Posted by: kerryl29 | August 31, 2015

Day 10: Back in the Forest

While Day 10 was dominated by my tangential relationship to the hiker rescue that I detailed in the previous entry, I did engage in some photography.

I returned to the Battery Point Overlook in Crescent City–first visited the previous day–in the pre-dawn darkness of Day 10 with the hope of experiencing some great light.  While the view from the overlook faces south-by-southeast, I was still essentially pointed in the right direction.

Battery Point Light at Dawn, Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light at Dawn, Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

Before the sun crested the mountains to the east, I got back in the car and drove the short distance to the Crescent City Pier–another location I’d photographed from the day before–and made my way down to the end of the platform shortly before the sun began to make its impact.  I was ready when it did.

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Pier, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Pier, Del Norte County, California

From this point, it was back to the Damnation Creek Trail in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  I knew from the previous couple of days that the forest there–on a steep hillside that dropped off to the west–would remain in soft light for a couple of hours.  I’d decided in advance that it was now or never with regard to the rhododendron–the rumors of daily fog having been greatly exaggerated.  Other than the lack of fog, I determined that the conditions wouldn’t be any better than they were that morning:  even light and dead calm.

Having scouted the location as far back as Day 7, I knew that absolute calm would be needed because I was going to have to photograph the scene with a long telephoto lens and acquiring the depth of field I wanted for the scene was going to require focus stacking–and probably quite a bit of it.  Executing the shots I was after was probably going to take 15-20 seconds per set of exposures and any meaningful movement upon the part of the rhododendron blossoms, leaves or tree branches would ruin the shot.  Fortunately it was absolutely still as I made the 1/2 mile walk from the Damnation Creek Trailhead to the flowering rhododendron that I had been eyeing for parts of the last three days.

I arrived on the scene, set down my pack, pulled out the camera body with the 80-400 mm lens attached and moved to the location I had previously identified as the best vantage point.  The flowers were well above eye level–probably 15 feet or so above–and something like 30 or 40 feet away.  I had selected this location not just because it was physically accessible and gave a clear view of the blossoms, but also because of the backdrop–several wide redwood trunks.

I set up the tripod and fine-tuned the composition.  Then I made a quick test to see how many shots it would take for me to obtain front-to-back sharp depth of field at f/7.1.  The answer was five.  It was going to require five exposures, adjusting the plane of focus slightly with each shot, to obtain the necessary set of images.  I wanted to make the exposures at base ISO (100) to maintain the best image quality and since it was still fairly dark in the forest, the exposures themselves were pretty slow.  Nevertheless, as noted, there wasn’t a breath of wind.  I didn’t know how long these conditions would hold, so I worked as quickly as I could.

Rhododendrons, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

I made some slight adjustments, rotating for a vertical orientation, moving my position slightly and changing the focal length a bit with each shot.  The below image required a sequence of eight exposures.

Rhododendrons, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

The following pair of shots necessitated nine exposures apiece to complete the stacks.

Rhododendrons, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Despite the lack of fog, I recall feeling pretty pleased as I moved on down the Damnation Creek Trail after completing this sequence.  Prior to making the trip, I had hoped to see and photograph rhododendron in the redwood forest and, despite the total lack of fog (and the near total lack of flowering rhododendron) I had done so.  Now I was off to the Coastal Trail to see what else I could find.  It was just moments after I packed up following the rhododendron images that I encountered John and the rest of my day unfolded quite differently than I had anticipated.

By the time the rescue experience had ended and I had returned to the trailhead, it was early afternoon.  I wanted to write down the details of the experience as quickly as possible, so I returned to the hotel and typed out the specifics on my laptop.  (That account served as the basis for the previous post.)

It was late afternoon when I finished putting my thoughts together and I decided to simply return to the Damnation Creek and Coastal Trails to try to engage in the process that had been put on hold that morning.  There were no vehicles in the parking area when I arrived, about 2 1/2 hours before sunset.  It was almost as though the mind-bending activities surrounding the rescue had been a dream.

I got my gear together and wandered back down the trail, planning to spend what remained of the day on the two trails.

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

To my superficial surprise, I found this to be among my most productive sessions amidst the redwoods.  I thought I might be distracted, but I was able to “get in the zone” and it was clear to me that I was becoming increasingly immersed in the unique forest environment with each passing visit.

At first, parts of the forest were still impacted by occasional hotspots from sunlight, so I spent a bit of time working on intimate compositions.

Redwood Trunk Abstract Black & White, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Redwood Trunk Abstract Black & White, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Ferns Intimate, Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Ferns Intimate, Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Forest Floor Intimate, Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Forest Floor Intimate, Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Over time, the light in the forest began to even out and I started to cast about for wider views–though I didn’t ignore intimate compositions entirely.

Redwoods Intimate, Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Redwoods Intimate, Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

There had been a modest breeze earlier, but the later it got the more the wind died down.  This was a fortunate–if expected–development, because the later it got the darker it became…and that meant longer shutter speeds.  Given the copious, capricious foliage in the forest, the lack of wind was welcome.

Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Much of the Coastal Trail in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park is the remnants of the old coast road–the highway bed that predates the current US 101.  It mostly manifests itself as a two-track today.

Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Very, very late during this session–as I was heading back on the Coastal Trail in the direction of its junction with the Damnation Creek Trail as I prepared to hike out–I spotted what I saw as a “tunnel” through a series of redwood trunks.  Photographing it the way I wanted to, at 70mm, again required focus stacking–just five exposures this time.

Trunks Tunnel, Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Trunks Tunnel, Coast Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

It was dark when I returned to the trailhead.  It had been a good evening’s shoot, heading north on the Coastal Trail.  I knew that there were interesting scenes heading south on the trail based on my earlier scouting, but that would have to wait until the following morning–my last in the redwoods region.  After my morning excursion on Day 11 I would begin my long (more than 300-mile) drive to Silverton, Oregon, the jumping off point for my time at Silver Falls State Park.

Posted by: kerryl29 | August 24, 2015

Interruption of Chronology: A Sobering Experience

I had an…interesting experience…on the morning of Day 10 of my photo trip to the West Coast, which served as a sobering reminder that not everything revolves around photography.  I’ll resume the chronology of the photographic experience–Day 10–in my next post.  Now, however, I’d like to relate what happened on the morning of  Wednesday, May 13.

[As a side note, I’ve kept the number of images to a minimum with this post, as its substance has nothing directly to do with photography.]

The story really starts the previous night (Tuesday, May 12).  As I related in my previous post, I photorgraphed at Wilson Creek Beach, which is about 12 miles south of Crescent City, California. on Tuesday evening.  The route there passes the trailhead for the Damnation Creek Trail, which dives deep into the redwood forest of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and when I drove past that trailhead on US 101 at roughly 6:30 PM I noticed that there was a car in the parking pullout, thought I didn’t think much about it at the time.  On the return trip, close to 9 PM (and quite dark), I noticed that there was still a car in the parking area (I couldn’t be sure it was the same one, but I figured it was) and thought to myself “I hope those people have a headlamp or a flashlight.”

So on Wednesday morning I shot sunrise at Battery Point Lighthouse and then jumped in the car and headed straight to Damnation Creek. I got there a bit before 7 AM (sunrise was at 6). There was a car parked in the pullout—just one—but, again, I didn’t think much of it.  No reason that there shouldn’t be a car there in broad daylight.  I got my rhododendron/redwood shots at a spot I’d been eyeing as one of the very few in the entire area that had an appreciable number of blooms since first scouting there on Sunday afternoon and then proceeded down the trail to the point where it intersects the Coast Trail.  I had planned to shoot along that trail until I lost the light but just before I came to the junction I saw someone coming towards me from below.  I figured he was the guy who belonged to the car I’d seen.  He was pretty sweaty and breathing hard, so I figured that he’d already been down to the beach on the Damnation Creek Trail.

As a note, the Damnation Creek Trail is an out and back 4.2 mile roundtrip with 1100 feet of elevation change each way.  I’d guess that at least ¾ of that change comes in the final 2/3 of the outbound hike (meaning after it intersects the Coast Trail).  This is why I assumed that the oncoming hiker had been all the way down to the beach—he looked like someone who had just completed a very long, steep uphill slog. The beach at the end of the trail, I’d read—I’d never been down to it myself at this point—was supposedly very rocky and very narrow.

“Did you go all the way down to the beach?” I asked, once it was clear he was well within earshot.

“Yes,” he said.

“That’s a pretty steep trail,” I said.

“Yeah, it is.”

By this point we were pretty much face-to-face and it didn’t appear to me that he wanted to chat, so I just continued past him and he walked by in the direction of the trailhead.  After a few seconds, with him out of sight around a bend in the trail, I heard:  “Could you do me a favor?”

I stopped.  I assumed he was talking to me, even though I couldn’t see him.

“What is it?” I asked, with a somewhat raised voice.

He came running back down the trail towards me.

“Can you do me a favor?”

“What do you need?”

“My girlfriend and I were stranded here last night.  She’s still down there, out on a cliff, about a quarter of a mile to the right of the spot where the trail meets the beach.  Could you tell her that you talked to me and that help is on the way?  Just to comfort her? Her name is Steph.”

This all came tumbling out. I was a bit astonished, to put it mildly.

“She’s been up there all night?”

“Yes. We both were.”

It was dawning on me at this point that this was something of an emergency and, rather than asking him a lot of “curiosity” questions and delaying him, I’d better decide what I was going to do, pronto.  I hadn’t planned on going down to the beach, or taking the second leg of the Damnation Creek Trail at all, for that matter.  After dealing with the rhododendrons, which I’d already done, I was simply using the top of the trail as a way of accessing the Coast Trail, where I intended to resume shooting.  Descending on the very steep part of the Damnation Creek Trail—with my full photo pack and tripod, I hasten to add, hadn’t been in the cards.  But this sounded pretty desperate and I quickly thought to myself about what I’d hope someone else might do if I was in this guy’s predicament.

Time to ask some pertinent questions, I thought.  First, clarify the location.  And her name.  Then I asked his name—it was John. He asked mine and I told him. And one more thing.

“You were stranded because of the tide last night, I’m guessing.”

“Exactly,” he said.

“So what’s the story with the tide now?” I asked.  I hadn’t been checking the tide tables since wrapping up on the Oregon Coast days earlier, because I hadn’t planned to do anymore beach hiking.

“Right now it’s passable,” he said. “That’s how I was able to get down from the cliff and get up here.  But if you can’t get over there when you get down to the beach, you can’t.  Don’t do anything crazy.”

“Okay, I said…I’m on my way.”

“Thanks very much,” he said, and started running towards the trailhead.

I double-timed it down the trail, with my heavy pack and tripod in tow.  I’d have moved much more quickly and adroitly without them, but that would have meant a 1.5 mile roundtrip to the car from this point, which would have been a copious waste of time.  All sorts of thoughts swirling through my head. One thing that popped into my mind was that I’d neglected to ask why, if he’d been able to get down, she hadn’t.

So, I made my way down the trail, which descended steeply through a mixed redwood forest.  Since it was all downhill, it didn’t take me too long to approach the beach.  The trail reaches a large rocky/grassy area about 20 feet above beach level, and then you have to descend a narrow, precarious “stairway” that’s cut into the rock face.  I looked this over and decided that it was time to abandon my pack and tripod up on the rock…they’d just slow me down unnecessarily. I could see the beach to the right—it was rock strewn and very narrow.  At some spots, there was less than 10 feet between the cliff face and the surf.  If this was low tide (it wasn’t; I later checked and low tide wasn’t until after 2 PM; I was down on that beach by, probably, something like 9 or 9:30 AM; the first high tide of the day was around 8 AM), I figured that at high tide parts of that beach were utterly impassable—the surf would have been pounding directly against the side of the cliff. This, I reasoned, was what must have stranded them in the first place.

Looking North, Damnation Creek Beach, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Looking North, Damnation Creek Beach, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

[The above image shows the view to the north–the direction I headed on the beach after descending from the trail.  The headland peaking into the frame from the right was the first choke point–it would have been impassable at high tide.]

I set down my pack, my tripod and my jacket, as I was now quite warm.  I then climbed down to the beach.  Damnation Creek empties into the Pacific Ocean here and I needed to cross the stream.  It was shallow, but I managed to rock hop my way to the other side without too much difficulty and then started working my way across the rocky beach, while regularly scanning the cliffs above me, and occasionally calling out.  There was no response and I didn’t see anyone, either.  I reached a bit of a choke point, where the waves were nearly hitting a protruding part of the cliff. By timing them, I got by, but since I wasn’t sure at that time whether the tide was coming in or going out, I was concerned about getting back.  I kept going and finally I could see, not that far in front of me, another headland which absolutely couldn’t be rounded—the surf was pounding the cliff face directly. If I had to round that headland to find Steph, it wasn’t going to happen.  As I was pondering this and moving closer, I heard something from above.  I looked up and saw a woman perched far above me—well over 100 feet, probably more (I later found it was roughly 200 feet above the beach).

She waved at me.  I waved back.

“Are you Steph?” I shouted. I figured it had to be….who else could this possibly be?

“Yes!” she shouted. It was very hard to hear her, given the ceaseless roar of the surf, just 20 or so feet from where I stood.

I shouted up to her that I’d met John on the trail and that he’d asked me to come and tell her that help was on the way.  It took a couple of tries, given the difficulty communicating over the ocean’s sounds, but the message finally got through.

I then scanned the situation. I saw a route that I could probably take to get up to her, or near her, but I didn’t see how I’d be able to get back down if I did get up.

I yelled up and asked her how they’d gotten up there…and how John had made it down this morning.  I couldn’t make out everything she said, but I did get the part where she said it had been via the other side of the now impassable headland. That was out, for the moment, at least until the tide receded to the point where it could be approached.  I didn’t know it at the time, but that wouldn’t be for hours.  I looked and I looked but I didn’t see any route I could take that would allow me to get up and back down safely. At one point she called down and asked if I was with search & rescue and I explained that, no, I was simply photographing along the trail when I met her boyfriend and he briefly told me their story.

After a minute or two of surveying the situation, I called up to her with my conclusion, apologetically. It took some doing, again, to overcome the noise, but she understood.  I told her that I would have to retreat to the point where the trail met the beach because I was afraid that I might not be able to get back there if I didn’t go now. (As it turns out, that wasn’t a real concern, but I didn’t know it at the time.)  I told her that if I could clearly see that the tide was receding, I would be back and that, in any case, I wouldn’t leave the beach area until help arrived—that I would be nearby.  She seemed grateful—she thanked me profusely numerous times—and reassured me that she’d be okay until help arrived.  I was really impressed with how well she was handling the situation, under the circumstances.

Looking South, Damnation Creek Beach Black & White, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Looking South, Damnation Creek Beach Black & White, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

I made my way back to the rock where I’d left my pack and waited. After 10 or 15 minutes, a couple of hikers approached and said hello.  I asked if they’d seen anyone else on the trail down. They said no and asked why.  I explained the situation.  They were a bit distraught, but there was nothing any of us could do.  After another 30 minutes or so, John arrived, with four Cal-Fire search and rescue personnel, a park ranger and a Del Norte County Sheriff’s deputy.  We pointed the way for the rescue personnel who began to descend to the beach and John asked me if I’d made it over to Steph.  I told him the story I related above and he, again, thanked me sincerely for my efforts.  I handed him a card with my e-mail address on it and asked if he’d drop me a note when it was convenient and tell me how it all turned out.  I figured that the best thing I could do at this point would be to stay out of the way.

(I’ll digress here momentarily to note that, in reality, I didn’t really do much of anything. Yes, I’d gone through some physical inconvenience, but in the end, if I hadn’t made it down to Steph, the S&R folks would have reached the spot in another 40-45 minutes anyway.)

One of the fire and rescue officers returned on his way back to the trailhead before I packed up completely and I asked if they’d been able to get Steph down.  He shook his head.

“No, we can’t.  They’re going to call for a helicopter.”

He apologized, saying he had to get back up topside as quickly as possible so he couldn’t chat.  I told him I completely understood.  But I was stunned at what he said.  This was turning into a real production.

Another fire and rescue officer came back as I was just finishing up—he turned out to be the crew chief, a very nice guy whose last name was Estevez (it was on his jacket)—and I hiked out part way with him.  He told me that a Coast Guard helicopter had been summoned and hopefully they’d be able to conduct the rescue.  (The issue was whether it would be possible to position a helicopter so that they could lower someone to the outcropping Steph was perched on without crashing the chopper into the cliff.)  If not, they’d have to send in a full S&R team from above, with ropes and repelling equipment.  He said that the copter would be on site within 15 minutes and within five more they’d know whether they could safely attempt the rescue.  I said “Geez,” or something to that effect.

He gave me a wan smile.

“It happens,” he said, referring to these search and rescue situations.

“Does it happen a lot?” I asked.

“Around here, more than you’d think,” he said. “This is our nightmare scenario, Damnation Creek.  It’s steep, it’s really hard to communicate because of all the rocks.  There’s almost no access by any other means.  You really can’t get in here by boat because of the rocky shoreline.”

“Has something like this situation happened before?” I asked.

“Oh sure,” he said.  “Maybe not exactly like this, but this kind of thing, absolutely.  What makes this really tough is that they got caught by the tide last night and they climbed way too high.  Here, the tide won’t even reach 20 feet.  Maybe it’s 4-5 feet up the cliff face, but they didn’t know that and they wanted to be sure they were safe, so they ended up climbing up 200 feet, probably mostly, if not entirely, in the dark.  And today, in the light, she takes a look down and says, no way I’m going down there.  There were a couple of places that were much more accessible lower down but they obviously didn’t feel safe last night so they kept going up.”

I was going to ask how John got down, but I gathered that he at least partially slid down the cliff face because someone had to get down there and go for help.  Someone had mentioned earlier that his hands were pretty scuffed up.  I hadn’t noticed, I must confess.

We could hear the chopper coming in and as we ascended the trail Mr. Estevez was in radio contact with various other members of the rescue team.  They were able to conduct the helicopter rescue and successfully removed Steph from the cliff.  She was taken, I later found out, to the airport in Crescent City and from there to a local hospital where she was treated for dehydration and exposure.  She was released later that day.

It was a sobering experience, and gave much to think about as I slogged my way back to the trailhead with that anchor (approximately 35 lbs.) of a photo pack on my back.

If this story wasn’t dramatic enough, check out the link below and be sure to watch the brief video of the helicopter rescue itself.

http://lostcoastoutpost.com/2015/may/13/hiker-trapped-cliff-near-damnation-creek-job-secto/

 

Posted by: kerryl29 | August 18, 2015

Day 9: Honing In

As I mentioned in a thematic piece posted a few weeks ago–and as I (hopefully) demonstrated in a post or two since–the notion that sunrises on the West Coast aren’t worth photographing is, to put it politely, piffle.  So, having experienced Wilson Creek Beach firsthand, albeit briefly on the previous evening, I decided to return before dawn the following morning.  True to form, while the scene was certainly less dramatic at sunrise it was, in my estimation, every bit as memorable.

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

With a nice smattering of clouds in the western sky and the soft light of dawn–not to mention the seastacks, the dynamic impact of each ocean swell and a location with subject appeal in three directions–the scene changed, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, with each passing moment.

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

The technical considerations were less challenging than during sunset; while the sky was, obviously, much brighter than the rest of the scene, the disparity was considerably less than the previous evening, making the dynamic range issues easier to cope with.

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

And while the light was changing by the minute, as it had the previous evening, this photo session felt like much less of a scramble, for two principal reasons:

  1. On this occasion–unlike sunset the night before–I had arrived on site well in advance of the time when the light reached its aesthetic apex.  At sunset, you’ll recall, things were already well underway before I reached the location.
  2. The previous evening’s experience had given me some familiarity with the compositional elements of the scene that I was able to leverage during sunrise the following day.
Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

The trip to Wilson Creek Beach–15-odd minutes from my Crescent City base–had taken me right past the Damnation Creek trailhead.  Having finished my sunrise coast session, I returned to that trailhead.  (You’ll recall that I first investigated the Damnation Creek Trail briefly on the afternoon of Day 7.)  The Damnation Creek Trail winds its way into the best of the redwood groves in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, crossing the Coastal Trail after about 2/3 mile.  The Coast Trail–a remnant of the old coast highway–runs as a two-track for several miles on both sides of the junction with the Damnation Creek Trail.  The very best of the redwood groves in Del Norte lie within the first leg of the Damnation Creek Trail and  on the Coast Trail for about a mile both north and south of the junction.

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

With a complete absence of fog and mostly sunny skies in the day’s forecast, my plan was to shoot in the first segment of the Damnation Creek Trail and then along the Coastal Trail until the rising sun’s presence created the kind of harsh, contrasty conditions that I prefer to avoid when pursuing forest photography.

Forest Floor Intimate, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Forest Floor Intimate, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Towering Redwoods, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Towering Redwoods, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

After checking in on my most promising set of rhododendron blossoms, originally discovered two days earlier, I decided to give them another day (in the futile hope of experiencing some fog and completely calm conditions) before photographing them.  I then turned my attention to somewhat wider scenes, but the sun made it difficult to do much with those, so I honed in on intimates and closeups.

Bracken Fern Closeup, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Bracken Fern Closeup, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Redwood Trunk Black & White, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Redwood Trunk Black & White, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

As the sun rose higher, the number of spots in open shade diminished and the breeze picked up a bit as well, more or less putting an end to the morning redwoods session by 10:30 or so.  I made my way back to the trailhead and returned to Crescent City.  I spent what was left of the morning and just about all of the afternoon exploring the Crescent City harbor area, which turned out to be a lot more interesting than I expected.

For one thing, I had some fun watching the group of sea lions that hang out on some of the docks that dot the area near the town’s working harbor.  I nabbed a grab shot of them, as you can see below.

Sea Lions, Crescent City Harbor, Del Norte County, California

Sea Lions, Crescent City Harbor, Del Norte County, California

I spent most of the rest of my time fully exploring the Battery Point area.  There’s a lighthouse in Crescent City–it remains operational but is accessible to the public–called Battery Point Light, and it’s a very, very attractive structure and grounds.  I wandered over there to check it out under a hazy sunshine.

Battery Point Light, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light, Del Norte County, California

After visiting the lighthouse grounds themselves, I explored the waterfront both north and south of Battery Point.  To the south, a pier extends hundreds of feet into the harbor.  I strolled to the end and I decided I liked the geometry of the location, with Battery Point in the background.  My only company was a couple of seagulls (you can see one on the railing to the left and the other is atop the nearest light pole, on the right).  The ambient light was sufficiently blah that I made the shot with a black and white conversion in mind.

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Pier Black & White, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Pier Black & White, Del Norte County, California

I then navigated my way north of Battery Point and found a tiny overlook park, located alongside South Pebble Beach Drive.

Battery Point Light from Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

The tide was low, and even though the light wasn’t the greatest, I made a few images, with the full intention of coming back later when the light was better.

Battery Point Light from Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

I then returned to the area south of the point and wandered out on the harbor jetty.  With the tide out and the surf light, the top of the jetty was bone dry so I felt comfortable walking out a good distance to find a composition highlighting the lighthouse in the background.  I ultimately composed a pair of shots, both of which I converted to black and white to account for the light.  I’ll include both the color and monochrome versions of both images for the sake of comparison.

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty Black & White, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty Black & White, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty Black & White, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty Black & White, Del Norte County, California

Late in the afternoon I returned to the Battery Point Overlook.  The light was undeniably better and the tide was much higher.  The former was an obvious improvement; I’m not sure that the latter was, however.

Battery Point Light from Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

In any event, if you compare the image immediately above to the earlier sequence you’ll get a sense of just how dramatically a scene can be altered by the ebb and flow of an ocean tide.  The images were made just a few hours apart.

After putting a wrap on Battery Point for the day, I decided to head back to Wilson Creek Beach for sunset.  The early evening cloud situation appeared promising, so I made the drive south on the Coast Highway, through the redwoods.  On my drive south the previous day–to Prairie Creek and the Lady Bird Johnson Grove–I had noticed what appeared to be a very interesting view from an unofficial pullout, north of Wilson Creek Beach.  I had just caught a glimpse of it while driving along this winding, steep section of road, but I was determined to find it again and see if it was worthy of photographing.

I was driving relatively slowly, so I wouldn’t miss the pullout (if I did miss it I’d have to drive several miles farther south–all the way to Wilson Creek Beach–turn around and come back, and then bypass it again in favor of another pullout farther north because there would be no way to safely turn into the unofficial pullout by crossing the road on what was a steep, blind curve).  With some cars beginning to pile up behind me, I pulled off the road at an official pullout (which did not have an interesting view) to let the vehicles pass.  When I saw a long clear stretch, I pulled back onto the highway…and in only about a half-mile, I found the pullout I had been looking for and accessed it without incident.  And I couldn’t have been happier that I did.

By walking around the end of a guard rail I found myself waist-high in a sea of yellow wildflowers, with a beautiful view of the coast extending to the horizon.  There was a breeze present but it was light; the sky was rich with complementary clouds and the directional light of early evening was already quite pleasant.

Pacific Coast, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Pacific Coast, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

With this unexpected treasure, I figured I’d already found the day’s payoff, regardless of what happened at the beach.  And that was probably just as well, because the sunset pretty much fizzled.  Oh, I got some images I was happy with, but any chance of a truly spectacular sunset didn’t come off because the cloud cover ultimately stretched all the way across the western horizon, and then some, blotting out the impact of the very best of the setting sun’s light on the clouds in the sky.

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

But the clouds–especially the ones to the southwest–were very appealing this evening

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

The scene to the west, however, just kind of petered out, as I noted above.  Still, I stuck around until it was almost completely dark, playing around with some moderately long exposures to see what kind of patterns developed in the water.

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

I packed up and headed back to Crescent City, quite satisfied with the day’s experience.  Little did I know that the following day would be considerably more memorable, and for reasons having nothing to do with photography.

Posted by: kerryl29 | August 10, 2015

Day 8: From (Oregon) Coast to (California) Coast

The morning of Day 8 would represent my final hours on the Oregon Coast.  I would check out of my Gold Beach motel this day and head an hour or so south to Crescent City, where I’d stay until the morning of Day 11.  I’d spent a bit of unexpected time in the Del Norte County redwood groves on Day 7; now I’d be poised for several more, theoretically uninterrupted days in the forest.

But first it was time for what I thought might be my final coastal shoot of the trip.  When I headed out the door, well before first light, it wasn’t certain what kind of a morning it would be.  There were a lot of clouds in the sky–real clouds, not the marine layer–and it was unclear whether a sunrise would be in the offing or not.  But as I’ve always suggested on this blog, you can’t win if you don’t play, so I decided to head to a coastal location and see if the conditions would prove to be favorable.  I drove south, and when I hit the open area of Myers Beach, I saw what I thought were the early signs of color in the clouds in the sky to the south.  With that as inspiration, I decided to go for broke:  I would make a third and final trip in an attempt to satisfactorily photograph Secret Beach.

I’d visited Secret Beach three times already in the past week, once as a pure scouting expedition and twice to photograph–with modest success at sunset on Day 2 and as part of an utter (figurative) washout during the evening of Day 5.  I had been truly impressed when I scouted the area but the conditions, for a variety of reasons, had been disappointing on each prior attempt to photograph the place.  This would be my last chance to do the place justice.

I reached the trailhead and was very surprised to find, at this early morning hour, a car in the unofficial parking area.  Great, I thought.  Now I’d have to contend with someone else down there–again.  (the presence of other people on the beach had been a real problem during my second attempt at Secret Beach photography on the evening of Day 5.)  Nevertheless, I rapidly gathered my gear and made a very quick descent of the short, steep trail to the beach.  When I got down to the low cliff overlooking the beach I found the car’s occupant–fast asleep, with his surfboard at his side alongside a small campsite he’d concocted.  To my distinct relief, there would be no competition on the beach this morning after all!

The light was already coming up and things were looking very promising.  Partly cloudy skies were lighting up with early morning softness.  The conditions were so good, in fact, that I quickly set up for a series of images from the low overlook rather than immediately descending to the sand.

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

After finishing atop my perch, I climbed down the facing of the rock I had been standing on (you can see the edge of that rock in the foreground of the image below) to the beach itself.  The footprints that had so bedeviled me on the past couple of attempts to photograph Secret Beach were still readily apparent–it was obviously going to take a major surge of surf to wipe the beach completely clean–but I determined to work around them.  The sky conditions were too favorable to let this opportunity slip away.

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

I gradually moved up the beach, with a pause at the mouth of Miner Creek.

Miner Creek Estuary, Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Miner Creek Estuary, Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

After hopping the creek, I was able to walk up the beach to the south and I focused on compositions that avoided the footprints entirely.  The sun was making its presence felt by this time, but not in a way that was objectionable.

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

It had been a very pleasant morning’s shoot–I’d finally had the opportunity to photograph Secret Beach without the interference of other photographers and under interesting skies to boot.  There’s something extra satisfying about accomplishing something that had previously been so elusive.

Now it was time for the drive down to Crescent City.  I arrived too early to check into my motel–they asked me to come back in 30 minutes, by which time a room would presumably be ready–so I made the short drive down the coast highway to the overlook for Enderts Beach, the northernmost edge of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  It was partly cloudy on the northern California coast at this point, but I found a few perspectives that I thought were worthwhile.

Enderts Beach, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Enderts Beach, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Enderts Beach Black & White, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Enderts Beach Black & White, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

After shooting wide, I pulled out the telephoto lens and, looking at the beach immediately to the north of the overlook, played around with some quasi-abstract images utilizing the rocks and tidepools on the beach.

Enderts Beach Abstract, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Enderts Beach Abstract, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Enderts Beach Abstract, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Enderts Beach Abstract, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

I spent closer to an hour than 30 minutes at the overlook and by the time I returned to the motel my room was ready.  After checking in I began the trip to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, located to the south in Humboldt County, in search of the elusive redwood grove blooming rhododendron.

Rather than further burying the lead, I’ll tell you right away that I didn’t find a single blossom all day, but the trip certainly wasn’t a waste of time.  Along the way, I found a couple of terrific–utterly unexpected–coastal shooting locations along the coast highway, 10-12 miles south of Crescent City.  (More on this later.)

I reached Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, south of Klamath, and made my way to the jumping off point for the aptly named Rhododendron Trail, where I’d been directed as the likeliest place in the park to find flowering rhododendron.  The trail could only be reached by hiking up the Cal-Barrel Road–which was closed to vehicle traffic for maintenance, but open to hikers.

Cal-Barrel Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Cal-Barrel Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

While I was ostensibly looking for rhododendron, I tried to keep my eyes and mind open to other photographic possibilities.  It was mostly cloudy by this point, and the winds were minimal, so the conditions were good for forest photography.

Towering Redwoods, Cal-Barrel Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Towering Redwoods, Cal-Barrel Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Redwood Grove, Cal-Barrel Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Redwood Grove, Cal-Barrel Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

After hiking for about a mile on the Cal-Barrel Road I reached an access point to the Rhododendron Trail, and I saw lots of bushes…but no flowers, of course.  Still, there were things of note that caught my eye.

Broad-Leaf Maple, Rhododendron Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Broad-Leaf Maple, Rhododendron Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Spring Greenery, Rhododendron Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Spring Greenery, Rhododendron Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

After about three miles of hiking the Rhododendron Trail and seeing zero blooms, I began my return walk to the parking area.  It was late afternoon by this time and I still wanted to check out the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park, further south.  I found the grove, then made a long drive up Bald Hills Road where, I’d been told at the visitor’s center the previous day, there were stands of lupine to be photographed.  The drive revealed a grand total of perhaps a dozen budding plants.  It was obviously too early in the season for thick fields of lupine so, chagrined (and a bit irritated that I’d wasted all this time), I returned to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove.  It was only about 90 minutes until sunset.

I strolled around this upland redwood grove, which was much thinner and comparatively less impressive–at least at first glance–than the lowland groves I’d seen in the state parks over the past two days.  I had the grove entirely to myself this evening and as I moved around I began to appreciate it more and more.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

The undergrowth was pretty impressive and there were indeed some flowers in bloom, including redwood sorrel.

Redwood Sorrel, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Redwood Sorrel, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Unfortunately it was growing increasingly dark in the grove and it was a bit breezier than had been the case earlier in the afternoon at Prairie Creek.  The wind made the fern fronds dance and the comparative lack of light made it harder to gain the shutter speeds necessary to freeze everything.  I had to be patient and try to wait for lulls in the breeze.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

After completing the Lady Bird Grove circuit, I figured the day’s photography was over.  I was at least least 30 miles south of Crescent City by now and by the time I got back there it would surely be dark.  The Redwood Highway, heading north, was practically deserted and I made good time on the road.  By the time I reached Klamath I could tell that a marvelous sunset was materializing.  To my chagrin, I had nowhere to photograph it.  I continued north and then, suddenly, the second coastal location I’d seen earlier that day opened up in front of me as I rounded a sweeping curve in the highway.  There were three pullouts on the west side of the road overlooking what I later determined was Wilson Creek Beach, at the very southern edge of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  The sunset wasn’t quite over so I zipped off the road at the second pullout and sized things up very quickly.

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

As you know, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, I don’t like scrambling around when the light is changing.  I like to be in place, well in advance, to be in position to take advantage of great light as it impacts a scene that I’ve already familiarized myself with.  Unfortunately, there was really no opportunity to scout out compositions or move around much.  The entirety of my prior experience with this location was as I drove by it earlier that day.  When I arrived at the pullout that evening, the light was already fading and I didn’t move more than a few hundred feet during the entire brief shoot.  There simply wasn’t time.

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Considering that this sunset shooting opportunity had been nothing but an unexpected grab, I was very pleased with how the evening had ended, bookending the morning’s experience at Secret Beach.  Now that I’d found Wilson Creek Beach, as long as the marine layer stayed away, I had a very attractive, potentially versatile coastal shooting location just 15 minutes away from my base–something I hadn’t expected to find.

I would make use of this discovery, more than once, in the days ahead.

Posted by: kerryl29 | August 5, 2015

Day 7: The Best Laid Plans

Day 7 was to be my last full day on the Oregon coast and I hoped that the weather would cooperate with my desire to hit some of the locations that I’d scouted earlier in the week but hadn’t yet photographed.  It wasn’t encouraging at first light.  The marine layer, which had played such a big role on Day 6, was still hanging around and it didn’t appear that there would be a sunrise.  As I made my way south from Gold Beach, past the open area surrounding Myers Beach and the mouth of the Pistol River, it became evident that, indeed, sunrise wouldn’t be happening this day.  The layer wasn’t the low-hanging fog that I’d seen during my trip to the Pacific Northwest six years earlier; this iteration of the marine layer had more of a conventional overcast feel.  Visibility wasn’t horribly impacted, but the light wasn’t enticing.  The good news was that, at this point anyway, there was virtually no wind.

As the ambient light came up I gradually made my way south to Boardman State Park and stopped at Spruce Creek Viewpoint.  I’d picked out a couple of compositions on earlier scouting sessions and, despite the lack of dawn color or early morning sunlight, decided to photograph these scenes, to take advantage of the calm with the hope that a black and white conversion might be appealing.

But as I set up and started fine tuning the image, I noticed a bit of a break in the “clouds” to the west.

Spruce Creek Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Spruce Creek Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

I wasn’t sure if I was seeing a true lifting of the marine layer or not, but I decided to take a chance.  The eastern sky, at any rate, was completely hidden by the thick growth of trees on the rising hillsides behind me.  I reached the Thunder Rock Cove parking area and made my way down the approximately 1/3 mile trail all the way to the overlook.  I’d scouted this location on Day 2 and was nearly blown off the cliff.  The wind was so strong at the overlook that afternoon that it was almost impossible to set up the tripod, so I’d deferred photographing.  Now, I figured, at the very least there shouldn’t be a wind problem.  I was right; it was dead calm at the overlook.  The contrast in conditions to those of the scouting session was incredible.  The lack of wind is reflected by the lack of ocean swells in the images below.

Pacific Coast from Thunder Rock Cove Overlook, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Pacific Coast from Thunder Rock Cove Overlook, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

It was clear by now that the high marine layer was breaking up.  The sun was certainly up by now, but there was still some subtle color showing up on the marine layer remnants.  The views from Thunder Rock Cove overlook are attractive to the south, west and north.  On this morning, unfortunately, the marine layer was holding strong to the north, so I didn’t photograph the scene in that direction.  But things were indeed clearing to the south and, as you can see below, to the west, where the offshore islands, replete with spruce atop the rocky perches, made for a compelling mid-ground.

Thunder Rock Cove Overlook, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Thunder Rock Cove Overlook, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

The sky was changing so rapidly that I rephotographed both the southern and western vistas.

Pacific Coast from Thunder Rock Cove Overlook, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Pacific Coast from Thunder Rock Cove Overlook, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Thunder Rock Cove Overlook, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Thunder Rock Cove Overlook, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

I even converted the last western view to black and white.

Thunder Rock Cove Overlook Black & White, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Thunder Rock Cove Overlook Black & White, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

After wrapping at Thunder Rock Cove, I returned to Spruce Creek Viewpoint.  The sun was now finding a gap and making its impact known on the landscape.

Spruce Creek Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Spruce Creek Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

It was still early morning and I decided to make use of what remained of the good light by heading to North Island Viewpoint–another spot where the wind had defeated any serious attempts at photography when I scouted the location during the bluster of Day 2.  It was a much more pleasant excursion this morning, and I was treated to an unexpected phenomenon as I pressed further out on the headland.

Pacific Coast, North Island Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Pacific Coast, North Island Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Low-lying marine layer remnants, utterly invisible from my previous perches, were now showing up in the form of wonderful contrast patterns when lit by the rising sun, the rays of which were now penetrating the increasingly large breaks in the clouds.  When I got all the way out to the western-most tip of the viewpoint I could see that small, curvy areas of low-lying fog were drifting over the open water of the Pacific.  I didn’t really have a composition that I could form, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to produce a capture or two.  I converted one of the images to black and white to better reveal the wispy layers of fog.

Marine Layer Clouds Black & White, North Island Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Marine Layer Clouds Black & White, North Island Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

North Island Viewpoint, for those who press the limits of the trails that head out to the overlook, has plenty of interesting subject matter to behold.

Ocean View, North Island Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Ocean View, North Island Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

I was treated to yet another view of China Creek Beach, this one looking to the north.

China Creek Beach from North Island Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

China Creek Beach from North Island Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

One more shot to the south caught my eye on the return to the trailhead.

Pacific Coast from North Island Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Pacific Coast from North Island Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

It was past mid-morning by the time I wrapped at North Island Viewpoint and I had to decide what to do.  It was shaping up to be a mostly sunny day now that the marine layer had retreated and I’d more or less exhausted my mid-day sun shooting.  I was most of the way to the town of Brookings, the southernmost community on the Oregon coast, and I decided to head all the way down the shore to Crescent City, California, where I’d begin a three-night stay the following day.  It was only about a 30-minute drive from Brookings and I thought that this would give me a chance to get a heads up on scouting the redwoods areas.  I’d only have two full days, plus parts of two others, that I would be based in the area, so this would assist me.  I’d head back to Oregon late in the afternoon and hopefully have a nice sunset shoot.

So, that’s what I did.  I was in Crescent City by roughly 11 AM, and almost immediately found the route into Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.  My goal was to look over the Stout Grove of redwoods, but the trip into the park–north on the unpaved Howland Hill Road–was a revelation.  The sun was making frequent appearances, and I was in a bit of a hurry to find the grove, so I didn’t stop to photograph, but what a marvelous ride that was.  Walking up and down that road, with gear in hand, would surely lead to the discovery of numerous wonderful photo opportunities, given the right conditions.

Among my hopes for the Stout Gove was that I’d find some flowering rhododendron.  I new that I was a bit early for this phenomenon, based on the usual blooming schedule, but I hoped the rhododendron would be in flower a bit sooner than normal this spring.  While I found a blossom–singular–on a bush in the Stout Grove parking lot, that was the only bloom I saw.  There’s plenty of rhododendron in and around the Stout Grove, but unfortunately it wasn’t yet in bloom.  The same would be true almost everywhere else I looked over the next few days.  But I digress…

Stout Grove, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, California

It was now around noon on a pleasant Sunday, so the park was more crowded than would probably otherwise have been the case.  Still, the grove wasn’t exactly teeming with people, so I got my share of photography in–when the sun peeked behind a cloud, as it frequently did.

Fern Forest, Stout Grove, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, California

This was quite a change in subject matter from most of what I’d been observing for the past week, but you’ll recall that I spent some time in the coastal forest 50-odd miles north of this spot on Day 6.  And, of course, I’m no stranger to forest photography generally.  But there’s forest photography and there’s redwood forest photography and I had to spend some time making an adaptation to a setting where the trunks are so massive.  I also spent some time focusing on the redwood trunks themselves, and their innate patterns.

Redwood Trunk, Stout Grove, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, California

I hoped that I’d get in the swing of things as I increasingly spent time in the various redwoods parks over the next few days.

Stout Grove, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, California

When I finished at the Stout Grove, I drove back into Crescent City and checked in at the parks’ visitors center.  (The center covers the consortium of four California state parks and Redwood National Park, which are jointly administered.)  I inquired directly about rhododendron, but–as I expected–the volunteers at the information center confirmed that I was probably too early for many blossoms.  They had seen none in bloom themselves, but recommended a couple of places I might try south, in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park.  I planned to make trips down there after returning to the area the following day.  In the meantime, it was now pushing 2 PM and I decided to take a look at the Damnation Creek and Coastal Trails in Del Norte Redwoods State Park, only about 10 minutes south of Crescent City.

I found the trailhead and wandered around a bit and here–maybe 1/2 mile down the Damnation Creek Trail–I found a potential rhododendron specimen.  This particular bush had at least a dozen blooms and I figured it would only get better in a few days.  After some investigation, I confirmed that I would be able to get a decent view of the blooms–which were nearly 20 feet above the ground–with a workable backdrop of redwood trunks.  It would be a bit of a challenge to pull off given the location of the blossoms and the surrounding terrian, but I figured I’d be able to do it.  Better to give the scene a few more days, I concluded, when the blossoms would be better developed and (hopefully) a bit more plentiful, so I moved on.

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Despite the day of the week, there wasn’t much foot traffic on the trails.  If you’ve never had the opportunity to stroll around a redwood forest in solitude, you’re really missing something.  I would have that opportunity repeatedly over the next few days, much to my memory’s pleasure.

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

I could sense that I was already beginning to “feel” the place as I moved around on the trails, familiarizing myself with the subtleties of variations in the colors of the trunks and the green/brown/gray color juxtaposition.  I didn’t take all that many shots; I was still absorbing the atmosphere and spent a lot of time observing and relatively little time photographing.

Redwood Trunks, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Redwood Trunks, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

As I was heading back toward the trailhead after a hike out of perhaps three miles, I started to see what I’d been promised would occur every day, morning and evening:  fog was drifting into the grove.  What a wonderful atmospheric element fog is in forest settings.  I paused to take a shot, fully expecting that this would be a regular occurrence.  I never saw fog again, during the parts of four more days that I’d be in the region.  Good thing I nabbed this single shot (though the lack of coastal fog would have its benefits in other, unanticipated ways later on).

Redwoods in Fog, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Redwoods in Fog, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

It was nearly 5 PM when I got back to the car and I swiftly made my way north, back to Oregon.  I reached Myers Beach before 6 PM, still more than two hours before sunset.  Things looked promising, with the exception of the fact that the north wind had returned, with a vengeance.  Still, I donned my rubber boots and headed out on the sand.  The light was already pretty nice and I decided to take advantage of it.

Myers Beach Evening, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach Evening, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach Shoreline, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach Shoreline, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Unfortunately, as sunset approached, the marine layer returned, almost as quickly as it had on Day 4 back at Floras Lake.  By roughly 8 PM, there appeared to be no hope of a sunset.  Between the increasing cloud cover and the annoyance of an unforgiving wind, I decided to pack it in and head back to the motel.  As I drove north of Cape Sebastian and approached South Beach, something caught my eye.  A tiny band of clear sky to the west had opened up and so I quickly pulled off the highway at the Kissing Rock Wayside, at South Beach (scene of Day 2‘s sunrise shoot).  Sure enough, something was going to happen, so I decided to check it out.  From the parking lot, I quickly set up with the telephoto lens, braced myself against the wind which was blowing from right to left where I stood and waited to see what would happen.

South Beach Sunset, Curry County, Oregon

South Beach Sunset, Curry County, Oregon

The light was truly strange during the very brief point when the sun hit the slit in the marine layer.  It remained odd, though less intense, after the sun’s ball dipped below the crease.

South Beach Sunset, Curry County, Oregon

South Beach Sunset, Curry County, Oregon

And, just like that, no more than five minutes after it had begun, it was over.

Very, very little on this day had gone the way I had anticipated when I had planned things the previous evening, but it still turned out to be a rewarding experience, both photographically and in general.

Posted by: kerryl29 | July 27, 2015

Thematic Interruption: Viewpoints or Beaches?

The topography of the southern Oregon and northern California coast is such that, in general, the photographer interested in wide angle photography has a broad choice:  photograph the coast from high atop a headland perch or down at beach level.  Of course, you can do both, but–even more obviously–not at the same time.   Essentially, when planning to shoot along the coast when the light is at its very best, you have to choose one location or the other.  The very last thing you’d want to do is spend your time, when the light is sweetest, in transit, running on the trail from the beach to the cliff or vice versa.

Secret Beach at Sunrise, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach at Sunrise, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

If you’ve been following this series of posts, you may have recognized that, though I’ve posted plenty of images made from viewpoints and at beach level, the sunrise and sunset photographs have almost all come from the latter category.

Thunder Rock Cove, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Thunder Rock Cove, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

It’s certainly not an accident.  I made the deliberate choice, on a daily basis, to spend my time when the light is most pleasing down at beach level.  This is despite the fact that there are countless wonderful viewpoints in the area where undeniably marvelous scenes can be experienced and captured.  And, for the most part (there are definitely some exceptions), the viewpoints tend to be more easily accessible than the beaches.

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

So why did I invariably descend to the beach to capture the very best light–twice, each and every day?

North Island Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

North Island Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

The principal reason:  compositional flexibility.  The majority of the time, photographing from a viewpoint location meant one basic perspective, or occasionally two.  Down on the beach, however, there were typically infinite–or seemingly so, perspectives available.  Slight movement, when down on the beach, often led to dramatically different compositions.  Up on the cliff, this was rarely the case.

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Beach level photography often allowed for much more creative use of foreground elements, both substantively (i.e. objects included or omitted) and in terms of proximity and perspective.  While there was often–but by no means always–some ability to use such elements from up high, the substantive and perspective choices were almost always far more limited when compared to beach locations.

Pacific Coast, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Pacific Coast, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

As a result of these points, I invariably came away with more–and more varied–images from my beach excursions than I did when photographing from viewpoints.  While on the one hand this dichotomy was intuitive and to be anticipated, it was also confirmable.  My copious scouting excursions had demonstrated as much.  Viewpoints were, the vast majority of the time, places where I saw a compelling image–or, from time to time, two.  Beaches were places where I saw extensive scenes to be worked and countless compositions worthy of exploration.  There were exceptions to this basic rule, but not many.

Myers Beach Evening Black & White, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach Evening Black & White, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Ultimately, of course, I photographed from both viewpoints and beaches alike, and if I’d had endless opportunities I would have surely spent some sunrises/sunsets up on the cliffs, but given the limited time I had, I felt that my “great light” time was best served down on the sand, amidst the rocks and driftwood.  In retrospect, I think I made the right call.

Wilson Creek Beach Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Posted by: kerryl29 | July 20, 2015

Day 6: Changing Gears

When I’m on an extended photo excursion I try to build enough flexibility into the itinerary to be in position to make the most of different (usually weather-related) conditions.  I’ve noted a few examples of this sort of thing in earlier installments of this series, such as my pivoting to China Creek Beach for sunset on Day 4 when the marine layer snuffed things out at Bandon.  The point is to have a Plan B (and perhaps a C and D as well)–at least a loose one–so that, if circumstances call for it, a transition can be made with relatively little difficulty.

I could see that Plan B was probably going to be needed, at least early on, when I went outside in the early morning darkness of Day 6.  For the first time on this trip, the marine layer was going to have its way at sunrise.  (In fact, the marine layer was going to be doing its thing all day long, but I couldn’t know that with certainty before dawn.)  The possibility that things might be different south of Gold Beach remained–there was very little likelihood of this being the case to the north, at least anywhere within reasonable reach–so I headed in that direction, but things were no better by the time I got to Myers Beach.  As a result, I continued south, into Boardman, but as I drew closer and closer to Brookings it was clear that the marine layer was overlapping the shoreline as far as the eye could see.  The light was coming up but there wasn’t going to be a visible sunrise on the southern Oregon coast this day.

There was some good news, however.  After five solid days of north winds–usually very strong–it was almost dead calm in the early going this morning.  And that meant that Plan B would take on the form of doing some early shooting in a few of the forest locations I’d scouted along the coast earlier in the week–when bright sun and strong winds made these environments essentially off limits for photography.

So, I parked at one of the Boardman overlooks and headed down a section of the Coast Trail that I’d scouted at the beginning of the week.  This area encompassed a plethora of ferns that, I hoped, could be photographed in the even light and calm conditions.  It would have to be completely calm, or very nearly so, because it was quite dark under the forest canopy given the overcast-like marine layer conditions, so shutter speeds were going to be lengthy.

Coast Trail, Samuel H. Boardman State Park,Oregon

Coast Trail, Samuel H. Boardman State Park,Oregon

It was a pleasant hike of roughly a mile along the coast trail to the spot where the thick stand of ferns was located.  I could hear the muffled sound of the surf hundreds of feet below me, and could catch an occasional glimpse of the ocean through a gap in the trees along the way.  I found my spot and discovered that there was just a hint of breeze present.  It takes almost nothing in the way of wind to make a fern frond dance and in my experience, when there’s a tiny breeze like this, it takes at least 1/8 of a second shutter speed to avoid blur.  A faster speed is preferable, as it builds in some protection in case the wind picks up a bit, but 1/8 second is more or less the floor.  It was difficult to gain that without raising the ISO up to a level (above 800) that I prefer not to go, so I decided to be patient and wait for a lull.  It often took a bit of time, but I got what I was looking for and was able to keep things still with shutter speeds in the one second range.

Coast Trail, Samuel H. Boardman State Park,Oregon

Coast Trail, Samuel H. Boardman State Park,Oregon

The same consideration was made when photographing scenes that included flowers and ground cover at another spot along the trail.

Coast Trail, Samuel H. Boardman State Park,Oregon

Coast Trail, Samuel H. Boardman State Park,Oregon

After completing this hike, I moved farther south, to Whaleshead Viewpoint.  I’d been here twice previously, but that had been in wind and sun.  There was a forested spot, near the parking area, that had captivated me during these earlier explorations and I’d made a note to return if there was ever an occasion to photograph during even light.  That time was now.

The location included an area of “haunted,” moss-covered trees, that enclose a section of the Coast Trail that leads out to and beyond the viewpoint for Whaleshead Beach (where I’d photographed on the morning of Day 5).  I have often extolled the benefits of scouting on this blog, but there are some limits inherent to the process.  For instance, it may be difficult or impossible to get a true sense of how a scene appears in a very different type of light.  When I scouted the Whaleshead Viewpoint location it was in bright sun, but now I was there in overcast conditions.  I knew that I wanted to photograph this location but finding just the right composition involved some work.  I spent roughly 30 minutes walking around and around a relatively small area of forest examining different perspectives without even setting up my tripod.  I finally found something I was happy with; somewhat ironically, I ended up in a spot within steps of where I’d first accessed the area.

Coast Trail, Whaleshead Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park,Oregon

Coast Trail, Whaleshead Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park,Oregon

When I wrapped at Whaleshead, it was late morning.  I decided to pay another visit to Otter Point.  On my last visit I’d taken a long look at the colorful heath-like growth that covers a good chunk of the point, but the light and wind had made it an undesirable photo location.  I thought that now, with the possibility of a fog-like backdrop, even light and soft winds, it might be worth photograhing, so I made the half-hour or so drive north to check it out.

This was my third visit to Otter Point and the progressive weather contrast couldn’t have been more stark.  My first visit, on Day 3,  was in bright sun and almost intolerable winds.  My second trip, on Day 5, had been conducted in somewhat hazier sun and lighter winds.  Now I was visiting in overcast/foggy and almost dead calm conditions.

I had come for the heath, so that was my initial focus.

Colorful Heath, Otter Point State Recreation Area, Oregon

Colorful Heath, Otter Point State Recreation Area, Oregon

Colorful Heath, Otter Point State Recreation Area, Oregon

Colorful Heath, Otter Point State Recreation Area, Oregon

As long as I was on site, and the wind wasn’t blowing a gale, I wandered out to the point’s clifftops again and found some perspectives and compositions that caught my eye; I thought these images might work in black and white.  The first was of a component of the point itself.  There’s a position along a narrow trail that runs atop a flat cliff that provides a perspective of a good-sized sea arch.  Even though the wind had dropped to virtually nothing, there was still enough surf to provide predictably timed wave action through the arch and on to the beach that makes up part of the cove that’s located inside the point.

Crashing Surf Black & White, Otter Point State Recreation Area, Oregon

Crashing Surf Black & White, Otter Point State Recreation Area, Oregon

The above image was shot with a long lens; the wide angle below provides some context to the scene.

Otter Point Black & White, Otter Point State Recreation Area, Oregon

Otter Point Black & White, Otter Point State Recreation Area, Oregon

After producing these images it was back to the long lens, with the addition of a three-stop neutral density filter, to capture some shots of the wave action over one of the offshore rocks.  The rock you see in the frames immediately below is the same one that appears just to the right of the point in the above photo, a hair inside the right-hand edge of the frame.  I moved several hundred feet to the right of the previous shooting position to obtain a better perspective.

Rocks & Surf Black & White, Otter Point State Recreation Area, Oregon

Rocks & Surf Black & White, Otter Point State Recreation Area, Oregon

Rocks & Surf Black & White, Otter Point State Recreation Area, Oregon

Rocks & Surf Black & White, Otter Point State Recreation Area, Oregon

I had spent considerably more time at Otter Point than I’d anticipated, so it was mid-afternoon when I was done.  The marine layer wasn’t showing any signs of abating, so I moved back to the south.  When I got as far as Cape Sebastian, I noticed a cluster of trees in the even light setting that hadn’t made any impact on me during the countless times I’d seen them from the Coast Highway over the previous few days.  This time, however, I was really taken with the lush greens and the patterns of the trunks, so I stopped to produce an image.

Spring Trees, Cape Sebastian State Park,Oregon

Spring Trees, Cape Sebastian State Park,Oregon

During the time that I’d stopped for this image, I noticed that fog was drifting to the east, over the cape, so I drove in the direction of Sebastian’s parking areas for a look.  I spent the next 90 minutes or so inside the park, hiking part of the Coast Trail and working on compositions that reminded me, at least a little bit, of what I’d been doing that morning at Whaleshead Viewpoint.

Mossy Conifers, Cape Sebastian State Park,Oregon

Mossy Conifers, Cape Sebastian State Park,Oregon

The fog was spotty.  In some places, a light mist was a direct factor.

Coast Trail, Cape Sebastian State Park,Oregon

Coast Trail, Cape Sebastian State Park,Oregon

In other spots, it wasn’t.

Coast Trail, Cape Sebastian State Park,Oregon

Coast Trail, Cape Sebastian State Park,Oregon

Cape Sebastian is no more than a mile north of Myers Beach, so when I was done at the former I moved on to the latter.  The marine layer appeared to be lifting somewhat as I reached the northernmost highway pullout for the beach, so I decided to hang around to see if sunset, which was less than two hours away, might be in the offing.  In the meantime, I focused my attention on some relatively unorthodox images that I thought worked in the even light.

Sand Ripples and Beach Stones Black & White, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Sand Ripples and Beach Stones Black & White, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Sinewy Beach Stones, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Sinewy Beach Stones, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Beach Stone Patterns, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Beach Stone Patterns, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

On a couple of occasions the cloud cover really seemed to be lifting.

Myers Beach & Cape Sebastian Black & White, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach & Cape Sebastian Black & White, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

As I waited and hoped, I made use of a large piece of driftwood that I’d stumbled across in one of my many earlier visits to Myers Beach.  I processed this image in both color and black and white.

Driftwood, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Driftwood, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Driftwood Black & White, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Driftwood Black & White, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Unfortunately–but not unexpectedly–sunset never happened.  Not long after the driftwood images were made, the marine layer began to thicken again, the tantalizing gaps that had opened in the clouds closed and it became obvious that there would be no light show that evening.  I called it quits not long before sunset was scheduled to occur and began making preparations for my last full day on the Oregon coast.

Posted by: kerryl29 | July 13, 2015

Day 5: Half a Day’s Photography is Better than None

With another clear morning forecast, my plan was to head to Whaleshead Beach for sunrise.  I’d visited Whaleshead as part of Day 2’s Scoutapalooza and had deemed it well worth a photo session.  With easy access to the beach from the parking area, the winding Whaleshead Creek emptying into the Pacific and an interesting, varied assortment of rocks and seastacks, there was much to recommend this spot.  The only downsides were the distance from Gold Beach–Whaleshead is only about five miles north of Brookings, making it slightly more than 20 miles south of Gold Beach–and the access road to the parking area from the coast highway.  As I had learned during my scouting session, the Whaleshead Beach parking area is reached by a short but steep–and poorly maintained–gravel access road.  There were some potholes in that road that could swallow up a compact car under the wrong circumstances, and I’d be traversing it this morning in the dark, so I made sure to give myself extra time.  I then drove in very slowly, with my high beams on, and was able to avoid any difficulty.

As expected, the parking area was deserted.  Because the hike to the beach from the car was so short (only a few hundred feet), I donned my rubber boots–always a plus for strolling around on the wet sand–and made my way in the soft, dim light of the pre-dawn hour.

Whaleshead Creek Sunrise, Whaleshead Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Whaleshead Creek Sunrise, Whaleshead Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Staying to the rear of the beach, as I had done to avoid the footprint problem on China Creek Beach the previous evening, I splashed through the shallows of Whaleshead Creek and moved down the beach to the south, an area I hadn’t taken the time to explore thoroughly on Day 2.  I quickly realized that the most interesting elements–the creek, most of the rocks and all of the stacks–were at the north end of the beach, so I returned to the edge of the creek and commenced a search for specific compositions.  I looked closely at several, always being sure to work forward–in the direction of the surf.  The waterproof boots made this much easier than would otherwise have been the case, as they allowed me to stand in the creek if I so desired.

Whaleshead Beach at Dawn, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Whaleshead Beach at Dawn, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

The forecast had been correct–there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so I relied on the earthshadow gradient and negative space as compositional complements.  I gradually moved north of Whaleshead Creek, where the most interesting–at least to my eyes–collection of rocks lay.

Sunrise, Whaleshead Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Sunrise, Whaleshead Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

The tide was out this morning and that enabled me to work with the pools of water that remained around some of the beach rocks and the reflections that appeared in the pools and surrounding wet sand.  The setting moon, which had been a morning staple all week long, was still present along the coast this day.

“Moonset Serenade,” Whaleshead Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Whaleshead Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Whaleshead Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

“Dawn’s Moment,” Whaleshead Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

As the sun’s rays finally made a direct impact on the beach, I returned to the car and made my way less than a mile down the coast highway to Whaleshead Viewpoint.  My scouting session three days earlier had led me to discover that, by traversing a trail leading from the viewpoint’s parking area, the hiker reaches a spot where, with a bit of bushwhacking, Whaleshead Beach and the headland to the north unfold below.

Whaleshead Beach from Whaleshead Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Whaleshead Beach from Whaleshead Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Within an hour of sunrise it had become clear to me that, for the first time all week, the north wind had subsided.  There was still a breeze out of the north, but it was far lighter than it had been at any point since I’d arrived on the coast four days earlier.  With this knowledge, I decided to hike out to the nearby Cape Ferrelo in what remained of the decent morning light.  My previous scouting session to the cape had caused me to cut the exploration short as I’d nearly been blown off my feet.

This time, however, I was able to hike all the way out to the point.  Before doing so, I took stock of the copious spring wildflowers, noting some of the clumps of iris for possible intimate or close-up shots on the return hike.  I then used a thick stand of wildflowers as a foreground for a perspective to the south, taking in Lone Ranch Beach.

Lone Ranch Beach from Cape Ferrelo, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Lone Ranch Beach from Cape Ferrelo, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Further west on the hike, virtually to the westernmost point of Cape Ferrelo, the mist-strewn views to the south extended to Harris Beach State Park and points beyond.

South Coast from Cape Ferrelo, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

South Coast from Cape Ferrelo, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

On the return trip I found a trailside intimate perspective that I liked, but it required a lengthy series of focus-stacked frames to obtain the depth of field that I wanted.  The problem was that, while the wind was much lighter this morning than had previously been the case, it wasn’t non-existent.  It was going to take the better part of 30 seconds to pull off the full bracketing sequence and the delicate elements of the scene wouldn’t stay still for 1/10 that amount of time.  So, I improvised.  I took off my jacket and, stretching it in place with the help of a clip on my tripod and the bare branch of an adjacent shrub, created a seamless wind break.  My shadow served as a diffuser. The combination enabled me to put together the 11 frame focus bracketed sequence you see below.

Fern & Iris Intimate, Cape Ferrelo, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Fern & Iris Intimate, Cape Ferrelo, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

When I finished at Cape Ferrelo, the light had become harsh and was only going to get harsher.  I was a mere two miles or so north of Harris Beach State Park–virtually the only spot on the south coast that I had intended to scout but hadn’t managed to get to–so I headed there.  I spent the better part of a couple of hours wandering around and taking mental notes.  It was a Friday, Harris Beach is only a mile north of Brookings and my visit spanned the lunch hour, so there were a fair number of people in the park, but since I wasn’t planning to photograph during this visit it wasn’t an issue.  I then moved back north a short distance to Lone Ranch Beach, and made an extensive scouting trip there.  I thought it unlikely that I would end up photographing at either location on this trip, given the locations involved and the relatively few days that I had left in the area, but given the time of day I thought it would be a useful exercise for potential future reference.

From here, I drove all the way back to Otter Point, a few miles north of Gold Beach.  I wanted to take another look at the location without the burden of the gusty winds that threatened to knock me off the cliff during my prior visit on Day 3.  Indeed, the lighter winds made the trip much more pleasant, even though the light was such that I limited my shooting to some semi-abstracts of the sea to the south of the point.

Breaking Waves, Otter Point State Recreation Site, Oregon

Breaking Waves, Otter Point State Recreation Site, Oregon

From high atop the rocky point, I broke out the telephoto lens and played with the lines and textures of the surf.

Breaking Waves Aerial Black & White, Otter Point State Recreation Site, Oregon

Breaking Waves Aerial Black & White, Otter Point State Recreation Site, Oregon

It was mid-afternoon when I finished at Otter Point and I figured that I had a solid late afternoon/early evening of photography ahead of me.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

I got off to a good start after wandering around at some viewpoints back to the south in Boardman.  I was checking out a variety of perspectives at Spruce Creek Viewpoint, when I discovered an unofficial trail, of sorts.  On the opposite side of a guard rail that borders the pullout, I saw an area where the tall grass was pressed down, from the feet of numerous predecessors.  I followed the path less than a hundred feet to a grassy landing area, and from there I saw what I regarded as an almost perfect composition of the coast to the south, with two conifers serving as a balanced foreground and the stacks of China Creek Beach in the background.  The light was, by this time, nice–directional, late afternoon light, with the sun to my right.

China Creek Beach from Spruce Creek Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

China Creek Beach from Spruce Creek Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Feeling pretty lucky at having unexpectedly captured an image I was so fond of, I thought about the possibility of a rerun of the previous night’s sunset, this time at Secret Beach.  So that’s where I headed, high in anticipation.  It turned out to be a complete bust.

First, the hoped for sunset never materialized; there were virtually no clouds in the sky this evening.  Second, Secret Beach was absolutely laden with footprints–they were everywhere.  Evidently the high tide over the past few days hadn’t reached far enough up the beach to erase the prints, and to my eye they were simply killing the perspectives from just about everywhere.  And third, there were some other photographers on the beach.  Secret Beach, for all its beauty, can be a difficult spot to shoot for several reasons, one of which is that that beach itself is quite shallow–one explanation for the prevalence of objectionable footprints.  If the beach isn’t completely devoid of other people, it can be quite difficult to avoid getting in one another’s way.  That’s what happened on this evening–a pair of photographers repeatedly strayed into my field of view.  I don’t have any reason to believe that they were doing this intentionally, but they certainly were oblivious.  On three occasions they simply walked right in front of me without asking if I was done photographing.

So between the footprints, the other photographers and the lack of an interesting sunset, the evening shoot was a total washout.  I did click the shutter a few times, but in the end I didn’t come away with anything I thought was worth working up.

The dawn-to-dusk presence of the marine layer the following day would mean no sunrise or sunset, but I simply rolled with it and tried to take advantage of the faux overcast conditions on Day 6.

Posted by: kerryl29 | July 6, 2015

Day 4: Lesson Learned

I decided to head to Nesika Beach for sunrise on Day 4.  The forecast was for clear skies, so I wasn’t keen to do anything elaborate.  Nesika Beach, located less than 10 minutes north of Gold Beach, has easy public beach access located at the north end of Nesika Road, just west of the coast highway.  Besides, I’d scouted the location on my drive in three days earlier and the beach looked interesting.

I got to the jumping off point just as the light of dawn was beginning to make itself known.  The forecast was essentially correct–it was a clear morning.  Every so often a few marine layer clouds would appear to the north, drift to the west and then dissipate over the Pacific.  These were apparent as the sun began to rise over the coast range to the east, but none made it as far as Mt. Humbug (the bulge you see in the upper left-hand quadrant of the frame below).

Nesika Beach Sunrise, Curry County, Oregon

Nesika Beach Sunrise, Curry County, Oregon

The most interesting portions of Nesika Beach are to the south of the beach access point; to the north it’s mostly just unbroken sand.  So, after nabbing a northward facing shot or two, I began walking south, to investigate the clusters of offshore rocks and stacks, tidepools and driftwood.

The image below was made at a point considerably south of the original vantage point, but facing north (again, you’ll note the presence of Mt. Humbug).  The tide was low, and receding, when I was on the beach that morning, which exposed more of the kelp-strewn rocks.

Nesika Beach Sunrise, Curry County, Oregon

Nesika Beach Sunrise, Curry County, Oregon

I was the only one on the beach early that morning, though after the sun had been up for awhile I was joined by a few stray souls, most of them walking their dogs.  No one bothered me, though, and I hastened to explore more of the beach to the south, including taking some time to photograph some driftwood closeups.

Driftwood Black & White, Nesika Beach, Curry County, Oregon

Driftwood Black & White, Nesika Beach, Curry County, Oregon

Eventually, I reached a point where the low tide had created a kind of shallow inland sea amidst the sand.

Nesika Beach Morning, Curry County, Oregon

Nesika Beach Morning, Curry County, Oregon

Finally, I spent some time observing a seagull who had perched himself on a rock in the surf.  Every once in a while the gull would jump off the rock into the surf, preen a bit, then hop back up atop the rock.  I took a passing shot as a remembrance.

Morning Visitor, Nesika Beach , Curry County, Oregon

Morning Visitor, Nesika Beach , Curry County, Oregon

When the morning’s shoot had come to an end, I drove back south on the coast, back to a section of the Oregon Coast Trail in Boardman State Park that I’d seen on one of my earlier scouting sessions.  This section of the trail was in deep forest, and had proven to be sheltered from both the copious north wind that was continuing to blow, and from the sun, until nearly mid-day.  I’d seen some tight subjects that I wanted to try to photograph, and hoped that I’d have the chance before conditions became unshootable this day.

Coast Trail, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Coast Trail, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

I was in fact able to indulge myself a bit in a few spots.  I noted, on a roughly mile-long stretch of trail, that if I ever had overcast–and calm–conditions–this would be a spot begging for a return engagement.

Pacific Iris, Coast Trail, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Pacific Iris, Coast Trail, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Fern Closeup, Coast Trail, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Fern Closeup, Coast Trail, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

It was nearing mid-day when I finished on the Coast Trail.  The forecast was for no cloud cover on this part of the south coast all day long, right through sunset.  Much farther north, however, around Bandon, the afternoon forecast was for a mix of clouds and sun.  I thought that forecast was more promising for an afternoon’s shoot to the north, so I decided to spend the rest of the day back in the area near Floras Lake State Park.  I wanted to check out a section of coast that was between Floras Lake itself and Blacklock Point, where I’d photographed the day before.  I thought I’d scout that area during the afternoon and then shoot up to Bandon, only about 20 minutes to the north, for sunset, not unlike the previous day’s itinerary.

I arrived at the parking lot at Floras Lake under sunny skies around 2:30 PM, and as I pulled in I noticed some beautiful blooming Pacific rhododendron on some bushes near the parking lot.  Too bad it was so sunny, I thought, or I’d photograph them.

My goal was to hike around the lake itself, across the dunes that divide Floras Lake from the beach, and then along the beach to the south, a mile or two, to the sandstone cliffs just north of Blacklock Point.  This hike was going to be rather long and fairly difficult because it meant hiking through very soft sand most of the way, first on the miserable trail around the lake and then on the beach itself.  I decided to leave my gear behind because the light was poor, the hike would be unpleasant enough without the encumbrance of photo equipment and because I wasn’t sure if I was going to find anything I wanted to shoot.  I viewed this as a scouting session exclusively; if I found anything worthwhile, I’d head back for my gear when the light was more conducive to image-making.

So I made the hike…and it was essentially as unpleasant as expected.  There were some people kitesurfing on Floras Lake, making use of the strong wind to do so, but the beach was completely deserted.  As I made my way south, I ultimately found a few compositions that I liked, particularly one making use of a large natural arch in the sandstone.  I decided it was worth returning with gear, so I started trudging back in the direction of Floras Lake.  As I did this, I noticed some cloud cover forming to the northwest.  I’d seen this before, during my previous trip to the Pacific Northwest in the summer of 2009–it was the marine layer and it was rolling in quickly.  In the roughly 30 minutes that it took me to hike on the beach back to the edge of Floras Lake, the marine layer had completely covered the sky.  It had gone from being an almost entirely clear day to a complete, though relatively bright, overcast in half an hour.  That killed any notion of returning to the beach hike to take advantage of the few compositions I’d spotted–there was no point in this light.  What’s more, I was all but certain that this development was going to kill the sunset shoot at Bandon.  It was now about 4:30 PM and there was very little likelihood that this would lift before nightfall.

The one positive was that the marine layer was providing the even light I needed to photograph the rhododendron, so before I pulled up stakes I did my due diligence.

Pacific Rhododendron, Floras Lake State Park, Oregon

Pacific Rhododendron, Floras Lake State Park, Oregon

As close as I was to Bandon, I felt that I had to head up there to be certain that it was as socked in as I knew it would be…so I drove to Coquille Point to verify what I’d anticipated.  Yup, marine layer overcast, as far as the eye could see.  Every so often a beam of sunlight would peek through, but as I sat in my car at the parking lot I could see that the marine layer was actually thickening.  There was essentially no chance that it would lift.  By now it was about 5:30 and I decided to head far to the south–back to Boardman.  The forecast there was for no clouds at all, but a bald sky sunset was better than no sunset at all, so I headed back to the coast highway.

I determined that, if I was able to leave the marine layer behind me, my target would be China Creek Beach, a spot I’d scouted on Day 2, but hadn’t paid a return visit.  China Creek Beach, located n Boardman, was a solid 70 miles south of Bandon, and I figured if I made good time I’d be able to hit the trail by 7 PM or so.  From there it would be a steep half-mile or so hike down to the beach itself in time to be on the sand roughly an hour before the sun actually set.

Sure enough, by the time I hit Port Orford, about 25 miles south of Bandon, the marine layer was starting to drift significantly offshore and by the time I got to Gold Beach it was pretty much gone entirely.  Of course the sky was just about completely clear once I lost the marine layer, but at least I’d have the nice light of the golden hour to use as a photographic aid.

Because of my experience scouting earlier in the week, I had the parking spot for the hike to China Creek Beach marked on my GPS.  I parked in a pullout on the east side of the Coast Highway, walked along the shoulder for about 1000 feet, crossed the road, and then found the unmarked trailhead to the beach.  I knew that I’d be making the climb back up the steep trail in the dark so I made certain to take my headlamp and flashlight with me.

After about 10 minutes of hiking the beach came into sight, though it took another five minutes or so to get all the way down to the sand.  There wasn’t another soul down there, so I had this broad stretch of beach, the accompanying rocks and stacks and China Creek flowing directly in the ocean, all to myself.  The light was already very nice and there were, to my pleasant surprise, a few wispy clouds in the sky to the west.  Maybe this would actually be a decent sunset despite the cloudless forecast!

China Creek Beach Evening, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

China Creek Beach Evening, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

I looked around, and took care to watch my step so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the displeasing impact of my own footprints on any later compositions.  The sun was sinking to the west, but wasn’t low enough to be photographed.  The most interesting of the clouds was a small, almost vertically oriented formation to the south so, with the setting sun to my right, I turned my attention to the rocks and headland to the south.

China Creek Beach Evening, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

China Creek Beach Evening, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

The sun was still sinking–it was probably only a half an hour or so until sunset, I concluded–and, again to my surprise, more wispy clouds were appearing on the western skyline.  I decided to scout out a west-facing perspective, with the setting sun out of the frame.

China Creek Beach Sunset, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

China Creek Beach Sunset, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

And then I moved to place the sun behind one of the stacks.

China Creek Beach Sunset, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

China Creek Beach Sunset, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Finally, the sun dropped to a point low enough that I felt I could include it in the frame and still get the shot I wanted.  I placed myself in position to include the leading lines of China Creek as a foreground.

China Creek at Sunset, China Creek Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

China Creek at Sunset, China Creek Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Then I let the sun drop below the horizon and do its thing on the clouds.

China Creek at Sunset, China Creek Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

China Creek at Sunset, China Creek Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

The light show–the best I’ve seen on the Pacific Coast–continued for some time–at least 30 minutes after the sun finally set.  I stayed in the general vicinity of the creek, though I did move my position several times.

China Creek at Sunset, China Creek Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

China Creek at Sunset, China Creek Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

The reflections available in the wet sand were of the epic variety.

China Creek Beach Sunset, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

China Creek Beach Sunset, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

When the sky color finally began to fade, I called it a night.  I still had a 15-minute steep uphill hike through dense, dark forest to deal with.  I pulled on my headlamp and made my way back up the trail without incident, though it was incredibly dark.  It would have been a very hairy hike out of there without artificial light!

The forecast had been for a cloudless sky, but instead I had been treated to the best sunset I’d ever seen on the coast.  Lesson learned.

When I was on the Oregon coast for a few days in 2009 I essentially subscribed to the notion that there was no point in getting out to the beaches and the overlooks at sunrise.  This was correct for the specific time that I was on the coast in July of that year because a thick marine layer fog was in place every morning, meaning there was no sunrise.  That was true of each of the four mornings I was on the coast; I actually got up early on three of those occasions, once because I hoped to shoot a sunrise–facing east, at Tillamook Bay–once because I wanted to shoot at Charleston Harbor in heavy fog and once because I had a long drive to make and I was trying to preserve time.

But at no point did I anticipate shooting coastal perspectives, from beach level or overlooks, at sunrise, marine layer or no marine layer.  It was sunset that I was looking forward to (and those were almost invariably killed by fog as well, but I digress) because, after all, this was the West Coast.  And there’s certainly no point in going to the trouble of shooting West Coast beaches or other coastal scenes at sunrise.

What utter drivel.

South Beach at Dawn, Curry County, Oregon

South Beach at Dawn, Curry County, Oregon

On this year’s excursion to coastal Oregon (and California), I entered with a completely different mindset and was out before sunrise every single morning.  For one thing, even if the most dramatic skies were likely to be to the east, the beautiful soft light of dawn would be present regardless of the direction I was facing.

South Beach Moonset, Curry County, Oregon

South Beach Moonset, Curry County, Oregon

Additionally, I’ve learned over the years that to ignore happenings in the sky in the direction opposed to sunrise (or sunset) is to potentially miss some beautiful nuanced scenes.

Dawn Light, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Dawn Light, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

I’m increasingly of the opinion that it’s the subtle beauty of a place that retains a lasting impact.  I’m as susceptible to the pull of going with the hope of experiencing a dramatic sunrise (or sunset) as anyone, believe me.  When they happen they can be absolutely breathtaking and it’s extremely satisfying to capture these moments photographically.  But…

Sunrise, Whaleshead Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Sunrise, Whaleshead Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

10-plus years ago, I frequented a landscape forum on a popular nature photography site.  Dozens of landscape images were posted on this forum every single day and there was one photographer who regularly posted some of the most dramatic images I’ve ever seen–right up to the present.  Extravagant, masterful sunsets reflected in pristine lakes fronting towering, snow-capped peaks;  once in a lifetime sunrises over seastack-filled beaches with huge crashing waves; fiery orange-red-yellow streaked skies above gorgeous, flower-choked meadows.  You get the idea.  Every shot from this guy was like that, and I was as awed by them as the next viewer.  These images were phenomenal.

Nesika Beach at Sunrise, Curry County, Oregon

Nesika Beach at Sunrise, Curry County, Oregon

What I discovered, over time, however, was that these images didn’t stay with me emotionally.  Their impact lasted about as long as my first view of them.  After being popped in the face, so to speak, they faded from significance–at least for me.  There was an awful lot of sizzle, but very little steak.

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Upon reflection over the years, I came to the conclusion that what was going on with these photographs was that the early reaction was to the “wow” parts of the image, not really to the underlying scene itself.  What I’ve come to discover is that the images that tend to have a lasting impact on me–be they the images of others or my own–are those depicted with a subtlety that allow the essence of the scene itself to carry the day, rather than those that are masked by “trappings,” for lack of a better term.

Whaleshead Creek Sunrise, Whaleshead Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Whaleshead Creek Sunrise, Whaleshead Beach, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

For that reason, if no other, I think many of my best coastal images from this trip came from sunrise shoots.  Don’t get me wrong, I was out at sunset at every opportunity as well, and I had some great experiences at the end of the days on the coast, but, somehow, I think I’ll end up with more lasting memories of my sunrise experiences.  Good thing I got up early each day.

Battery Point Lighthouse from Crescent City Pier, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Lighthouse from Crescent City Pier, Del Norte County, California

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,683 other followers