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

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Like!

  2. gorgeous!

    • Thanks very much!

  3. I’m beginning to understand how you get such great images.

    Being from a relatively flat area like southern Michigan, and with our beaches more or less featureless other than the footprints and sand castles left from the previous day, I would have gravitated to the viewpoints first. But, I can see exactly what you’re talking about in this post with so many more possibilities at the beach level. I only hope that if I ever make it there someday, that this sticks with me, and that I don’t go for the sense of space that I’d get from the higher viewpoints.

    • You’re right, on both the eastern and western sides of southern Lake Michigan, there aren’t too many opportunities to obtain a bird’s eye view. (There are other parts of the Great Lakes where there are some high bluffs, along parts of Lake Superior, for instance.) The Atlantic coast of the U.S., south of Maine, is like this as well.

      If you do make it out to the Pacific coast at any point, definitely don’t eschew the viewpoints completely–there are some absolutely terrific vistas to be seen. But…yeah, I’ll stick with my recommendation in this post: there are almost invariably far more options to be had at beach level.

  4. I read the entire post and I have to agree with you on your choice to stay on the beaches rather than the high viewpoints. I love this series and your work is fantastic. You have prompted me to start planning a trip. I did want to ask, when would be the best time of year to visit the Red Wood NP? Thanks for a great read and I look forward to more.

    Terry
    Somewhere Down The Road
    http://www.somewheredowntheroad.photo

    • Thanks very much for the kind words.

      Re your question about timing, first let me clear up one common misconception (one that I held myself until I started looking into making specific plans for the redwoods): the redwoods parks are a joint venture between the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. While there is a “Redwood National Park,” most of the areas containing the redwood groves in Del Norte and Humboldt counties are in one of a number of state parks–Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods SP and Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, for instance. Just FYI.

      Regarding timing…I think the best choice for timing is in the late spring–most years, probably the last 10 days of May to the first 10 days of June. This is the time most likely to coincide with the rhododendron bloom (I expected to be a bit early for the bloom myself and that was in fact the case; I was in the redwoods from roughly May 10-14 and the rhododendron were mostly just budding while I was there. When the flowers are in bloom it adds a wonderful dash of color to what is mostly a (very attractive) green/brown mix that’s unmistakable. There’s also supposed to be daily fog, pretty much year-round, in the coastal groves, which would be a magnificent ambiance additive. I, being the lucky S.O.B. that I am, saw almost none of this–just two brief foggy periods during the parts of five days I was there. But the combination of blooming rhododendron and fog, in addition to the magnificence of these forests, really can’t be beat, and that means from mid-May to mid-June.

  5. I agree that you made the right call and your reasoning behind the decision. The images are, of course, stunning regardless of whether they were taken from viewpoints or beach level.

    • Thanks very much, Ellen.

  6. Beautiful images, Kerry.

    • Thanks very much, Scott.

      • Always, Kerry…..


Please feel free to comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: