Abiqua Falls: Lessons in ice and water

This is the kind of thing that happens often enough that one would think I would have figured it out. I gather up my camera gear and follow my wanderlust into the Columbia Gorge, or out to the Coast Range, Bend, Seattle or Salem and trundle down some trail in search of something. What happens next, it seems, has become almost as much a part of the ritual as sitting in front of Photoshop for hours editing the latest body of images. I get really focused and into the place, that invariably I forget some technical aspect of making the images. I get excited about where I’m at, the light, the water, the sounds, or the wind created by the torrent of water hurtling over the rock face that something important gets overlooked as I get caught up in the location. The gear has no effect on what is happening. My enthusiasm doesn’t care if I’m shooting 4×5 transparency film, with a pinhole, or digitally – it just takes hold, and just like that annoying little pig in the commercials, I can hear it screaming weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

This chilly day in January was no exception, as my brother and I set out to hike and photograph at Abiqua Falls in Oregon. I first found out about Abiqua Falls on Flickr, and did some subsequent googling and Flickr searches and we decided that it looked pretty amazing.

helper lineGetting there

If you want to actually find this place, don’t use Google maps. You’ll never make it. The directions over at Oregon Hikers are pretty accurate. The road gets a bit sketchy, especially if you’re driving a big ass SUV,  but you’ll need the clearance, just don’t bring the Suburban or that F-9000, there are only a few places to pull over to let people pass by along the way and it can be tight turning around at the trailhead, so be patient and courteous.


The trail is steep in a few places, with a couple of spots where other hikers have attached knotted lines to trees to make the going a bit easier, bit it can still be really slick – although it’s totally worth it. You’re never very far from the falls or the creek and you can hear it the whole time, and it takes little time to get down.

Having made the trip in January, it was cold, slightly frozen and only moderately slick. The Basalt pillars surrounding the falls are beautiful and the way the falls has cut through the lower rocks to flow further on towards Scott’s Mills is gorgeous. When we get there, it’s still early, and the light is beaming through the mist, fog and trees adding to the frozen basalt and massive falls to create a scene which is precisely the spot where things go a little sideways. The breadth of the scene laid out in front of my was screaming panorama, so I set out to grab a few sets of panning images to stitch together back at the homestead.Shooting with my new 16-28 is a dream. So I set about my business. It didn’t take me too long to discover water drops on the lens after moving about to a few different positions – it just never occurred to me to reshoot the panorama. Oops.

Once I had the images open in Photoshop, and the stitching started I discovered my bonehead maneuver. Damn. Damn because it’s a stupid mistake. I’ve been shooting in the Gorge for years, so I should know better. Double damn because it’s the strongest shot I took from the day. Oh well. Next time. We easily spent 3 hours just around the falls area, not venturing downstream much. Ice was consistently detaching from the surrounding rock face, so while I loved it photographically, I stayed pretty clear of the walls.

Check out my Flickr photostream for a couple more from that day.

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