Posted by dustin gent |
I have been meaning to put this up for a while, so I figured today is as good as any. Over the past month or so, I have been asked several times about when to visit Oregon - ie; best time of year. Well I will go in depth a bit about what I would do.

Every season has its pros and cons. Also, not everyone likes the same seasons, outdoor activities or even subjects to shoot. I have photographer buddies that do not like to shoot waterfalls as much as they do the ocean, or the mountains, etc. With this said, here is my opinions.

Having never been to Oregon (or the Pacific Northwest for that matter), I usually ask a few questions of people before answering them with my advice, so to speak. Beaches are good all year round, nothing new there:). However, it would be safe to say that coast (a beach is somewhere you lay out on, as I am from Huntington Beach...:)) has really TWO seasons. You can combine winter and spring into one season, and summer/fall into another. Really there are no fall/spring stuff that affects compositions like waterfalls or the mountains do (flowers/foilage/snow,water levels) Weather really is the only factor. Right now, there is 60 foot waves, which is not uncommon at all. Shore Acres, near Coos Bay often sees 80 foot waves. You can google Shore Acres and see images of crazy waves. Happens all the time - honestly.

Sunsets are better in winter, based on my experience. Summer you get maybe a few more sunsets, but that marine layer comes QUICK. I will look at weather.gov and the web cams and see that the conditions look favorable (this usually pertains to summer), but after driving the 70 miles from Portland to Cannon Beach, I see that it is "foggy" there, thanks to the marine layer. This doesn't happen very much in winter, due to the weather patterns we have. Also, the beaches and "toruisty" spots aren't as bad, usually just fellow Pacific Northwesterners there. You can usually tell by the lack of umbrellas, lol.

The waterfalls are obviously way different, as are the mountains. I usually avoid the Gorge in the winter, unless there is snow/ice, which only happens a few times a year, and only in winter (usually). It really is amazing how different the Gorge is in the late spring (early May usually - and this goes for pretty much all waterfalls around here - I just reference The Gorge as it is close). You can see the trees and some bushes that have bare branches, but the real secret are the ferns and other plants that leave no trace that they ever existed, other than the rotting leaves some plants leave behind. Also in late spring, the falls are usually at a nice flow from the rain and the snow melt in the mountains. Flow in winter is also good, just the colors are muted - not as green/yellow/etc.

The mountains are good all  year round, however accessibility is hindered quite a bit. Mt. Hood just  got 7+ feet of snow in the last 5 days, and they are getting hit again. Wildflowers are always amazing up here, and usually they are prime in mid July. This year, Mt. Rainier was prime in late August and even into mid September in some places. I even saw wildflowers popping up through the snow this year! Doesn't happen all that often.

I usually avoid The Gorge in the summer and early fall, as the water levels recede and the lighting is not ideal at all. Also, lots of people out - although many of the falls I go to are hard to get to, so I don't have that problem. Fall colors in The Gorge are great! Usually this starts in mid October, and by first week of November, it is prime! This year, it was pushed back several weeks.

So with that said, if you are shooting waterfalls and want to visit the beaches (and maybe even some mountains), late spring is probably the best (anytime in May). A word of warning; it does rain more in the spring than anytime of the year. The Columbia River Gorge gets 80+ inches of rain a year, whereas Portland (located 30 miles west) gets maybe 45 inches.

Here are two shots. I couldn't find the direct comparison I was looking for, but you get the idea. Latourell Falls gets this wild with ferns, don't you worry!


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