I love to visit new places and have new experiences. I can’t deny that. It’s exciting, activates different senses, creates new memories and all that good stuff. I’m all for going on an adventure.
What I have found though is to produce some of my most meaningful work, I like to visit more familiar locations and cultivate and take advantage of a deeper connection to a location to tell more intriguing stories, bring out subtle nuances and overall have a more satisfying experience.
The Columbia River Gorge is truly a magical wonderland. And, since it’s in my backyard it’s a location I’ve visited mroe times that I can count. In fact I’ve bene there so much on my own, or showing other photogs the area, that it has lost some of it’s appeal or magic for me. I haven’t stopped going there, it’s just that I’ve told many of the stories that I’d like to tell with that given landscape in most every season and weather condition.
Real magic happened recently in Oregon when a winter storm came through the area and gave us a week of sub-freezing temperatures as well as a dumping of over a foot of snow, alot more in some locations. In these kinds of conditions I knew that this familiar location would be magical and it would be transformed into an almost “new” type of landscape.
I ventured out on a cold morning towards the end of the unique weather period…I waited a bit more towards the end to give the conditions enough time to fully mature, as well as the trails and roads to become relatively safe to travel. What I found when I got out there was a sight to behold and a renewed sense of energy, invigorated sense of discovery and adventure all bubbled up inside of me.
I have shot this falls so much and I know it well. When I dropped down into the area, the footpath was covered in snow and ice and as I got closer, the trail became caked with frozen water, the spray from the waterfall. I had traction devices on my boots which were basically mandatory for navigating the frozen landscape. The spray at the turn of the trail was insane, hitting me as frozen pellets and coating my jacket and backpack in rime. When I got down to the footbridge that crosses the creek, I stood for a full 5 minutes just soaking up the scene, knowing that this is a very rare event. Normally the falls drops dramatically into the splash pool below, however on this day, the build up of ice in the splash pool from the spray was so high, I’d estimate over 20 feet tall, that I couldn’t even see the pool any longer. The pool is usually an element in the composition, but on this day it wasn’t going to happen and I adjusted my comps to show the ice, but accentuate other elements in the scene.
I like Horsetail Falls, yes, however I’ve never enjoyed shooting it that much. It’s a standard type of shot, not a lot of room for too much creativity or originality of vision. And, it’s been shot to death! But on this day as I crunched, slipped and slid in to the parking lot, Horsetail was not like I’ve ever seen it before. The ice encrusting the main flow of the falls was built up in to so many crazy patterns. I shot the tradition shots showing the full falls and splash pool, I shot showing the frozen pool and foreground elements with the falls in the background, I shot from high and I went down and shot along the shore. Horsetail Falls is always one to kick out a lot of spray and even on the best days it seems you’re always wiping off the lens. On this day, down along the waters edge, I literally needed an ice scraper for the front of my lens. I would take one shot and then have to spend several minutes cleaning the element, warming the ice enough to be wiped away. Having tired of that activity, I went back along the road and put a long lens on my camera, fascinated by the intricate patterns and shapes that had been created, wanting to do some abstract work. I think these might be some of the most creatively satisfying images of the day.
I also made several stops at Multnomah Falls, Wahkeena, Sheppards Dell and some other small spots. My last stop of the day was at Oneonta Gorge.
n normal conditions, this gorge is a magical place to be with steep dramatic walls closing in on you, walking up the creek, over the log jam and then deeper in to the gorge (unfortunately this location is also being over-run). On this day however, it was other-worldly!!!! Descending the steep and slippery steps down to the creeks edge I was mesmorized by the transformation. The creek was almost invisible under the snow and ice. Large ice formations hung down from each overhang. Every where I turned it was breathtaking. The transformation was so complete and this was such a “new” landscape, I had to readjust my preconceived visions for this area and think differently. Comps that I wouldn’t shoot before looked amazing, and vice versa shots that I would normally take didn’t look good in this new condition.
No matter how familiar you are with a location, revisiting it in different conditions can bring a renewed sense of creative energy and quite possibly some amazing results.
(originally posted 1/20/17)