The Columbia Gorge is spectacular year-round, but Autumn has special magic. Like a firework’s final burst, the last weeks of October and the first of November leave an impression strong enough to endure winter browns.
All summer, photographers anticipate waterfalls lined with gold and red, and crispy leaves on green moss. Making the most of this enchanting season can take forethought though. The following will help you make the most of your hours in search of fall splendor.
1. Don’t be afraid of a little rain. It’s surprising how many photographers pack it in when the drizzle begins. Setting up for a shot while holding an umbrella definitely takes experience, skill, and patience, but the payoff can be big. Rainy days often mean deliciously soft, misty colors with authentic natural saturation. Additionally, as mists roll in, photos with incredible depth become possible.
2. Make the most colorful elements central in your composition. Rather than heading out to shoot a waterfall, go out to shoot color and let the waterfall become secondary. For example, in some cases you might only have a handful of yellow leaves to work with. Maximize them by placing the camera close and increasing their footprint in your image. This often means lowering your tripod or even placing your camera directly on the ground. I’ll often bunch up a jacket and use it to position my camera (also a good trick if you forget a tripod while backpacking). Keep in mind that once a viewer is captured by the color, they’ll naturally drift to appreciating the amazing waterfall in the background.
3. On sunny days, shoot in the morning or evening. While many of the Gorge’s tributary canyons receive little direct sunlight, the time you’re most likely to encounter it is mid-day. It can make long exposures (to capture dramatic water shots) tricky, to say nothing of the high contrast it produces. At this time of year, I recommend shooting between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. and then from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
4. Incorporate interesting framing. Often, you can contain the colors in your shot with the greys of a cliff or the deep greens of conifers. The beautiful bridge railings of the Gorge can also be used to achieve unusual window-like effects.
Now get out there and capture elegant autumn memories! There’s no time like fall in the Columbia Gorge, and these suggestions will help you make the most of it!