If you had asked me back when I first picked up my first DSLR camera where I was planning to take it – I wouldn’t have had a clue. Within a few months I was taking it on my first photo trip to a state park in Mineral Wells, Texas. The following year it followed me to Montana and Wyoming. Then it went to the Pacific Northwest with me for the first time. The following year it was back through Texas on a full week of exploration and adventure. This year it would be back to the Pacific Northwest.
As a photographer who has developed a major case of wander lust, I find myself constantly searching out new places and new sights to explore and experience as well as capture through the lens of my camera. When I made my first photography trip to the Pacific Northwest, I instantly fell in love with the region’s rich and diverse photographic opportunities. Since then I’ve found myself in either Washington or Oregon at least once a year. This year I set my sights on the region once again for not just a repeat visit, but to check a few items off my list that I had not been able to get to in years past. And this time, I wouldn’t be going alone.
If there is one thing that will make any trip more productive and enjoyable it is putting in the necessary leg work and research time before you travel to know not only where you want to shoot, but when you want to be there, any possible issues that are likely to come up due to weather or access, any surprise that can become an expected situation the better. When you are traveling outside your comfort zone, away from your home, most likely at significant expense it pays to have a solid idea of what to expect, where you want to shoot and when. That means reading, researching, digging through photos and travel books till you find those must-have locations along with any information you can get your hands on to get the best photos you can. That means not only figuring details such as tides on the coast, moon phases for astrophotography, what time of year certain flowers bloom, or even when the snow is likely to even melt from upper elevations or the first snow is likely to fall the following autumn.
With all this was on my mind when I started to pencil in where in Oregon and Washington we wanted to visit. The Pacific Northwest is far too large to see it ‘all’ in 10 days, I don’t think 10 weeks would be enough, 10 months might start to cover it… at least the easy to find and visit spots. Instead of trying to hit a few highlights across the entire region, we decided to split our time between the gorgeous Pacific coast from southern Washington through central Oregon for a total of 3 nights of the trip, then head inland for a visit to Silver Falls State Park and then up to Mt. Hood before putting down roots for a couple days in Hood River with easy access to the Columbia River Gorge. It would be a similar but more time efficient route to my 2014 trip, allowing time to explore Silver Falls State Park and a few new waterfalls on the Washington side of the gorge which I desperately wanted to see.
Photography Gear Suggestions
The Pacific Northwest truly is a photographer’s wonderland. If you can photograph it, it probably exists in some form within this magical place. From broad beaches to high cliffs over looking the sea, towering waterfalls and white whiter cascades, rolling hills and towering mountains, thick forests and golden fields. Every form of wildlife also call this land home – seals, eagles, elk, snakes, deer, sea lions, you name it. Simply put, you’re going to want all the glass you can possibly get on the plane safely. This does not however mean you’ll likely need every lens at every moment and every location. This is why I am a fan of having two camera bags on these major trips. I keep my main kit of lenses in my primary bag, and my lessor used lenses in a secondary bag that I can swap in and out of for special needs such as wildlife or astrophotography or even some portrait work.
Another consideration is all those accessories, filters, tripods and the like. For the Pacific Northwest you will want a minimum of a polarizing filter and 3 stop ND with a 6 stop ND being also highly useful for waterfalls and coastal waters. Of course a tripod will also be extremely useful when you start working with 3 and 6 or higher stop ND filters. I also recommend a UV filter for additional protection for your lenses from blowing sand on the beach or water near waterfalls. I feel a lot better about wiping down a filter that cost maybe $150 a most rather than a lens costing many times that. Rain / water protection for your entire camera is also a worth while cost to keep both water and errant sand from finding their way to exactly the wrong spot on your gear.
Our Plan for 2016
As mentioned, the plan for this year’s trip was to improve and expand upon my 2014 trip. As I was traveling with a number of other photographers, I omitted a couple of locations that were only interest to myself such as the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon and focused almost entirely on natural landscapes and wildlife pursuits. Our rough plan of action ultimately shaped up as:
Day 1 – Seattle to Seaside, Oregon: Shooting the south Washington coast down to Cannon Beach
Day 2 – Seaside Oregon to Newport: Shooting from Astoria down to Newport Oregon with a run to Thor’s Well at Sunset
Day 3 – Newport / Central Oregon coast: coastal locations along the central oregon coast are plentiful
Day 4 – Newport to Salem Oregon: option to stay near the coast most of the day or half day at Silver Falls State Park
Day 5 – Salem to Government Camp / Mt. Hood: Silver Falls State Park with evening at Trillium Lake / Mt. Hood.
Day 6 – Government Camp to Hood River / Gorge: finish up around Mt. Hood and start scouting locations in the Columbia River Gorge.
Day 7 – Gorge Day 1: So many hikes and waterfalls to choose from!
Day 8 – Gorge Day 2: So many hikes and waterfalls to choose from!
Day 9 – Gorge to Seattle: Finish up around the gorge, detours to Mt. St. Helens and/or Rainier in route back to Seattle area
Day 10 – Morning flight back home.
Volume 2 of ‘The PNW Chronicles’ detail segments of this adventure with some additional information pulled in from previous trips for locations I was unable to visit during this adventure. Subscribe to my blog to be notified when the following articles are published:
The PNW Chronicles – Southern Washington Coast (Available Now!)
The PNW Chronicles – Northern Oregon Coast & Astoria (Publishing Soon!)
The PNW Chronicles – Central Oregon Coast
The PNW Chronicles – Silver Falls State Park
The PNW Chronicles – Mt. Hood
The PNW Chronicles – The Columbia River Gorge
The PNW Chronicles – Other spots too good not to mention