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 spot 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.



  1. Your pictures are breathtaking. I visited Portland last year for just a weekend and it was one of my favorite trips.

    • Thanks!

      And, just as a point of reference to those unfamiliar with Oregon geography, the images accompanying this post–as well as the other entries in this series–were made a long way from Portland. I drove from Portland to Gold Beach on the first day of this photo excursion and it was roughly a 300-mile trip.

  2. My favorite in this set is the b&w aerial shot of the breaking waves. I also love the fern and iris intimate. Can you describe your process in achieving this? How many images were used in the final composite and where in the image are your different focus points? What were the exposure settings?

    • Thanks, Ellen.

      The iris & fern shot was a focus stack utilizing a total of 11 images; exposure for all of the frames–f/7.1 @ 1/30 sec.; ISO 100. (I always try to select an aperture that’s the best compromise between the sweet spot of the lens and the camera’s diffraction limitation.)

      Focusing–as a practical matter it must be done manually. What I do when I’m going to shoot a stacked series like this is find the closest point in the frame to the lens and make sure that’s sharp, then slowly and incrementally adjust the focus ring to move “deeper,” toward the background, with the goal of slightly overlapping the focal plane of each frame with the one before it. It’s virtually impossible to be able to truly see critical focus overlap through the viewfinder (or even Live View), so it’s primarily a function of experience and feel. After you’ve performed the process a few times you’ll have a pretty good sense of how far to rotate the focus ring to obtain the results you’re after. It takes awhile to execute a sequence which is why a complete lack of subject movement is critical.

      • Thanks for the explanation. I was wondering whether or not you were actually using the viewfinder or live view, so it’s good to know that you do it more by feel than actual eyesight.

        • Just to make sure I’m fully answering your question, I do look through the viewfinder when I’m doing this process, but I can’t rely on what I’m seeing because these slight focal plane adjustments are often undetectable when using the VF. The problem with using LV is that significant magnification is needed to truly see these nuanced changes and if you magnify LV you can only see part of the frame. The different elements of the scene will almost always show up in different parts of the frame, and to see what’s changed you’ll have to scan around the magnified view. This has two negative implications:

          1) it takes time (sometimes a lot of it), and the goal is to work as quickly as possible;

          2) it introduces an increased possibility of making inadvertent, subtle movements to the camera which can screw up the alignment of the entire focus stack.

          While some contact with the camera is obviously needed (i.e. rotating the focus ring), as little as possible is desirable.

  3. Beautiful work and I am enjoying the read. I like your work because it is real and not Photoshopped up like a lot of the photography out there. I have plans for a trip to the Northwest in the future and I am making notes on these locations. Thanks for the info and some really nice images.

    • Thanks very much–glad you’re finding this series helpful. Best of luck on your trip to the PNW, whenever that comes about.

  4. I did want to mention that if you are interested, I too have a Blog with video. Not quite as nice as yours but I am learning to build it. Here it is:

    • Thanks–I’ll be sure to take a look.

  5. Some great shots and interesting adventures. Other people suck don’t they 😝

    • Thanks.

      Re other people…well, if they’re so wrapped up in themselves and what they’re doing that they’re utterly oblivious to their impact on other people, places and things…yeah, that sucks. 🙂

  6. Great shots! The shots with the earthshadow gradient and negative space as compositional

    • Thanks very much!

  7. Great shots! The ones with the earth shadow gradient and the mist strewn south coast are amazing

  8. Not only are your posts a treat for the eyes and soul, but I learn more with every one of them.

    It’s funny, I’ve used a shirt or jacket hanging on a bush or tree to confuse birds and other wildlife about my true position, but I never thought of using one as a windbreak, I’ll have to give that a try.

    • Thanks very much.

      Yeah, the jacket trick can prove very useful, under the right set of circumstances. If you can orient yourself just so, it can reduce a light breeze to dead calm over a very small area. It’s definitely worth considering…

      • I learned far more than the jacket trick, just to be clear. I read every post of yours through several times in an attempt to follow your thought process for every image.

        • You know, you may have given me an idea for a future blog post–recreating the process behind a single image, from first glimpsing the possibility in the field to final edit in the digital darkroom. I think this might be interesting–not because I have the “objectively right way” of doing things (I don’t think such a thing exists), but because it might give some people a bit of insight that they can leverage about the sorts of considerations that can make up a decision-making photographic workflow.

          I’ll have to noodle a bit about this. Thanks for the idea!

        • That would be a lot of work on your part, but I for one, would gain some insight and knowledge from it.

        • I think I’ll give it a try. It may not post for some time, but I’ll keep it on the back burner for now, with the intention of getting to it down the road.

  9. I’ve been enjoying your account of your Oregon field trip a lot. I just started following you- yours is the only photography blog on my reader. Reading your posts has given me some insights about how I can better approach and prepare for my own field trips, on the northern Oregon coast.

    • Thanks very much for taking the time to comment and for the kind words therein. I’m gratified to hear that you’re finding my blog to be of some value to you. There are still a few forthcoming posts that deal directly with time on the Oregon coast, in different weather conditions, which I’ll be rolling out in the coming weeks.

  10. […] post that caught my attention is Day 5: Half a Day’s Photography is Better than None. It’s day 5 in a series about a photography field trip on the southern Oregon Coast. The […]

  11. […] 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 […]

  12. […] success at sunset on Day 2 and as part of an utter (figurative) washout during the evening of Day 5.  I had been truly impressed when I scouted the area but the conditions, for a variety of reasons, […]

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