The Historic Columbia River Highway

Rowena Crest, June 2016

Rowena Crest in the Columbia Gorge. I shot this shortly bfore I injured my left knee in the Oneonta Gorge. Sometimes, it’s OK to shoot in the middle of the day. Camera: Hasselblad 500CM Lens: 50mm Carl Zeiss Film: Kodak Protra 160.

The Old Gorge Highway is still closed between Bridal Veil and Ainsworth due the aftermath of the Eagle Creek fire.  It’s  been a heartbreaking 9 months since the fire started.  Parenthetically, a small part of the fire re-ignted earlier this month.  It’s not out yet.  The deep places can smolder for a long time.  Multnomah Falls is open, and they opened the Pacific Crest Trail near Cascade Locks last week.

The HCRH has been the lifeblood of my photography since the mid 1990’s.  It’s been my little roller coaster in the Gorge, depending on how bad my brakes were.  Many times, I started at the Corbett exit, and stopped at the Portland, Women’s Forum viewpoint.  From there, I hit Latourell, Sheppard’s Dell, Bridal Veil, Wahkeena, Multnomah, and Horsetail before turning back toward Portland.  I didn’t understand at the time that the HCRH doesn’t end at Ainsworth.

Sections of the highway still exist, and are open to car traffic all the way to Biggs Junction.  I’m not talking about the ones opened up recently for bike traffic.  A section continues from Ainsworth to the John B. Yeon Trailhead.  From there, it mostly doesn’t exist apart from short stretches going through Cascade Locks and Hood River.  Starting at Mosier, however, it opens back up in earnest., and continues through The Dalles, and on to Biggs Junction.  From Biggs, you can drive East for a short way before a line of gravel blocks the roadway.  At one time, you could drive to Pendleton on that road.

It was only when I “discovered” Mosier about 10 years ago that I started to drive up to Rowena Crest.  A few years after that, I learned that it was actually a segment of the HCRH.  There are no tall waterfalls on this stretch.  There are, however, views as stunning as there are farther west.  Rowena Crest is one of those.  Dry Creek Canyon is another.  A little farther west is the Memaloose Overlook, and a short walk from there you can see the Columbia River’s Mosier Gap with its synclines, anticlines, and the Coyote Wall on the Washington side (you can see it from the overlook, but I like the view better from a few hundred feet west).

It’s the dry side of the Columbia Gorge beyond Hood River, so the vegetation changes.  Oregon White Oaks are the dominant tree, and the hills become grassy, and less rugged.  After June, the grasses turn golden, and the creeks run low, or even dry.  Below is the view from Rowena Crest.



Grain Elevator, Biggs Junction, Oregon

Now that summer is around the corner, I’ve been shooting through the rolls of Infrared film I loaded last summer.  IR is useless in the winter, so if I don’t finish it by September, it will have to wait until spring.  

I have 4 rolls of Konica IR 750 remaining from a block of 10 I bought off of eBay a few years back. It expired in 1990, but it has been freezer kept, so fogging is at a minimum.  It’s my all-time favorite film, so naturally it’s been discontinued since 2005.   

I plan to shoot a bunch of IR this summer.  More to come…

Still Making Due

Starvation Creek Falls, October 2016

I’ve been without a darkroom for over a year and a half.  My attempt to carve one out of a spare bedroom was foiled by carpet.  Gaia and I don’t consider this to be our permeant house, so ripping up the wall-to-wall carpet upstairs is out of the question.  And, even if we could do that, imagine the damage that a few major fixer spills could do to the resale value.  
I have the room set up, sans sink.  The enlargers are ready to go, I have chems and paper.  I can get the room dark enough to load film, but the dust is impossible to control.  I can do contact prints, and develop them in a Jobo Processor in the bathroom, but the dust is… you get the point.  

I could muddle through.  The situation is not impossible.  But, after having a real darkroom for so long, the difficulty of doing the most basic processes, when compared to the ease I experienced before, makes it not worth doing when I can send my film out for developing, and scan the negatives.  My scanner won’t do 8×10 negatives, but I’m working on that. 

What does the future bring?  Someday a different house with space for a proper darkroom.  I’m also reconsidering carving a small darkroom out of the garage.  More on this later.

Digital:  I am looking to buy a pro digital camera like a Nikon D810.  I do not intend it to take over for film, but I can use it for the quick shots, and save the medium and large format film for the spectacular shots.  

Featured image: Camera: Hasselblad 500CM with a 40mm Carl Zeiss lens.  

Infrared Church, Colton NY

This is from my East Coast trip last Spring.

I have a few more rolls of my favorite film, Konica IR 750, which was discontinued in 2006, in my freezer. I shot this roll over nearly a year, choosing each subject carefully while trying to remember how to use the stuff.

©2014 Gary L. Quay

©2014 Gary L. Quay

I took a chance on development. I tried a new (to me) developer called Divided D-23. It’s a variation on Kodak’s D-23, and was the version that Ansel Adams used briefly. I used it on a less precious roll of film before trying it on this. The results were stunning. Some of the infrared look is missing, but I think the visual is quite nice.

Angel’s Rest Trail

Last Wednesday I attempted a hike to Angel’s Rest, which is a viewpoint high on a bluff in the Columbia Gorge in Oregon. It was a 90 degree day, and I had been out taking pictures along the Old Columbia Gorge Highway, so I already had an idea what kind of heat was in store for me.

I had completed this hike in my 30’s, but not since. I attempted it about 8 years ago, but my hiking partner was experiencing health troubles, so we were forced to turn back before the summit. It’s a bit of a grueling hike, at 2.3 miles up the side of the gorge, but I’ve done more extreme hikes. Here’s the caveat: Not recently. As I rapidly approach 50 the way a fly rapidly approaches a windshield, I find myself with less of both energy and eagerness to climb mountains carrying 60 lbs of camera gear. However, approaching 50 as I am, I’m thinking that it’s more important that I do it.

I set out with the afore mentioned camera gear: the backpack containing my Hasselblad, lenses and film backs; a sturdy tripod; and the bag with my filters, meters, film, adapter rings, lens hoods, and, most importantly, a water bottle. As I mentioned earlier, it was about 60 pounds of gear.

So, at scant months from the age of 50, I started up the hill. The backpack almost immediately hurt my shoulders, but the first half mile went uneventful. I noticed a certain lack of certainty in my stride. I’m not as fleet of foot as I used to be.

I grew up on the east coast, in Pennsylvania, specifically among the glacier ravaged Appalachian mountains, and as such, was part mountain goat. I used to run down the rock-strewn trails at full speed, each footfall carefully placed. I forded the streams, and climbed the trees. Now, it’s been almost a decade since I’ve hiked the hills on a regular basis, and I can feel it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in bad shape for my age. I get regular exercise. Yet, my feet weren’t as sure on the stones and roots on the trail.

I tried to make the water last. I kept an eye on my skin (in case it became dry when it should have been sweaty), and level of thirst. I took a swallow when my mouth got dry. After just under a mile, I crossed a stream. I wondered whether it was safe to fill my bottle from it. I had heard of giardiasis in the mountain streams in the gorge. I asked a passing hiker, who was returning from the summit, but she didn’t know. I decided not to fill my bottle. Shortly afterward, the trail became steeper. I found myself stopping to rest more often. Hikers passed me and wished me Luck. I was determined to make it to the top, but my water was running short. My goal was to take pictures from the viewpoint, but I had noticed encroaching cloud cover before I started up, so when a hiker coming down told me that I was unlikely to get any pictures today, my spirit broke. I was tired, my water was almost gone, and I wasn’t going to risk a heat injury for bad photographs.

Back in the car, I fished under the passenger seat, and found another bottle of water. I’m going to try again.