I hadn’t really taken a photo excursion since my daughter Olive was born in February. I was breaking a very important promise I had made to myself about focusing on a photo career, and had been working far too much in the film industry. While I made the promise once again, I decided to do one more film starting in late October. So the week before it started, I planned a quick trip away to Central Oregon, to see some fall colors. My daughter had been struggling at night as well, causing me to not sleep, so I was also hoping to get one good night in at a hotel. I forced myself to take two days off, and went for it.
I had asked a forum online a while back about ideas for this trip, and someone had suggested Mackenzie Pass. That was near Proxy Falls, which I had been wanting to visit for years, so I made a plan. Another had mentioned the Highway 35 path from the Columbia River Gorge to Mt Hood, conveniently on the way to Mackenzie Pass. The Gorge is known for being a great place to shoot autumn colors, so I decided to start there, go south behind Mt Hood, stop by my friend Deans place near Madras, and continue to Sisters, Oregon for the night. The next day I would go over Mackenzie Pass, and back up west to Portland, stopping by a couple other waterfalls on the way.
It was Wednesday morning. I took Olive to day care at 8, and hit the road. I had been working so much I had little time to pack and go over my gear, so I had just thrown some stuff together that morning. At about 10 am I had reached Latourell Falls in the Gorge. I hadn’t shot out here since the Eagle Creek Fire, so I was excited to see the conditions. The colors had not quite turned, but the Gorge is a beautiful place any time of the year.
Right as the trip began, I mad a horrible discovery. I had recently made the switch to Sony cameras, after shooting Canon for years. Most of my lenses were still Canons, most importantly my 24-70mm f2.8L ii. It was by far my favorite lens. And it required an adapter to work on my Sony camera. Too bad I left the adapter at home in my rush to get on the road! I still had a decent Sony lens with me, so I started shooting while deciding whether to go home and lose several hours, forcing me to abandon the Highway 35 route, or continue on without the lens. I decided I would proceed to Multnomah Falls with what I had, head home, and then start over taking a shorter route to Central Oregon.
Very frustrated and on little sleep I moved forward toward Multnomah Falls. A little over a mile before the falls, the road was closed. Shit. Well no big deal I would get back on the Interstate and get there that way. So I followed the only road, and it put me back on the interstate heading back to Portland! Shit. Well no big deal I would go to the next exit and turn around. The next exit had no on ramp going the other way. So I decided it was not meant to be, and I headed home to reassess the whole trip.
I got home, hung out a bit, and after having second thoughts decided I needed to push through and head back out. So I did. I went the short route to make up some lost time, and stopped at my friend Deans house in Madras to catch up. From there it was off to Smith Rock for sunset. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so I knew the conditions would not be spectacular. But Smith Rock is still incredibly beautiful, so I had no problem hanging out for a bit to relax.
Off to Sisters! I made it about 5 miles before I got pulled over. Fortunately it was for a dead head light, and the very nice state trooper gave me a 20% off coupon for a new one, and sent me on my way. I headed to Sisters, and before checking in to my hotel, stopped by the local brewery for dinner. I hadn’t yet decided if I would sleep in, or shoot sunrise, but just in case I asked the bartender for a spot. I went back to my hotel and promptly crashed, though it was already past 10. I woke up at 4am out of habit. Bummer! But I did figure that left me zero excuse not to shoot sunrise. I was lazy about it, so I made it to the spot and had to rush a bit, but it was worth it. Once again, no clouds, but beautiful nonetheless.
Leaving the sunrise spot I drove back through Sisters, seeing it in the daylight for the first time this trip. It is a wonderful town. I had driven through before, but never stayed, and am really excited to bring the family back here.
I headed up Mckenzie Pass. Lets just say I was confused. I was told to come here for the autumn colors, and it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.
I kept climbing the pass and eventually reached the summit and the Dee Wright Observatory. Very cool. As I made my way down the other side of the pass, I started to see what all the fuss is about. The trees were gorgeous. I made it down to Proxy Falls pretty early, so luckily there was just me and one other person. I put on my waders, made the hike in, and had a blast for the next couple hours.
The falls were very dry, compared to photos I had seen. I also had some struggles getting used to a new camera. I shoot with a histogram, basically a chart showing your exposure, and although while shooting it looked great, many of these first shots came out a bit overexposed. Fortunately I was able to get a few to a place I was happy with.
I continued up the path to Upper Proxy Falls. Once you reach the lower pool, the upper falls are still quite a dangerous trek, so I snapped a couple shots from the area around the lower pool and called it good. There was some good color on the path, and some gorgeous trees standing among it.
After Proxy Falls my next destination was Downing Creek Falls. Somehow I had stumbled across an article about these falls a while back, bookmarked it, and it happened to be located on my path between Proxy Falls and home. I drove until I had cell service again and then stopped to read the directions on how to get to the falls. The lighting was awful, but the drive was mind blowing. I was in a bit of a rush to get home at this point, with a big day at work tomorrow, so I didn’t shoot much. Im planning to go back next year with a tent and some time.
I read the article for the first time in several months, and it seemed the falls were a bit of a hidden gem. No people, but that also meant they were tricky to find. I followed the directions very specifically, and my trusty Prius got me up the logging road to where I needed to be. I had save the article on my phone, so although I had no service, I was able to follow the authors very specific directions on how to find the spot on this tiny trail.
I was tired. I hadn’t had a good night sleep in over a week. I was bummed out by the super sunny conditions, but more so that I had a huge day at work tomorrow, and was starting a job on Monday that I knew would kick my ass. Fatherhood has been the greatest addition to my life. But it has also seriously put me in check. I’m used to working long days, and I’m pretty proud of my capabilities. But I’m tired. Really tired. I had no idea where the closest person was. The only sound I could hear was the creek somewhere hiding behind the foliage. And that brought a peace upon me that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I missed my family. But I also miss this peace. I know I can find a balance. In due time everything will come back together.
I followed the sound of the creek until I came upon the falls. The short time I spent here made the whole trip worth it. It was so peaceful. Somewhere new. Taking photos of a place I had only seen one photo of, which always adds some excitement for new compositions. I had a blast. I’m also really happy with the shots that I came away with.
I stopped one more time. There was a moment when Mt Jefferson peeked through over the colorful autumn highway. It was a hectic stretch, so I had about a second and a half to get a shot, but I was happy with it. On this trip I wouldn’t quite say I got the relaxation that I needed, but I had a quick reminder that life is too short to spend it all at work. That photography connects me to a peaceful aspect of this world that is essential to my existence, especially with the current climate of our country. Next year I will get a little bit closer to the overwhelming happiness I see with my family and lifestyle I am moving towards. Im excited to share those times with you!