped I’d have more time to write a post about the Oregon Cascades, but unfortunately I don’t. I will say they do seem more accessible than the Washington Cascades, with more and better access roads. After just a couple of days there this fall, I know I’d like to go back for at least a week, if not longer. So with that, I’ll just post a few images I captured in the mountains (and one in the Columbia Gorge, as well), and let the images speak for themselves about autumn in the Oregon Cascades.
Quick Shot – North Falls
Tanya and I spent three days in Oregon last week. We stayed in Silverton, and I made several trips to Silver Falls State Park as well as a couple drives up into the Cascades looking for autumn color. Due to the drought we’ve had in the Pacific Northwest, there wasn’t much water in the falls at Silver Falls State Park, but the color was nice. It was a great time to be out enjoying the outdoors. I’ll post a few more shots from the trip later, but for now, I give you this early morning shot of North Falls in Silver Falls State Park. Enjoy.