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.

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Responses

  1. …that eye-dazzling light which happens in forests is so beautifully transmitted here–it so reminds me of camping in Oregon, and the smell and the Stellar’s Jay cry.

    • Thanks very much for the extremely evocative comment.

  2. I’m more impressed than ever, because of your photos, and because I tried for a few sunrise photos at Lake Michigan this weekend. I couldn’t get a shutter speed long enough to completely blur the water, nor fast enough to totally freeze the wave action, so I shot a lot of terrible photos in between. You really know your stuff! And, you have an incredible eye for knowing what will make an excellent photo!

    • Thanks!

      Assuming you’ve stopped the lens down where you want it and have the ISO at (or below) base–and I am indeed assuming that you did both of those things, because you obviously know your away around your camera’s settings–the best way to significantly slow down the shutter speed is with a neutral density filter of some consequence. Do you have one at your disposal?

      • Well, I was already as low on ISO as I could go, and went too small on the aperture for the best shots, so it looks like I will have to have a ND filter (s) soon. I tried my polarizer, even though it was the wrong angle to the sun, but that didn’t help enough.

        I had priced neutral density filters in the past, but they were out of my price range. After I get completely set-up for wildlife, then I’ll look at the ND filters again.

        • The polarizer will typically give you the equivalent of up to two stops of neutral density.

          With ND filters, you have a choice of going with a single variable filter or a small number of fixed filters. I went the latter route and have a three- stop and six stop. With the polarizer, that gives me from one to 11 stops (assuming a willingness to stack multiple filters. A variable ND is, frankly, a simpler approach.

  3. Those are some incredible mossy conifers! Great photos as usual!

  4. I so enjoy your photos. Your latest ones remind me of the years I grew up in the Vancouver (Canada) area. I love the textures and colors in your photos. Each of your photos are like a visual poem. Thank you!

    • A belated thanks! (Somehow, I missed this comment when it was originally posted; my apologies for the extremely delayed reply.)

  5. […] It wasn’t encouraging at first light.  The marine layer, which had played such a big role on Day 6, was still hanging around and it didn’t appear that there would be a sunrise.  As I made my […]


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