Tommy is a senior at Sunset High School. He’s into gaming with his friends, likes to listen to reggae music, and has three sisters.  In fact, I’ve had the honor of photographing his two older sisters, Maddy and Charly, for their high school senior portraits

Like a lot of high school senior guys, Tommy wasn’t too keen on having his senior pictures taken.He readily admitted that he was just doing this for his mom.  But that all changed when we decided to turn his mundane senior portrait session into a fun hike to Wahclella Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.

A hiking trip into some of the beautiful places that Oregon and the Pacific Northwest have to offer (like the Columbia River Gorge or Mount Hood National Forest) is a great approach that not only breaks away from convention and allows us to create unique senior portraits, but also caters to the preferences of senior guys who may not be thrilled about being in front of the camera. This unconventional portrait session adds an element of adventure and authenticity to the experience, which even the most reluctant senior boys will enjoy.

When it comes to waterfalls, Wahclella falls has to be one of my favorites. The Wahclella Falls hike is approximately 2 miles roundtrip. The relatively short distance makes it accessible for various skill levels, offering a rewarding outdoor experience with the captivating reward of the falls at the end of the trail.

The trail, which is considered moderately difficult, follows tanner creek, which offers numerous opportunities for portraits along the way.  The trail climbs gradually before a crossing the creek over a wooden bridge, leading to stunning views of Wahclella falls flowing out of a narrow opening in the moss-covered canyon walls and cascading into a deep pool at its base.

Senior guys, often averse to traditional photoshoot settings, find Wahclella Falls to be an ideal location because it offers a rugged and natural backdrop. And incorporating a hike into the senior portrait session turns a boring picture day into into an adventure. It becomes a shared experience between the photographer and the senior, fostering a connection that goes beyond the camera and lens. Navigating the trails, overcoming obstacles, and reaching the falls together creates a camaraderie that translates into candid moments, genuine expressions, and captures the essence of the senior’s personality in a more relaxed and authentic manner. 

But it’s not just high school seniors that find Wahclella Falls alluring. This is one of the most popular trailheads in the Columbia River Gorge for good reason, and it can be incredibly busy with the parking lot overflowing on warm summer weekends. As a result, I encourage my high school seniors who want a senior portrait experience at Wahclella Falls to schedule their sessions on a weekday morning if possible — both to beat the crowds as well as the later summer heat.

Are you someone that would love an adventurous destination senior portrait experience?  Learn more at

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