Oregon Photography Hot Spots
- Where to fly into: The Tri-Cities Airport (PSC) in Pasco, Washington is well-located for starting your photography adventure in Oregon.
- Best luggage: For a trip of this length, the Nomatic Check-In roller bag is the ideal choice. It offers polycarbonate construction that stands up to the rigors of travel, silent wheels, low-profile handles, and a three-stage aluminum handle to fit your height. With space for 78 liters of gear, this bag has plenty of room for a 5-day trip or longer.
- Attractions & Things to Do: The Tri-Cities area is home to many wineries you can explore. The Wahluke Slope is a must-see for wildlife enthusiasts. For history buffs, consider a stop by the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
- Best Time of Year to Visit: Late spring and early fall are ideal times to visit Western and Eastern Oregon. Late spring is after the rainy season ends and early fall is before it begins.
- Check the weather in the Tri-Cities area right now.
In times like these, I can’t help but to find myself daydreaming about my favorite photography trips, most of which include the Pacific Northwest.
Oregon photography is incredible because of the wide array of natural landscapes. Every time I visit, I come across new Oregon photography hot spots. Plus, thanks to the constantly changing weather, you can photograph the same Oregon photography locations over and over because the lighting is always different.
So, since we can’t participate in any Oregon photography for a while, we can at least read about the best Oregon photography locations. This way, we’ll be prepared when we can!
photo by tonda via iStock
Crater lake is one of the most popular Oregon photography hot spots. It’s an old volcano that has since filled up to be the deepest lake in the United States.
And, since it is so far from civilization (it’s a designated national park) it’s pretty much pristine year round.
During the winter, you can rent snowshoes to traverse the park the old fashioned way and explore areas outside of the tourist zones or do a little cross country skiing all the way around the rim.
Just make sure to check the visibility before you go since, like many of the places to see in Oregon, Crater Lake is typically covered in clouds and will take some patience to capture all its beauty.
For more information on Crater Lake, visit its National Park Service page.
photo by Nick Wiltgen via iStock
Mount Hood is the most famous mountain in Oregon and has something for every photographer. It features 11 glaciers, hundreds of waterfalls, rivers and lakes, and the most gorgeous flora available in the Pacific Northwest.
The mountain is especially beautiful in the autumn for those chasing Oregon fall colors photography because the changing colors of the trees are echoed in still waters of the many lakes that surround it.
But, don’t let the season dissuade you from heading to Mount Hood during your Oregon photography session because it is beautiful year-round.
The Mount Hood website has some invaluable information for those looking for the best Oregon photography locations.
Hood River Valley
photo by svetlana57 via iStock
Funnily enough, Mount Hood is everyone’s third favorite reason to visit the Hood River Valley (at least according to TripAdvisor).
The Hood River Valley features thousands of acres of pristine wilderness between Mount Hood, the Columbia River, and the Cascade Mountain Range.
It should be no surprise to anyone, then, that most of Oregon’s fine photographic prints are of this wilderness.
While many of the areas can only be reached by foot and are thus more difficult for a short Oregon photography trip, the Hood River Valley is worth the trip if just to visit the many vineyards surrounded by snow capped mountains in the area.
The Hood River Valley Parks & Rec website has all the up to date information on park trails.
photo by Long_Strange_Trip_01 via iStock
You can’t miss Cape Perpetua on your next Oregon photography trip, even if it’s a bit far from all of the other tourist destinations.
Cape Perpetua is a wooded landscape bordering the Pacific Ocean in Lincoln County. It’s technically part of the Siuslaw National Forest, which is why the land is so immaculate.
Cape Perpetua is a great addition to your Oregon photography trip if towering trees, coastal fog and choppy waters is the mood you’re looking for.
Feel free to call the folks at the Cape Perpetua Visitor’s Center for further details as you plan your Oregon photography trip.
Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Photo by Justin W on Unsplash
The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is the easiest way to photograph Oregon without ever leaving your vehicle. It’s a quick 12-mile drive on Highway 101, but with a different turn-off every half mile you could get lost for days along this corridor.
One of my personal favorite spots along this corridor is the Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint which features a stunning angle for Oregon sunset shots and the best whale watching in the state throughout the autumn and spring months.
Read more about the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor here.
Photo by Dave on Unsplash
Besides Mount Hood, Haystack Rock may be the most recognizable scene from Oregon. Haystack Rock is a 235-foot rock that juts out of the ocean near Cannon Beach (which coincidentally means you can fit two Oregon photography hot spots into one).
If you can afford it, try spending an entire day at Haystack Rock. At low tide, you can walk up to it and search for sea stars along the newfound beach, while at high tide you can take incredible photos of the sea stack standing tall amidst the incoming waves.
The Cannon Beach website has more information about Haystack Rock.
Photo by Ethan Dow on Unsplash
Multnomah Falls is a 620-foot waterfall nestled in the Columbia Gorge scenic area. It’s a quick drive from Portland, but it’s a very popular day trip so you should be prepared before you include it in your Oregon photography trip.
For instance, if you can try and go during an off season, like in the middle of winter, you’ll have many more opportunities to snap your photos without tourists in them.
Multnomah Falls is named after the Multnomah Native American tribe that is indeginous to this area. Another place in Oregon that borrows its name from the tribe is the Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland, which is the perfect end to a long Oregon photography trip.
And, if you're looking for more information on visiting Multnomah Falls, you can find it on the Multnomah Falls visitor guide.
Silver Falls is yet another gorgeous waterfall hidden in the forests of Oregon. Since it isn’t quite as popular as Multnomah Falls, you can visit year round without much worry about fighting crowds.
Silver Falls is one of the best Oregon photography locations because it is located inside Oregon’s largest state park and is located outside of Salem, so less international travellers hit this waterfall than any others.
Check out the Oregon State Parks page on Silver Falls for more info.
Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park is one of my favorite places to see in Oregon because, unlike many of the other Oregon photography hot spots on this list, it is located in the high desert.
Don’t let this fool you, though. Smith Rock State Park is still incredibly windy and cold. It features 650 acres of smashed volcanic ash that creates gorgeous valleys that rival the forests of the Portland area.
You can visit the Smith Rock State Park page on the Oregon State Parks website for information about camping, hiking, and Oregon photography.
Three Sisters Wilderness
photo by hockeymom4 via iStock
The Three Sisters Wilderness is yet another fantastic Oregon photography destination. This wilderness area actually lies within the Cascade mountain range and features some of the best backcountry hiking in the world.
Since the Three Sisters Wilderness begins at just under 2,000 feet elevation and soars to over 10,000 feet elevation, you can expect intense changes in scenery, wildlife, and climate.
Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash
For more information on the Three Sisters Wilderness, visit the U.S. Forest Service’s page on it.
All-Inclusive Oregon Photography Tour
I’ve spent a lot of time in Oregon over the years, and have seen much of its beauty first-hand.
But the next time I’m in Oregon for a photography outing, you can bet I’ll be joining a photography tour in order to maximize my time seeing and photographing the state’s beauty.
A good buddy of mine, Scott Setterberg of ColorTexturePhotoTours has been leading photography outings in Oregon for decades. He knows where to go and when so you get to see the most beautiful landscapes Oregon has to offer.
In fact, Scott has two Oregon Fall Colors Photo Tours slated for fall 2020 that you don’t want to miss.
This tour takes you from locations like White River Falls to Smith Rock, Silver Falls State Park to Abiqua Falls, Trillium Lake to the Tri-Cities, and many points in between.
The tour is limited to just four people, that way your time learning and sharing with Scott and the rest of the group is maximized.
This is an all-inclusive trip, too, so you don’t have to worry about lodging, meals, or transportation while you’re there. Just get yourself to Oregon and ColorTexturePhotoTours will take care of the rest!
I think we’ll all need a nice, relaxing trip once the pandemic is under control. Why not make your trip an unforgettable experience to Oregon?!
Get more details about the Oregon Fall Colors Photo Tour.
Other Tips for Planning an Oregon Photography Trip