August 14th, 2018
On an unassuming overcast day last March, three photographer friends and I met up in a parking lot in Portland to head out for a little hike and see what kind of a new-to-us landscapes we could take in. We decided to head into the Columbia Gorge. Being that much of the land and trails on the Oregon side of the gorge were still closed due to the Eagle Creek fire, we crossed over to Washington. As we passed by Table Mountain and Dog Mountain, I thought back to some great times of previous hikes in the region, and started to get stoked to see somewhere new. Our destination was Spirit Falls - a short, but fairly steep and moderately rugged trek to an absolutely gorgeous waterfall. While there is no official maintained trail here, the path is quite clear - just make sure you stay on it if visiting, as much of the property around this area is private, and as such would be trespassing. When we got to the falls, I was blown away by not only the actual size of it, but the insanely beautiful blue color of the water. It was pristine, and almost too perfect for landscape photography. We all immediately split up and started shooting different compositions. My first image was a long exposure using the LEE big stopper filter.
We were all pretty stoked on the images we were getting, and just generally having a good time out in nature breathing the fresh air and taking in the lush, powerful scenery. What seemed to be an already perfect day became infinitely more awesome when we noticed a group of people on kayaks - all getting ready to drop the falls. Once again, we all excitedly started running around trying to get angles to shoot the impending epic display of these guys flying over the waterfall in kayaks. Watching their adrenaline, risk, and skill in that moment was absolutely mind boggling and one of the coolest things I've seen while out on a short hike. Capturing images of them was equally as satisfying!
We probably sat and watched them for a good thirty minutes as they continually kept going back and dropping over the falls, navigating the cold, powerful water below. I already knew I wanted to try and capture a sequence of shots of a kayaker going over the falls in real time, and then later stitch them together in post processing. I subsequently chatted with and found out local extreme sport athlete Cole Moore was one of the people dropping these falls (pictured in red kayak, on instagram @colemooree), and he made this idea possible. It's one thing to hike these falls, it's something entirely different to go over them in a small kayak! Definitely something I admired and infinitely more bad ass than I will ever be.
Cole Moore drops Spirit Falls
All in all it was a good day with some great people. Seeing the kayakers was the icing on the cake. If you plan on visiting Spirit Falls, whether it is to hike or take photos, do your research first - know where you can park safely and legally, and know where you are going. As stated earlier, there is private property surrounding the area, and it is trespassing, even if by mistake, if you go off route. As with any place you visit, practice safety and caution. Some of the steep slopes here can have loose rock and be very slippery when wet, as well blatant drop offs to certain death. It is not recommended to bring children or dogs here. Please remember to pack out more than you pack in, and leave no trace.
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