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.

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Responses

  1. Oh my god… what a great clicks you have taken… i apperciate you… ♥

  2. Spectacular…each one better than the one before.

  3. Love your “China Creek at Sunset” third shot!

  4. I love the light and airy feel to the photos. What settings are you using when you are shooting or is it just the time of day you are shooting during? Do you using bracketing at all for your photos?

    • Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      With regard to settings, when I photograph landscapes and closeups–which is more than 99% of my photography–I shoot full manual: manual exposure (I use the spot metering mode to establish a baseline exposure) and manual focus.

      As far as bracketing is concerned, I will bracket exposure if the dynamic range of a scene exceeds my camera’s sensor’s capabilities and if the ambient conditions allow for it. If the subject matter in the scene is moving, that’s an inherent bracketing problem (moving water, in a stream or river, for instance, is an exception to the rule–moving surf is not, nor is wind-blown foliage). I will also, occasionally, bracket focus as a way of extending depth of field.

      If I haven’t answered your question–a distinct possibility, I acknowledge, if I haven’t correctly understood your meaning–please let me know and I’ll take another crack at it.

  5. After seeing so many oversaturated vibrant photos these are so refreshing. I am particularly fond of the reflections and sand ripples as well as the one with the sun on the coast with the cloud or chem trail, all lined up.

    • Thanks very much, Jane.

  6. Awesome!

  7. I would say that you learned the lesson long ago. You had done a lot of scouting already, which give you several different options as far as where to go, and what to photograph under differing light conditions. I think that when you combine all those things, plus your years of experience shooting superb landscapes, that you have developed an instinct for where to go, whether the decision is a conscious one or not. Some people would call it luck that you were there for such a great sunset, I believe that you made your own luck through hard work and knowledge of the area.

    • As always, I appreciate the thoughtful comment.

      I think you’ve really hit a key point when you referenced the matter of scouting. You’re absolutely correct when you point out that having looked this spot–and countless others–over, I had enough of a background to reasonably consider where to go and when, and was able to do so with a minimum of fuss because I knew exactly where to put the car and exactly where the (hidden) trailhead was located. If I hadn’t been there already, a lot of time would have been lost trying to find these spots…in fact, there’s an entire snowballing effect in place that was a function of the scouting expedition.

      I should, at some point, put together a post of the “Top 5 (or however many) Things You Can Do to Improve your Landscape Photography,” and if I do, scouting will be somewhere on that list–perhaps atop it. I understand why people are often so reluctant to embrace scouting–there’s an opportunity cost factor (i.e. time spent on the no-immediate-gratification endeavor of scouting is time not spent doing something else), but it can have such a mid-range/long-range benefit…

      There’s no doubt in my mind that one reason I’m frequently able to pull out pleasing (at least to me) images from places with which I have no prior experience is that I always try to build in enough time to scout…thereby giving me some semblance of experience with the locations. It’s when I don’t have that time built in that I so often seem to run into trouble (see: Lake O’Hara).

      Many, many thanks again, Jerry, for the considered set of remarks; they’re terrific food for thought.

  8. Kerry: You always do such good work…splendid composition, depth of field, and color.

    • Thanks very much!

  9. Beautiful!!

  10. Stunning photos! I love the shades of light and dark, the colors and the texture! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  11. Man that are some killer shots ! Love them !

  12. Lovely set of images

    • Thanks very much!

  13. I’m really enjoying seeing the coast through your lens. Those wet sands are something that’s drawn my eye for quite some time now. But I think those last few shots are telling me I need to find a comfortable pair of boots that I can walk in…. 😉

    You’re really done my coast proud!!! In spite of the weather that didn’t always cooperate.

    • Thanks, Gunta. The weather never cooperates all the time. 🙂

      Re boots…while I do encourage you to find a pair that will allow you to move around in the water with impunity, honestly compels me to report that I was not wearing my rubber boots that evening on China Beach. I had my hiking boots on, a function of the steep, relatively lengthy (1/2 mile one way) hike on the trail. Whenever I was on a beach with easy access (e.g. Bandon, Myers, Whaleshead, etc.) I wore the rubber boots. But if a hike of any consequence was involved (e.g. Secret, China, etc.), I stuck with hiking boots and made do. And while it was a bit of an inconvenience (I had to pick my spots when crossing China Creek, for instance, and I didn’t stand in the creek itself), it wasn’t a major impediment. It would have been very nice to have the boots on Secret Beach, but I wouldn’t have wanted them on my feet when descending or ascending that large rock that serves as the (literal) jumping off point for the beach itself.

      • Have yet to make it to China Creek. Looks like that might be more likely a couple of weeks from now! I have to admit to taking the sneakers or hiking boots off when crossing creeks. Don’t plan to make it past the jump off point at Secret Beach. Steep, nearly vertical cliffs are beyond my comfort zone.

        • When you do get to China Creek Beach, be sure to prepare yourself for the hike. Think Secret Beach, but longer. You can definitely handle it, just be ready.

          Yeah, that descent to Secret Beach is a little bit hairy. It’s actually a bit trickier to come back up than go down, I think. Fortunately, there are some very nice perspectives from up on the bluff.

  14. […] 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 […]

  15. […] 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 […]

  16. […] as sunset approached, the marine layer returned, almost as quickly as it had on Day 4 back at Floras Lake.  By roughly 8 PM, there appeared to be no hope of a sunset.  Between the […]


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