Ponytail Falls · Horsetail Creek · Columbia River Gorge · Dodson · Oregon · USA
Big, well-planned photographic trips probably yield a higher proportion of epic images, but there's an extra element of whimsy and freedom that comes with making things up as you go along. It's kind of like jazz versus the symphony. I appreciate both greatly, but in metaphoric terms my life right now is more amenable to brief improvs than prescribed movements. Renowned globetrotter and supremely gifted photographer Terence Lee makes an awesome running mate on these flights of caprice, and after very quickly deeming sunrise a bust at Chanticleer Point (the decision-making process no doubt helped along nicely by the gale-force winds and biting cold), we decided to mosey on down the Historic Columbia River Highway into the maw of the western Columbia River Gorge.
We wound up at Ponytail Falls, where two rather unexpected phenomena unfolded. The first was rounding the cliff-edge bend to find Ponytail's glen bathed in a subtle but ethereal golden glow. I'd never seen anything like it before at this location, but the conditions that made Chanticleer a bust were a fortuitous boon here, as passing low-level clouds overhead bounced early-morning light into the canyon like giant softboxes. Without saying it, both of us knew we'd have to work quickly to take advantage of such rare light on the falls.
The second event was a product of working quickly, and in a totally uncharacteristic move for someone as cautious as I am in the field, I left my camera and tripod--legs splayed out at varying lengths and angles to overcome the awkward terrain--unattended for just a second. But alas, that was all the time that was needed for Newtonian physics to remind me of their existence via a resounding kerplunk! It took me maybe half a second to overcome the no-way-did-I-just-let-that-happen-to-me sensation before I lunged down to rescue my gear, but it was too late: The camera and lens had fully gone under, and seeing a line representing the water level in the space between the circular polarizer and the front element of the lens unleashed an internal flurry of expletives the likes of which I hadn't experienced since being sequentially suffocated every six months under the weight of a former adjustable rate mortgage (raise your hand if you got preyed upon a few years ago, too...we are brothers-in-arms). Or maybe some of those words actually did manage to escape my lips, I'm not sure...Terence, can you verify?
In any case, I dried off the camera and lens as best I could, and Terence graciously insisted we call it quits on the day so I could dunk my camera in rice ASAP even though I was very much willing to do another short hike if he'd wanted. Fortunately, although it's setting me back a few hundred smackeroos, the news out of Advance Camera Repair is good: Aside from a barely-noticeable water spot artifact on the LCD when viewed in a certain light and angle, the good ol' Sony a7R's fully operational and optically pristine, as is the Canon 16-35mm f/4L it was mated with at the time of their impromptu synchronized dive. Damn that Latvian judge for the 6.5... :\
In any case, the image you see here is literally the last one taken with the camera B.A.S.S. (before act of sheer stupidity). Had things evolved in a less fortunate way, I was fully prepared to title this "A Kiss Before Dying". So yeah...in case you might have missed it the first time around, I'd take a closer look at that title one more time...