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…

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Responses

  1. Having just returned from the area, I can attest to the strong winds as well as the beauty of the scenery. The last photo of the set is my favorite…so glad you made the effort to get it at the end of a long day.

    • Thanks, Ellen. The composition of the last shot from Bandon (i.e. the one you referenced) is my favorite of the day, and it’s quite unfortunate that the beach wasn’t a whole lot emptier that evening, which would have allowed for considerably more variety than what I was able to achieve.

  2. Ahhh… so very nice. I’m glad and relieved that Bandon didn’t entirely disappoint. That wind was utterly impossible the week you were here though. It looks like we’re getting some interesting sunsets again thanks to some lightening caused fires down in the Gold Beach area.

    I’ve actually seen geese playing in the surf. There are hundreds of them that nest in the protected cliffs at Bandon. As for the sea stars, they were dying off in recent years, nearly disappeared, but they seem to be making a comeback.

    Impatiently waiting for the rest of this series. Exciting to see this heavenly area through your lens.

    • Thanks very much. Yeah, the wind didn’t ease off in any meaningful sense until either the fifth or sixth day I was on the coast, and it always seemed worse in the afternoons than during the mornings.

      Interesting story about the geese (I did see a few down on the beach here and there, but mostly up on the rocks); they’re remarkably adaptable. And, glad to hear that the sea stars are starting to recover. I had no idea that they’d been in decline; it would be a real tragedy if they disappeared.

      • Just remembered that I happened to catch this pair of geese playing (?) in the surf and posted it: https://gusgus64.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/surfing-geese/

        • Yup, the one time I saw the geese on the beach it looked very much like this–a pair of them, standing very close to, if not right at, the edge of the breaking surf. They actually stood there and let the water running up the beach after the waves break rush around their feet. I never would have guessed that they’d do that.

  3. These photos are beautiful – each and every one.

  4. I loved this photos series, especially the light in the sunrise photos is absolutely stunning! What an amazing coast line with all the huge rocks scattered around. Beautiful.

    • Thanks very much! Ordinarily I’d have been extremely disappointed due to the cloudless sky, but for some reason in this instance I’m really pleased by the mood that seems to permeate from the simplicity of the scene and the negative space within.

  5. Again, beautiful photos! And I greatly appreciate your technical bits of imformation telling us how you did the shots 🙂
    Thank you very much!

    • Thanks very much and my pleasure. If you have any questions about anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.

  6. Really nice all of these !

  7. Kerry, love the moon reflecting in the water at sunrise, especially in the 4th shot. All that still water makes the rocks look like they are floating in a surrealistic vision. Beautiful!

    • Thanks very much, Lynn. My experience on the beach that morning–and, to an extent, the morning before–served as a very useful lesson to me, one which I’ll elaborate on a bit in my next post.

  8. Wow, absolutely beautiful. Hey, maybe when you get a chance you could go check out my site. perceptionofplaz.wordpress.com. Also, please follow me back.

    • Thanks very much for taking time to leave a comment. I’ll be sure to check out your blog.

  9. I ran out of superlatives for your work long ago, and saying great photos doesn’t do them justice. They are so much more than that, your work is what inspires me to continue to improve my own skills as a photographer, even though we typically shoot different subjects.

    • Thanks very much for the extremely kind words–I really appreciate it.

  10. Beauitful

  11. […] 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 […]

  12. […] 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 […]

  13. […] 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 […]


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