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

Posted by: kerryl29 | June 15, 2015

Day 3: Northward Ho

Day 3 dawned much as its predecessor had–clear skies and a north wind which was forecast to grow stronger as the day moved along.  I decided to spend the day’s sunrise time back at Myers Beach–which I’d visited on each of the two previous days.  With no expectation of a sky with clouds, I couldn’t see going to the trouble of venturing somewhere more distant and/or with more difficult access.  Myers Beach was no more than 10 minutes from where I was staying and access to the sand was a simple matter of descending a couple of hundred feet on a trail from a coast highway pullout.

Earthshadow, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Earthshadow, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Having already spent a significant amount of time on this beach on each of two previous days, I already had subjects in mind when I reached the sand.  I immediately headed toward the wet sand before proceeding up or down the beach as I knew the waves would erase my footprints thereby preserving a greater number of pristine shooting locations.

The forecast was accurate; there were, indeed, no clouds this morning, but the wind was still light, the setting moon continued to coincide with the rising sun and the early light remained exquisite.  As I’ve noted in earlier posts, Myers Beach is long, broad and flat and when the wind isn’t gusting the reflections in the pools of water that collect around the rocks at low tide and the wet sand are marvelous in good light.  Add in the emptiness of the beach (I was the only person on this miles-long stretch of sand at this hour) and it was a very peaceful atmosphere.  Somehow, the simpler compositions I established, complemented by the negative space of a cloudless sky, seemed to embody that sense of tranquility.

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

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

A notable sea arch, nearly centered in a large seastack, made for an obvious photographic focal point.  I wasn’t even aware that this arch existed until I found it on the evening of my first day in the area when I noticed it while wandering around on the northern end of the beach.  It was high tide that evening and I couldn’t obtain a pleasing perspective that included the arch, but it was neap tide when I was on site on the morning of the third day.  At its lowest, the tide allows a beachcomber to nearly reach the stack itself without getting wet.  I would assume that during an extremely minus tide it might even be be possible to actually reach the arch on foot.

Myers Beach Moonset, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach Moonset, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Morning light holds longer on the Oregon Coast than in many other places, as the impact of the rising sun is muted by the coast ranges to the east.  Realization of this fact allowed me to wander along on Myers Beach in eminently shootable conditions for more than two hours.

Myers Beach Morning, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach Morning, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

There were tidepools in evidence–it being low tide–on the beach, but there didn’t seem to be quite the diversity of sea life contained within as I’d seen on my previous visit to the region (July 2009).  I attribute at least part of that to the difference in the time of the year.  Still, in addition to plenty of anemone, sponges and other creatures, there were some sea stars in evidence here and there.

Tidepool Morning, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Tidepool Morning, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

There certainly was no shortage of seagulls, which seemed to be keeping another bird species company–Canada geese!  I couldn’t believe it, but on several occasions I saw geese on or flying over the stacks on the coast.  Visually, you’ll have to settle for the gulls.

Seagulls, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Seagulls, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Though I did a great deal of wandering that morning, I ended up returning to the sea arch before all was said and done.

Sea Arch, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Sea Arch, Myers Beach, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

When I put a wrap on Myers Beach for the day, I headed about fifteen miles north–five miles or so north of Gold Beach–to Otter Point State Recreation Site.  The wind was, by this time, blowing a gale and the light wasn’t great.  But the location was, though this was mostly a scouting expedition, I hauled my gear out to the point and, with some difficulty (I was looking north and the wind was gusting 30 MPH right in my face), made a couple of images.

Relentless Surf, Otter Point State Recreation Site, Oregon

Relentless Surf, Otter Point State Recreation Site, Oregon

I spent roughly an hour poking around Otter Point–a meandering set of cliffs with unfettered access that stretch out into the ocean, buttressed by beaches below both to the north and south–and decided that, if circumstances allowed, I’d be back later in the week.

The Breakers, Otter Point State Recreation Site, Oregon

The Breakers, Otter Point State Recreation Site, Oregon

The main purpose of the day was to scout some locations around Blacklock Point, located at the far southern end of Floras Lake State Park, roughly 18 miles south of Bandon.  Bandon is a bit more than 50 miles north of Gold Beach.

On the way to Floras Lake, I stopped at Cape Blanco State Park–less than 10 miles south of the access point to the Blacklock Point trail.  I’d visited Cape Blanco twice on my trip to the region six years earlier; on both occasions, the entire cape was swathed in fog.  Most of the time, the marine layer was so thick the beaches on both sides of the cape were invisible from the grounds of the lighthouse that bears the cape’s name.

Not this time around.  It was windy (what’s new?), but the skies were mostly sunny.  I spent a lot of time walking around the Cape Blanco headland, both north and south of the lighthouse, and found many extremely interesting perspectives of the lighthouse and its surroundings, particularly from the area to the north.  The problem was all the “clutter” up on the headland–unattractive clutter.  There’s an ugly visitors center building (it looks like a concrete slab straight out of Prague, circa 1960).  In addition, there are a series of extremely unappealing utility and communication towers that run up and down the headland.  Excluding these features is essentially impossible (believe me, I looked, carefully), which is a real shame because the site would be a photographer’s dream without them.  I also walked all the way down to the beach on the south side of the cape, which eliminates all of the objectionable elements visible from the north, but also makes it virtually impossible to see the lighthouse itself.

In the end, I settled for the same basic perspective of the lighthouse that I’d invoked six years earlier–looking northward from a short distance away.  Part of the coast is visible in the background.  All of the objectionable things are out of frame to the right in this relatively tight composition.

Cape Blanco Light, Cape Blanco State Park, Oregon

Cape Blanco Light, Cape Blanco State Park, Oregon

After wrapping at Cape Blanco I drove another ten-odd miles to the north, to access the trail to Blacklock Point–a high cliff overlook providing coastal views to the north and south.  The trail, which starts near the (apparently moribund) Cape Blanco airport, is a 3 1/2 mile (approximately) out and back hike.  The trail can be pretty boggy in spots; it hadn’t rained for at least a week when I was there, but there were still some pretty substantial areas of standing water (which were easily worked around).  It was around noon when I arrived at the trailhead and, since the light stunk and I wanted to look for an unofficial “spur trail” that led out to a cliff overlook north of Blacklock Point itself, I deliberately left my photo gear behind.  I made it out to the point with little difficulty and investigated a number of views.  Despite the stiff north wind, I felt that, by far, the best views were to the north, and of these the very best meant traversing a moderately precarious, narrow rocky “saddle” that jutted out from the point itself.  This wouldn’t have been even slightly problematic if not for the extremely stiff wind.

I saw no one on the trail, at the point, or during any of my subsequent wanderings.  Despite taking anything that even remotely looked like a side trail, and doing some bushwhacking in other spots, I couldn’t find the spur, and I returned to the car.  By now it was a bit after 3 PM, and I gathered my gear and trudged back to Blacklock Point.  I intended to shoot here in late afternoon and then head back, with the intention of photographing sunset at Bandon, about 15 miles to the north.

Before heading to the preferred northward view, I pulled out my camera with the telephoto lens attached, took aim at some rocks in the surf below, added a six-stop neutral density filter and played with different shutter speeds.

Rocks & Surf from Blacklock Point black & white , Floras Lake State Park, Oregon

Rocks & Surf from Blacklock Point black & white , Floras Lake State Park, Oregon

After fiddling around at this spot for awhile, with the light improving all the time, I headed to the edge of the point to photograph the coast to the north, in the direction of Floras Lake itself.

North Coastal View, Blacklock Point, Floras Lake State Park, Oregon

North Coastal View, Blacklock Point, Floras Lake State Park, Oregon

The view you see above was from the aforementioned saddle.  Again, without the gusty wind blowing directly in my face, this would have been a simple matter, but, perched as I was on a rather narrow strip of rock, I had to take extra care.  I left my backpack up on the point and descended to the saddle with only my tripod, camera/lens and cable release.

It was approximately 6:30 PM when I got back to the parking area, less than two hours until sunset.  Since I was already in the “neighborhood,” I decided to head the 20-odd miles north to photograph sunset at Bandon.

I photographed for parts of two days on the beach at Bandon six years ago; the vast majority of that time it was bathed in marine layer fog.  It appeared to me, on this evening, that the marine layer would stay at bay and that I would–finally–see Bandon Beach in good light at sunset.  In fact, based on what I was seeing to the west, this had a chance to be an exceptional sunset.  It would be an hour’s drive back to Gold Beach at the end of the night, but…so what?

Off to Bandon.

I hit the staircase down to the beach at the Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint about one hour before sunset.  I was familiar with the basic beach elements at Bandon due to my six-year-old experience.  The sky situation was highly promising.

The beach at Bandon is a fine one–maybe the best I’ve seen.  It’s long, it’s wide, it’s deep and there are countless rocks and seastacks to use as compositional elements.  Much like Myers Beach, it’s a great location for wet sand reflections. Everything was ideal, right?  Well…

As I maneuvered into place, a bit south of Face Rock itself, I immediately realized that there would be a problem–there were already a fair number of other photographers on the beach and I could foresee ample opportunity to get in one another’s way.  As it turned out, we were all pretty respectful of one another, but the fact that it would be so easy, even with relatively minimal movement, to stray into someone else’s shot made this a less exciting photographic experience than it otherwise might have been.  Additionally, the sunset–while nice, certainly–didn’t quite develop into the epic experience I’d hoped for.

Bandon Evening, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

Bandon Evening, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

All that griping aside, this was still a fine photo opportunity.  Bandon Beach is a beautiful spot and for someone who never had so much as a clear view of the place six years ago, this was a marvelous experience.

I did some shooting before the sun really began to set, as you can see in the image immediately above and below.

Bandon Evening, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

Bandon Evening, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

The real action, however, got going when the sun descended near the western horizon and the clouds began to light up, as was the case in this view looking to the south.  At this point, the sun was playing footsie with the clouds to the west.

Sunset, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

Sunset, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

After some time, a couple of the photographers who were set up to my left moved, which allowed me to move and establish a view looking pretty much due west.

Sunset, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

Sunset, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

This was pretty much the peak of the sunset color.  This what I mean about it not being an epic, all-time experience.  All the elements were present, and it was certainly very nice, but it just never quite reached its potential.

Sunset, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

Sunset, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

And I still wouldn’t have missed this for anything.  Shortly after the image above was made, I glanced around and realized that most of the other photographers had moved on from their initial spots or left the beach entirely.  So I quickly grabbed my things and took off on a trot to my right–up the beach to the north.  The wind, which had been pretty strong all day, was blowing dry sand all over the place and I just ran on through it.  The light was fading, but before I lost it entirely I scoped out a composition that I found appealing and quickly set up for one final shot.

Sunset, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

Sunset, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

I slogged my way back up to the staircase, cleaned up my tripod and began to make the lengthy drive back to Gold Beach.  It had been a long day, with a lot of hiking involved, but over all, I was satisfied.  It would turn out that the next day would be every bit as long and, in some ways, even more satisfying…

Posted by: kerryl29 | June 8, 2015

Day 2: Scouting the South Oregon Coast, Part II

As mentioned in the previous post, Day 2’s sunrise was to be spent on South Beach, at the far southern edge of the town of Gold Beach–located only five minutes or so from where I was staying, which made it quite convenient given that sunrise was at roughly 6 AM.  I arrived on site a bit before 5:30, parked at the large highway pullout and made my way down to the beach.

South Beach Moonset, Curry County, Oregon

South Beach Moonset, Curry County, Oregon

South Beach doesn’t have a lot of rocks or seastacks offshore, but there is one prominent offshore rock.  The beach is long and broad, bisected by Hunter’s Creek, and inhabited by some strands of driftwood with sections strewn with small beach stones.  As the light came up, I saw that there weren’t a lot of clouds in the sky, but there was just enough marine layer activity to produce some cloud-like apparitions to the southeast.  I positioned myself to take advantage of both of these features, as the rising sun brought the colors in the sky to the fore.

South Beach at Dawn, Curry County, Oregon

South Beach at Dawn, Curry County, Oregon

The flat areas of sand held the moisture left by the breaking waves for a long time, which provided extensive areas of reflected sky.

South Beach at Dawn, Curry County, Oregon

South Beach at Dawn, Curry County, Oregon

In a happy coincidence, moonset was correlated with sunrise during most of my week shooting on the Oregon coast.  I made use of this circumstance frequently during my morning shoots, including this initial instance.  The nearly complete lack of cloud cover produced a substantial earthshadow effect to the west prior to the sun’s appearance behind the hills to the east.

South Beach Moonset & Earthshadow, Curry County, Oregon

South Beach Moonset & Earthshadow, Curry County, Oregon

When sunrise light began to fade, I moved on, traveling the coast highway to the south.  I briefly stopped along Cape View Loop, a rarely used road that runs above and to the east of US 101 that provides some aerial views of Myers Beach.

Myers Beach and Cape Sebastian from Cape View Loop, Oregon

Myers Beach and Cape Sebastian from Cape View Loop, Oregon

The views ran nearly 180 degrees, from Cape Sebastian to the north to Pistol River and Crook Point to the south.

Myers Beach and Crook Point from Cape View Loop, Oregon

Myers Beach and Crook Point from Cape View Loop, Oregon

I spent some time up on Cape View Loop playing around with a long lens and some neutral density filters, focusing on the breaking waves to the south, varying the exposure time to see what kinds of effects could be produced.

Off Shore Rocks from Cape View Loop, Oregon

Off Shore Rocks from Cape View Loop, Oregon

Off Shore Rocks from Cape View Loop black & white, Oregon

Off Shore Rocks from Cape View Loop black & white, Oregon

Crook Point from Cape View Loop, Oregon

Crook Point from Cape View Loop, Oregon

By the time I finished shooting at this location it was approaching 8 AM.  It was shaping up as another clear, exceptionally windy day and I decided to proceed into full-blown scouting mode.  I continued the journey south, and wandered around the mouth of the Pistol River, where it feeds directly into the Pacific, and then to Samuel H. Boardman State Park, where I spent most of the rest of the morning and afternoon scouting a broad variety of viewpoints, trails and beaches.  I made my way down the short but steep trail to Miner Creek (a.k.a. Secret) Beach and determined immediately that I would have to return to the spot–with plans to do so at sunset–and also took the much longer jaunt to China Creek Beach, several miles south of Secret Beach.  I also spent time investigating Whaleshead and Lone Ranch Beaches, and made my way around the viewpoints at Thunder Bay Cove, Natural Bridges, Arch Rock, Whaleshead Viewpoint, North Island Viewpoint, Spruce Creek Viewpoint, Indian Sands, Cape Ferrelo and others.

Did I mention that the wind was ferocious?  It–literally–nearly blew me over on the trail to North Island Viewpont, forcing me to turn around and head back.  At Thunder Bay Cove, I was loathe to get too close to the cliff’s edge to investigate a possible perspective–without my camera gear, mind you–due to concern over gusts.

I also spent a fair amount of time hiking different segments of the coast trail that connects many of the above locations.  I found a few new vistas worthy of mining but mainly turned my attention to tighter, more intimate scenes to photograph under the appropriate conditions (i.e. less wind and even light).

In all, essentially no photography took place during these many hours, but it was time very well spent.  I had never visited any of these spots south of Cape View Loop and this time spent simply investigating granted me the opportunity to make the most of the rest of my time later in the week.  Remember, all of this scouting was conducted under cloudless skies (read: harsh light) and high winds, so it wasn’t as though a lot of great shooting opportunities went by the wayside.

The lone exception to this no-photo policy was Whaleshead Viewpoint where I hauled my equipment out to a spot along the trail to obtain some images of waves.  (Note the effect of the aforementioned strong winds.)

Wind & Surf black & white, Whaleshead Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Wind & Surf black & white, Whaleshead Viewpoint, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

About an hour before sunset I made my way back to Secret Beach.  The trail to the beach is short–perhaps 1/4 mile–but quite steep.  At the bottom, you find yourself about 15 feet above the sand, but you can climb onto a tall stack and then make your way down the rock face to the beach itself–it’s not as difficult as it sounds.  I climbed down to the beach–for the second time that day (remember, it had been my first scouting stop of the morning).

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

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

Miner Creek Beach (sometimes referred to as Secret Beach–I’m using the terms interchangeably) is a very, very pretty location, with marvelous seastacks, several of which are topped by conifers.  Two creeks–one of which contains a significant waterfall–empty onto the beach and into the ocean.  The only negative to the location is the shallowness of the beach…that and the footprints in the sand which aren’t routinely washed away, even at high tide, without a significant ocean surge.  I also noted that the best perspectives–at least in my opinion–were facing to the south and southwest, which meant that the very best sunset colors would be absent, at least at this time of year.

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

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

While the light was wonderful, the sky conditions were less than ideal:  no clouds at all.  There was a nice orange gradient along the western horizon, but the conditions were hardly spectacular.

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

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

I made my way back up the trail in the dark; I had a headlamp and a flashlight with me, and since it was pitch dark inside the densely wooded area, they were welcome.  Even though conditions hadn’t been ideal at either sunrise or sunset, I was reasonably pleased with the day’s activities.  I certainly anticipated a return to Secret Beach later in the week.

While I had scouted the vast majority of locations I’d wanted to investigate to the south, I still had spots to the north of Gold Beach that I wanted to explore–I would cover most of that territory the next day…

Posted by: kerryl29 | June 1, 2015

Day 1: Scouting the Southern Oregon Coast (Part I)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I last spent time on the Oregon coast in July, 2009, during an extended trip to the Pacific Northwest.  That experience was something of a whirlwind, as I covered the coast from Cannon Beach in the north to Bandon–and parts south–in a span of about three days.  It was an absurd itinerary and led to at least as many frustrations as it did good photo opportunities.  During the parts of two days I was based in Bandon on the prior trip, I explored as far south as the area around Myers Creek Beach, just north of the spot where the Pistol River empties into the Pacific Ocean.  The Oregon coast extends as far south as the area around Brookings, the southernmost coastal town in the state, just a few miles north of the California state line.

On this particular trip, I decided to base myself for a full week in the small coastal town of Gold Beach.  I felt this gave me the best proximity to the areas on the south coast that I was most interested in visiting and photographing–areas that I either scarcely had the opportunity to view on my previous trip or didn’t have the chance to see at all.  Based on some reading I’d done since my first trip, I’d reached the conclusion that the far southern Oregon coast–essentially the area between Gold Beach and Brookings–provided the biggest bang for the buck.  I was, however, willing to investigate spots as far north as Bandon.

To help make all of this a bit easier to visualize, I’ve included this map of the south coast:

south coast map

The blue flag represents Gold Beach.  Brookings (green flag) is roughly 27 miles to the south.  Bandon (black flag) is a bit more than 50 miles north of Gold Beach, with the town of Port Orford (red flag) almost exactly halfway in between.  There are no other towns of consequence along the approximately 80 miles of coast between Bandon and Brookings (and the largest of these communities–Brookings–has fewer than 10,000 year-round residents).  This area was to be my working environment for a week, with the plan to spend the bulk of my time in the area beginning about eight miles north of Gold Beach and Brookings (a span of about 18 miles of coast) covering Pistol River and Samuel H. Boardman State Parks.  This stretch of coast is almost entirely undeveloped, has no services to speak of and has, by reputation anyway, some of the most beautiful beaches and coastal vistas in the world.

My route from Portland took me south on I-5 to Roseburg, where I stopped at a supermarket to pick up provisions for the trip, and then west on SR 42 to Bandon.  It was early afternoon by the time I reached the Coast Highway (US 101) south toward Gold Beach.  I stopped to scout a number of spots between Port Orford, where the highway skirts the coast, and Gold Beach and by the time I reached Gold Beach it was after 3 PM.  After checking in to the motel and unloading the rental car I had about four hours of daylight remaining.  Other than the minimal remnants of marine layer clouds, the skies were completely clear and a very stiff north wind–something that would be a constant presence for days–was blowing.

I headed south on the coast highway, took a brief look at South Beach–on the southern outskirts of Gold Beach–and made plans to return to this location for sunrise the following morning.  Then I resumed the southward journey and made my next stop at Cape Sebastian State Park.

I produced few images on this day due, I think, to several reasons:  limited time; a mind more attuned to scouting than actual image making; and some difficulty getting into a “groove,” at least partly a function of a lack of intimate familiarity with the locations.

Cape Sebastian

You can see Cape Sebastian, even though it’s unlabeled, on the map above;  it’s the small bulge south of Gold Beach.  Cape Sebastian is a conifer-laden promontory that rises more than 200 feet above the ocean and provides views up to 50 miles both up and down the coast in clear conditions.  It’s also one of the windiest places on the Oregon Coast and with an already stiff breeze blowing, it was ferocious at times on this afternoon.

A trail from the south parking area takes you out to some of the views to the north; the best views to the south are arguably from the parking area itself.  I wandered down the trail–part of the extended Oregon Coast Trail which, at least technically, runs the length of the state, from the Columbia River to the California state line–about 3/4 of a mile, noted what I felt were the best possible spots for a northward view, then returned to the parking area for my gear and produced this shot.

Looking North, Cape Sebastian State Park, Oregon

Looking North, Cape Sebastian State Park, Oregon

Back at the parking area, I photographed Myers Beach and other parts of Pistol River State Park to the south.  I anticipated that this would be the only time I’d visit Cape Sebastian, given that I’d obtained these shots–which are relatively limited due to a copious amount of undergrowth and less than optimal climatic conditions–but I was wrong.  Somewhat ironically, it would take conditions that were less than ideal for the views that Cape Sebastian is known for to encourage me to return later in the week.

Myers Creek Beach from Cape Sebastian State Park, Oregon

Myers Creek Beach from Cape Sebastian State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach

The Coast Highway climbs steadily from Gold Beach as you approach the heights of the entrance to Cape Sebastian State Park and descends abruptly back to sea level on the other side of the cape.  The road bends sharply to the east and just as you reach the beginning of the curve the sea stacks of Myers Beach come into view.

If you don’t feel something the first time you view Myers Beach as you approach it from the north on US 101 you’re probably not conscious.  I can recall my first experience doing so, on a sunny July afternoon in 2009; I was viewing something special and I immediately knew it.  The light was awful that day and I was more than 60 miles away from my base at Bandon so I didn’t have time to do much more than exit at one of the three Myers Beach pullouts and gape.  But on this occurrence, in May of 2015, I had time.  This time, I got out of the car.  This time, the light was improving (even if the sky was almost completely bald).  This time, I got out my gear and made my way down to the beach itself.

Myers Beach Surf black & white, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach Surf black & white, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach–also known as Myers Creek Beach (the names are used essentially interchangeably) reminds me a lot of the beach at Bandon.  It’s long–miles long, its northern end abutting Hunters Cove, at the southern foot of Cape Sebastian, and extending all the way to the Pistol River outlet stream to the south–and, depending on who’s counting, another mile or two all the way to the northern edge of Crook Point.  It’s also deep, and directly accessible from three roadside pullouts.  And it has sea stacks…lots of them, many of them directly accessible at low tide, and plenty of smaller rocks to boot.  What makes it arguably better than Bandon is that there are no nearby accommodations.  So, while Bandon Beach seems to be becoming ever more crowded, Myers Beach–10-odd miles south of the town of Gold Beach and nearly 20 miles north of Brookings–is never crowded.

Myers Beach Sunset, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach Sunset, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

I parked the car at the second of the three Coast Highway pullouts, climbed down to beach level and spent some time wandering around.  The wind was blowing steadily out of the north and producing some pretty good-sized surf.  It was close to, if not at, low tide and I wandered around a good deal of the northern half of the beach.  I ultimately settled on an area that had a small sea arch–impossible to see except when a minus tide allows one to reach a viewing spot amidst the stacks that’s typically underwater.  The sky was, as I mentioned above, almost entirely devoid of clouds, which was unfortunate, but I still hung around this area of the beach until the sunset light faded completely.  By that time, some clouds had filtered into place to the northwest.

Myers Beach at Sunset, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach at Sunset, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

I had hoped to scout a good chunk of Boardman State Park–south of Pistol River–that afternoon, but had never so much as made it there, let alone had the opportunity to poke around.  I planned to rectify that the next day, after a morning shoot at South Beach.

 

Posted by: kerryl29 | May 19, 2015

Setting the Stage

As noted in an earlier post, I flew from Chicago to Portland, Oregon on May 3 and drove from the Portland area to Gold Beach, on Oregon’s far south coast, the following day.  Thus began my most recent photo excursion:  a week on the southern Oregon Coast, followed by parts of four days based in Crescent City, California, to photograph the redwoods, and finally parts of two days at Silver Falls State Park, about an hour’s drive southeast of Portland.  I returned to the Chicago area on the evening of Saturday, May 16, and have spent the time since then recuperating.  I was bushed when I got back.

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

I’ve scarcely had time to do any image editing since returning to the home base.  I’ve processed perhaps 20 images and have more or less randomly selected a half-dozen, just to give readers a taste of the subject matter, to accompany this post.  As was the case when I returned from my trip to the Canadian Rockies last fall, it’s going to take quite some time for me to work through all of this material.  I spent something on the order of 10 weeks processing images from the Rockies last year and I suspect it will require a comparable amount of time to complete work on the Oregon/California photographs.

Myers Beach Sunset, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach Sunset, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

I spent a few days on the Oregon Coast as part of my extended trip to the Pacific Northwest in July, 2009, just a couple of months before I started this blog.  On that occasion, I was frustrated by the incessant presence of the Pacific marine layer, which blotted out potentially epic sunsets on beaches in Washington and Oregon.  For a variety of reasons I was led to believe that mid-spring would produce more favorable conditions for coastal shooting and that turned out to be the case.  While the marine layer wasn’t a complete non-factor, as I will detail in coming installments chronicling the photo experience, it wasn’t the omnipresent force that it was during my time on the coast in 2009.

Rhododendron Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendron Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

My time in far northern California marked my first visit to the coastal redwood forests of the region.  (I’ve seen redwood groves before during several visits to Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County, just north of San Francisco.)  This part of the trip was my biggest disappointment, for two reasons.  First, I had hoped–though not expected–to be in the area during the rhododendron bloom.  Since the bloom usually peaks some time during a roughly four-week period from mid-May to mid-June, I figured to be a bit early, and so I was.  Despite much searching on my part, through three state parks and one national park, I found only a handful of rhododendron bushes flowering.  More surprising was the near complete absence of fog, which I had been told was a daily occurrence, morning and evening, in the groves.  I saw almost literally no fog during my time in the area, which was unfortunate, because it’s such a huge aesthetic and technical asset to forest photography.

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Still, despite these discouraging conditional developments, as those of you have been fortunate enough to experience redwood forests know, the coastal redwood environments are awe-inspiring places and I’m not at all sorry I made the short journey from southern Oregon to northern California to see them.  In addition, the rather unusual weather developments gave me the opportunity to photograph some subjects in and around Crescent City that I hadn’t anticipated being able to do, and I think that time was spent productively.

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

I had only one afternoon and one full day at Silver Falls State Park, about 12 miles east of Silverton and 25-30 miles east of Salem, but the weather conditions when I was there were absolutely perfect for waterfall photography–mostly cloudy and very light winds.  Despite only a few available hours on May 14 and the full day of May 15, I spent roughly 14 hours photographing in the park, along the famous Trail of Ten Falls (so named because each of the park’s 10 waterfalls can be seen from the trail, which runs nearly nine miles).  Because the conditions were ideal, I was able to photograph all of the subject matter that I’d hoped to experience.  Additionally, wildflowers were ubiquitous in the park and I spent some time working these subjects as well.

Upper North Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

Upper North Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

As I did with the Rockies imagery last year, I’ll provide a chronological reporting of the trip and will periodically interrupt the narrative with some thematic thoughts, based on my experiences during this trip and topics that those experiences engendered.  I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Posted by: kerryl29 | May 5, 2015

The Rites of Spring

Each year during the Midwest spring, I try to get out with the camera at least a few times.  I managed four short day trips this season; it wasn’t as much as I’d have liked, but it was a fair piece better than nothing.  Here’s some of the fruit of these recent excursions.

Little Clifty Creek, Clifty Falls State Park, Indiana

Little Clifty Creek, Clifty Falls State Park, Indiana

I spent part of a day during the first half of April at Clifty Falls State Park in far southeast Indiana.  The trees were just beginning to bud when I was there–wish I’d been able to go back 7-10 days later when things were a bit further along.

One of the frustrating things about Clifty Falls is that, while there are four tall, impressive waterfalls in the park, there are very, very few good views to be had of any of them.  As a result, I spent the bulk of my time shooting creeks and wildflowers.

Little Clifty Creek, Clifty Falls State Park, Indiana

Little Clifty Creek, Clifty Falls State Park, Indiana

I did make a long, rather unpleasant slog up Clifty Creek in the hopes of getting a good look at Big Clifty Falls from below; I had to ford the creek at least a dozen times on the roundtrip  but the end view wasn’t quite what I’d hoped.

Big Clifty Falls, Clifty Falls State Park, Indiana

Big Clifty Falls, Clifty Falls State Park, Indiana

This was as close as I was able to get to the waterfall (which you can see in the background).  None of the other three tall waterfalls in the park can even be approached this closely from below, which is disappointing.

Blue Phlox Intimate, Clifty Falls State Park, Indiana

Blue Phlox Intimate, Clifty Falls State Park, Indiana

The following week, I took a very quick trip late one afternoon to Mucatatuck Wildlife Refuge, near the town of Seymour, Indiana, about an hour south of Indianapolis.  It was the first time I’d been to this particular refuge, and I mostly just poked around, as something of a scouting session for possible future visits.  I did manage to capture a few frames of this interesting, mixed ecosystem locale.

Muscatatuck Evening, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Indiana

Muscatatuck Evening, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Indiana

Muscattuck includes–as I understand it–the northernmost collection of cypress trees in North America.

Cypress Black & White, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Indiana

Cypress Black & White, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Indiana

Back in Illinois, I made two trips to the Morton Arboretum, about 25 miles west of Chicago this past week.

Daffodil Glade, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Daffodil Glade, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

The daffodils at the Arb’s Daffodil Glade were in peak bloom–that’s a good week to ten days later than most years.  The bluebells, which were badly stunted by the extraordinarily long, harsh winter of 2013-14 were in much, much better shape this spring.

Bluebells Intimate, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Bluebells Intimate, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Bluebells Hillside, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Bluebells Hillside, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Virginia Bluebells, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Virginia Bluebells, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

The wild lilies on the West Side of the Arboretum were carpeting the hillsides.

Lilies Intimate, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Lilies Intimate, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

And some of the flowering trees were in full dress as well.

Tulip Tree Evening, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Tulip Tree Evening, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

It wasn’t an epic experience this spring but it was very nice to get out with the camera in decent weather for the first time in many months.

*                      *                     *

By the time this post sees the light of day I’ll be on my way to the West Coast for photo opportunities on the southern Oregon coast, the coastal redwoods area of northern California and Silver Falls State Park back in north-central Oregon.  I’ll be back in town–and on the blog–in mid-May.

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