Multnomah Falls Summer Solstice

Summer solstice lights Multnomah Falls for a rare view of the usually shaded falls (Philip A. Knouf)

Summer solstice lights Multnomah Falls for a rare view of the usually shaded falls (Philip A. Knouf)


Multnomah Falls is the most popular tourist destination in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and in the state of Oregon.  Multnomah Falls is also the highest waterfall in Oregon topping out at 620 total feet in its two sections.  During the summer the falls location can seem like a busy day at the beach with hoards of eager tourists.  For a more quiet view of the falls try early in the morning during the summer months.  Other seasons of the year see significantly fewer visitors.  Due to the northwest orientation of Multnomah Falls, most days of the year, that is, those with sunlight, the falls will be mostly or completely in the shade.  However, around the time of the summer solstice you can view most of the upper 542 feet of the falls and the eastern cliff face in sunlight.  Of course there should be no clouds in the sky which in cloudy Oregon can be an uncommon occurrence.  Thankfully, most of the summer in Oregon has a lot of sunshine.

This year, 2012, the summer solstice in Portland Oregon occurred at 4:08 PM PDT on June 20.  Multnomah Falls is due east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.  The image above was taken at 4:50:54 PM PDT.  The image is a manual blend of two images taken with a Canon 5D MKII and a Canon TSE 24mm lens.  The first image was at ISO 400, f/ll and 1/15 sec.  The second image was at ISO 400, f/11 and 1/60 sec.  Initial prep was done in Lightroom 4.1.  The image was finished in CS6.  Considerable enhancement was done with luminosity painting and channel masks; sometimes called alpha masks but more correctly called luminosity masks.  These masks allow for extremely fine control of luminosity densities far beyond what was commonly available with a film-based process.  The CS6 Actions I use can be found at the website of Tony Kuyper.

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