Remembering the Columbia Gorge
9/7/17 6:00 AM
Dear Friends and Collectors,
By now many of you have heard of the wildfire which has engulfed Oregon’s Columbia Gorge, the result of a severe drought this summer and extremely dry conditions. One fire began in the Eagle Creek area, allegedly the result of illegal fireworks, and quickly spread, engulfing the creeks and canyons of the Gorge’s most impressive waterfalls and forests. At the time of this writing, the fire was only 5% contained in the vicinity of Cascade Locks, and has spread to the Washington side of the Hood River. The iconic canyons of Eagle Creek, Multnomah and many others are actively burning. Reports thus far are mixed as to the extent of the damage.
The Columbia Gorge is home North America’s largest concentration of waterfalls, including 77 named cascades. It is also home to 800 wildflower species, including 16 found nowhere else in the world.
My love of photography started in the Columbia Gorge on a trip I took there in 2009. The huge waterfalls, intimate creek scenes, dry grasslands and temperate rainforests spanning nearly 80 miles and 4,000 vertical feet have become some of my favorite subjects to photograph, and I have made several return trips over the years. Every photograph I have published from the Gorge bears with it a story. Sometimes I remember hiking out off trail into the wilderness at 3am by headlamp, the bone chilling cold of the water I stood waist deep in waiting for the perfect light, fighting the elements to bring home a brilliant photograph, muddied and sore, covered in the abrasive oils of poison oak on my wet skin… sometimes remembering the times I just sat there among the verdant greens of spring, without a soul around, surrounded only by the sounds of rushing water breaking the day’s silence.
In “Remembering the Columbia Gorge,” I assembled a gallery of images I photographed there over the last 8 years. While I remember each of these moments very vividly, they will now only exist in my mind and in my photographs. Many, if not most, of the scenes you see in these photographs will not exist for the human eye for at least another generation.
On several visits I left without a shot I really wanted to get, telling myself I would just return another time and hope for better conditions. I was fortunate to be able to do so several times, but now I can’t. Many times I thought about the day I would take my kids there, and show them the beauty I had explored many times, but now I can’t.
In geologic time, the area will prevail. But perhaps not for us to see. The Gorge suffered a similarly destructive fire in 1902 and the area around Multnomah Falls burned heavily in 1991. Both times the area recovered.
Horrible disasters such as this should remind us how precious life is, how tomorrow can never be taken for granted. Resist the urge to put something off until tomorrow. It can be gone in the blink of an eye.
Today, as hurricane Irma sets its sights near my home in Florida, we are again reminded of the beauty and unmistakeable power of nature.