We are struggling mightily to get out of winter in the Northwest. It snowed yesterday in Vancouver as well as out at the ocean. For the Oregon beaches it was the first March snow storm since 1966! The consequence of this slow transition is we haven’t had nice days or even showers and sun breaks which are typical for this time of year.
An empty coal train is about to enter Tunnel 1.5 near North Bonneville, Wa. A winter snow storm has left a dusting on the ground throughout the Columbia River Gorge.
I can feel my photographer self suffering from the lack of interesting light. I’ve wanted several times to run out and photograph but the gray just isn’t motivating. I have a few images in mind but really a clear or partly cloudy day would suit them better than the rain and gray skies. Things are bad enough that a couple of days ago I found myself photographing the trees blowing in the wind because that was the most interesting thing happening. Don’t get me wrong, I like photographing that stuff but I’m in the mood for real light soon!
A change in the weather will come. It always does. In the mean time I continue to share my snowy gray day images because winter still has a hold on us.
When you drive up the Columbia River Gorge on the highway it is really tough to tell sometimes that you are passing through a pretty major mountain range. The mountains are certainly there but they tower above so high that it isn’t really obvious what is going on. If you drive I-84 and look across at Washington the mountains are not as abrupt or as steep as on the Oregon side so you have the illusion that you are passing through a gentle valley. That’s far from the truth.
I love to find places where the river is fairly narrow and you can easily photograph across it. Moffett Creek below Bonneville dam is one of the places where that is possible. With fresh snow on the mountains and the rocky terrain I knew I wanted to visit here and capture a Union Pacific train crossing the bridge. UP set me up with two trains for this so I took advantage.
What is hard to see in this image is how tall the mountain in the background really is. The river is around 40′ above sea level and Wauneka Point tops out at over 2800′ (according to mytopo.com)! This image is actually a panorama shot vertically at 51mm and from what I can tell I’m only showing about 1/3 of the mountain. Impressive to be in the Cascades.
Most of the snow from the January 15th snow storm fell west of Bingen. The result was I spent the day west of Bingen too! Snow in the gorge has been pretty sparse lately so I wanted to take advantage. Most of the morning I hung out around North Bonneville photographing Amtrak, several BNSF westbounds, and two eastbound UP trains. The gorge is pretty narrow and cluttered with trees around North Bonneville. I knew I wanted a wider view to demonstrate what the snow looked like so after lunch I drove to Dog Mountain to wait for an eastbound.
Since it was Monday maintenance was out in full force so I took a quick trip to Underwood during a lull to see what the White Salmon River looks like after the Condit Dam breach. I’ve read many people’s complaints about how the breach has ruined one of the best salmon fishing locations in the Gorge. I will agree that the river is choked with muck but since the October 26, 2010 breach we really haven’t had any high water. Once we have a few heavy rains it appears a river channel will reappear there. Now, what will happen with the back water areas? Good question. I’m sure mother nature will show us.
I arrived back a Dog Mountain about the same time and eastbound stack train was going through Stevenson. Perfect. I climbed the hill and gathered in the photo I was looking for.
For Oregon Multnomah Falls is its “go to” tourist destination. More people visit here than any other single attraction in Oregon and I’m sure you can see why. It is beautiful, natural, spectacular, awesome, and many other adjectives. Man has done his best to encroach on the falls with the freeway, railroad, highway, visitors center, and trails all in very close proximity. The good news is the falls itself is undisturbed save for the Benson footbridge. Fortunately the bridge design is elegant and it really does not detract from the beauty of the scene. In fact I think it gives photographs of the falls a sense of human scale so that your mind can wrap around the fact this falls is 620 ft. tall.
Saturday was a perfect Oregon day to photograph a train in front of the falls. It was raining. Not hard of course, just a very heavy and wet mist. I spent the morning with some friends photographing waterfalls in the area. As we were leaving Multnomah Falls radio conversations indicated an eastbound was due any time. I hustled under bridge and set myself up with the spectacular falls in the background.
This photo has of course been done many times before as have most photos of Multnomah Falls. Still it is one I didn’t have in my collection until Saturday. I love it because it has Oregon landmark written all over it.
I found myself out in the gorge this afternoon. My daughter is learning to drive and up until today she’s focused on driving in and around Vancouver. City street, boulevard, and a touch of freeway driving for the most part. She still needed some exposure to the open road. To give her a bit of experience with highway speeds, curves, and hills I pointed her east on State Route 14.
Being a smart photographer I threw my gear in the car just in case we landed somewhere that the light might be good.
After a successful trip east to Stevenson we turned around and headed back to Beacon Rock State Park for a quick rest break. Just as we pulled into the park I could hear a westbound approaching. I quickly unpacked my camera to photograph the westbound Z train passing under Beacon Rock. The Z train was one of 4 trains we saw on our 2 hour jaunt. The break down was 2 grain trains, one manifest, and this Z.
If you are curious, we did arrive home safely and my daughter has some good highway driving experience under her belt.