November 22, 2007, 2:03 p.m. Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. We were visiting our sister-in-law’s sister in Portland for Thanksgiving. In that household’s tradition, complementing the turkey was a board of barbeque so nuanced that only years of practice can produce such a fine result. The feast lasted for hours. That plus a welcoming group of people would have been more than adequate, But I had more.
In addition to the customary seasonal gratitude, I was thankful for a brand-new Canon EOS 40D and the opportunity to visit the Columbia River Gorge and the waterfalls that line its southern cliffs. It’s the greatest concentration of falls in North America — more than twenty within a few miles. Chief among them is Multnomah falls: all 620 feet of it.
Multnomah has two cascades connected by a pool and short stream. A picturesque bridge crosses the stream and affords a view of the pool at the bottom of the upper falls. In the pool is an ever-changing array of rocks. I’ve been back to the falls several times over the years and the rocks are always different. Old rocks are gone or moved or broken and new rocks are always there.
(Next time you play rock-paper-scissors, add water — symbolized by holding your hand out and wiggling your fingers. It won’t be fair, though. You’ll always win. Water moves and eventually dissolves everything.)
At the base of the falls, wafting cascades of water make constantly changing patterns on the rocks, providing hours of entertainment (or frustration) for a photographer who is holding out for just the right look. Finally it came. And here is the reward.
But that exact moment is not the throwback I’m talking about this Thursday. No. We’re looking back at the innocent times when I allowed the camera to make important decisions on my behalf.
In 2007 I didn’t understand the freedom that a RAW file provides in its flexible bits and bytes, so I didn’t set the camera to save a RAW file. That means that the camera gave me an image determined to be acceptable by a consensus of the computer programmers at Canon’s headquarters and not a lot of post-processing by the photographer was possible. Nor did I understand the fine points of color balance and color management and the effect they can have on the final image. So the blue cast that — in my eye — makes this image work was the luck of the digital draw. And I did get lucky. What you see is what I got.
It was a great Thanksgiving.
(Canon EOS 40D, Canon 24-105mm f/4 L lens; Final crop in Adobe Photoshop.)