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“December sunrise at Catherine Creek” by Hood River photographer Cate Hotchkiss. 

On April 20, Friends of the Columbia Gorge announced Cate Hotchkiss of Hood River as the grand prize winner of Friends’ fifth annual photo contest. Eight category-winning photos and 10 honorable mentions were also announced.

The grand-prize winning photo, category winners, and honorable mentions were selected by a panel of three seasoned photographers (two professional, one amateur) with experience in conservation advocacy.

“As we are living in difficult and uncertain times, each picture in its own unique way gives solace by reminding us about the everlasting beauty of the Gorge and mother earth,” said contest judge and Hood River resident Paloma Ayala, a photographer and graphic designer who also serves on the board of directors at Columbia Riverkeeper and Next Door, Inc.

Hotchkiss’ grand-prize winning photo was taken at 8 a.m. on Dec. 14, 2019, while she was hiking at Catherine Creek, located on the Washington side of the Columbia River.

Hotchkiss used her Canon EOS 5D Mark IV to capture the sun rising in the eastern sky, casting an orange glow as it filtered through the clouds.

“I’m always inspired by beautiful, moody light,” said Hotchkiss. “That morning, just as the river started to glow, I snapped my shutter, and left it open for 30 seconds to capture, in a single frame, the warm tones blazing across the water and sky.

The photograph conjures up the area’s magic, and makes me smile, especially on gloomy days.”

“This scene is quintessential Gorge, but the light and mood is unlike anything I’ve seen,” said contest judge Vince Ready, who owns and operates Lasting Light Photography in Hood River. “The sky is glowing with color, and the 30-second exposure gives it all a softness and calmness that feels otherworldly.”

Debbie Asakawa of Portland, founder of the 200-plus member women’s outdoor group Trailmix and an avid photographer, joined Ayala and Ready to round out the panel of contest judges.

The panel of photo contest judges was assisted by Friends staff, who helped screen initial entries and develop a slate of finalists for the judges’ review.

“Not since the Eagle Creek fire have we asked the public to not visit the Gorge,” said Friends Executive Director Kevin Gorman. “These photos bring the Gorge to all of us, reminding us that the beautiful Gorge is still there and promising better days to come.”

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