Exterior, Columbia Gorge Aluminum Plant

The Columbia Gorge Aluminum Plant is adjacent to the John Day Dam.   Aluminum smelting plants require prodigious amounts of electrical energy – we were told that this plant consumed enough electricity to power the city of Portland!  It operated between 1971 and 2003.  My friend John Holmgren and I were photographing dams on the Columbia River when we drove by the plant in 2010.  We really wanted to photograph inside and decided that nothing ventured nothing gained so we boldly drove up to the guard building and asked if we could go inside.  The person in charge thought for a minute and said he didn’t see why not.  However, we would have to have someone with us and that it was too large to walk so we would have to take a golf cart.  A few minutes later we had a guide in one cart and us in our own.  He took us everywhere, talked about what we were looking at and sat very patiently while we set up and photographed!  We had little idea as to how to work in such dark conditions so we were exposing by guess and bracketing.  What a serendipitous experience; we were like two kids that had just won all day tickets to Disneyland!  I haven’t been allowed in to any other industrial site since but I keep trying.








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