Photographing the Columbia River Gorge

Sunrise from the Portland Women’s Forum Park with Crown Point and Vista House in the foreground

May and June are great times to visit the Columbia River Gorge as the waterfalls are flowing and you might spy some wildflowers, including the elusive wild Columbine.  Our plan was to base out of Hood River and run up and down the Gorge, but the “best laid plans…”  Here is what you might see.

Our plan was waterfalls, sunrises and sunsets, wildflowers, barns, orchards and Mount Hood.  The problem is it rained almost constantly on us for three days and we never did see the mountain.  We made lemonade and took advantage of the few breaks in the weather.

There are over 50 waterfalls in the Gorge, because of bad weather we stuck to the ones closest to the road, which is still six waterfalls with little to no hiking.  All six are within 30 minutes of each other and can be photographed in one long morning, west to east – Latrourell, Bridal Veil, Multnomah, Wehkeena, Horsetail, and Elowah.  If you want to hike a bit then add Wahclella.

The most photographed waterfall in Oregon – Multnomah

This time of year, you do want to photograph these early in the morning before there are crowds and especially before the sun hits them.


To get the silky water look, you will need a tripod and shutter speeds between 1/3 and 2.5 seconds.  Depending on the fall and the light, I was shooting at f/16 or f/11, at 200 ISO.

Hood River Bridge sunset

Though Hood River Valley was a bust because of the weather, we did get a chance for a short hike at the Tom McCall Preserve.  The flowers were past their prime, but pretty nonetheless.


Finally, we had a pretty eventful sunrise at the Women’s Forum Park.  Our first try was completely rained out and it looked like our second try was going to be the same.  There were about ten photographers at the park that morning hoping for something to happen.  We could see the river, so the clouds and fog were not that low.

Crown Point and Vista House

And then we had one of those magical moments where the sky went from black to orange and kept changing for about 5 minutes of blissful shooting.  We all left pretty satisfied.

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