Posted by: kerryl29 | August 18, 2015

Day 9: Honing In

As I mentioned in a thematic piece posted a few weeks ago–and as I (hopefully) demonstrated in a post or two since–the notion that sunrises on the West Coast aren’t worth photographing is, to put it politely, piffle.  So, having experienced Wilson Creek Beach firsthand, albeit briefly on the previous evening, I decided to return before dawn the following morning.  True to form, while the scene was certainly less dramatic at sunrise it was, in my estimation, every bit as memorable.

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

With a nice smattering of clouds in the western sky and the soft light of dawn–not to mention the seastacks, the dynamic impact of each ocean swell and a location with subject appeal in three directions–the scene changed, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, with each passing moment.

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

The technical considerations were less challenging than during sunset; while the sky was, obviously, much brighter than the rest of the scene, the disparity was considerably less than the previous evening, making the dynamic range issues easier to cope with.

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

And while the light was changing by the minute, as it had the previous evening, this photo session felt like much less of a scramble, for two principal reasons:

  1. On this occasion–unlike sunset the night before–I had arrived on site well in advance of the time when the light reached its aesthetic apex.  At sunset, you’ll recall, things were already well underway before I reached the location.
  2. The previous evening’s experience had given me some familiarity with the compositional elements of the scene that I was able to leverage during sunrise the following day.
Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

The trip to Wilson Creek Beach–15-odd minutes from my Crescent City base–had taken me right past the Damnation Creek trailhead.  Having finished my sunrise coast session, I returned to that trailhead.  (You’ll recall that I first investigated the Damnation Creek Trail briefly on the afternoon of Day 7.)  The Damnation Creek Trail winds its way into the best of the redwood groves in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, crossing the Coastal Trail after about 2/3 mile.  The Coast Trail–a remnant of the old coast highway–runs as a two-track for several miles on both sides of the junction with the Damnation Creek Trail.  The very best of the redwood groves in Del Norte lie within the first leg of the Damnation Creek Trail and  on the Coast Trail for about a mile both north and south of the junction.

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

With a complete absence of fog and mostly sunny skies in the day’s forecast, my plan was to shoot in the first segment of the Damnation Creek Trail and then along the Coastal Trail until the rising sun’s presence created the kind of harsh, contrasty conditions that I prefer to avoid when pursuing forest photography.

Forest Floor Intimate, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Forest Floor Intimate, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Towering Redwoods, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Towering Redwoods, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

After checking in on my most promising set of rhododendron blossoms, originally discovered two days earlier, I decided to give them another day (in the futile hope of experiencing some fog and completely calm conditions) before photographing them.  I then turned my attention to somewhat wider scenes, but the sun made it difficult to do much with those, so I honed in on intimates and closeups.

Bracken Fern Closeup, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Bracken Fern Closeup, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Redwood Trunk Black & White, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Redwood Trunk Black & White, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

As the sun rose higher, the number of spots in open shade diminished and the breeze picked up a bit as well, more or less putting an end to the morning redwoods session by 10:30 or so.  I made my way back to the trailhead and returned to Crescent City.  I spent what was left of the morning and just about all of the afternoon exploring the Crescent City harbor area, which turned out to be a lot more interesting than I expected.

For one thing, I had some fun watching the group of sea lions that hang out on some of the docks that dot the area near the town’s working harbor.  I nabbed a grab shot of them, as you can see below.

Sea Lions, Crescent City Harbor, Del Norte County, California

Sea Lions, Crescent City Harbor, Del Norte County, California

I spent most of the rest of my time fully exploring the Battery Point area.  There’s a lighthouse in Crescent City–it remains operational but is accessible to the public–called Battery Point Light, and it’s a very, very attractive structure and grounds.  I wandered over there to check it out under a hazy sunshine.

Battery Point Light, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light, Del Norte County, California

After visiting the lighthouse grounds themselves, I explored the waterfront both north and south of Battery Point.  To the south, a pier extends hundreds of feet into the harbor.  I strolled to the end and I decided I liked the geometry of the location, with Battery Point in the background.  My only company was a couple of seagulls (you can see one on the railing to the left and the other is atop the nearest light pole, on the right).  The ambient light was sufficiently blah that I made the shot with a black and white conversion in mind.

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Pier Black & White, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Pier Black & White, Del Norte County, California

I then navigated my way north of Battery Point and found a tiny overlook park, located alongside South Pebble Beach Drive.

Battery Point Light from Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

The tide was low, and even though the light wasn’t the greatest, I made a few images, with the full intention of coming back later when the light was better.

Battery Point Light from Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

I then returned to the area south of the point and wandered out on the harbor jetty.  With the tide out and the surf light, the top of the jetty was bone dry so I felt comfortable walking out a good distance to find a composition highlighting the lighthouse in the background.  I ultimately composed a pair of shots, both of which I converted to black and white to account for the light.  I’ll include both the color and monochrome versions of both images for the sake of comparison.

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty Black & White, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty Black & White, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty Black & White, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Crescent City Harbor Jetty Black & White, Del Norte County, California

Late in the afternoon I returned to the Battery Point Overlook.  The light was undeniably better and the tide was much higher.  The former was an obvious improvement; I’m not sure that the latter was, however.

Battery Point Light from Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

Battery Point Light from Battery Point Overlook, Del Norte County, California

In any event, if you compare the image immediately above to the earlier sequence you’ll get a sense of just how dramatically a scene can be altered by the ebb and flow of an ocean tide.  The images were made just a few hours apart.

After putting a wrap on Battery Point for the day, I decided to head back to Wilson Creek Beach for sunset.  The early evening cloud situation appeared promising, so I made the drive south on the Coast Highway, through the redwoods.  On my drive south the previous day–to Prairie Creek and the Lady Bird Johnson Grove–I had noticed what appeared to be a very interesting view from an unofficial pullout, north of Wilson Creek Beach.  I had just caught a glimpse of it while driving along this winding, steep section of road, but I was determined to find it again and see if it was worthy of photographing.

I was driving relatively slowly, so I wouldn’t miss the pullout (if I did miss it I’d have to drive several miles farther south–all the way to Wilson Creek Beach–turn around and come back, and then bypass it again in favor of another pullout farther north because there would be no way to safely turn into the unofficial pullout by crossing the road on what was a steep, blind curve).  With some cars beginning to pile up behind me, I pulled off the road at an official pullout (which did not have an interesting view) to let the vehicles pass.  When I saw a long clear stretch, I pulled back onto the highway…and in only about a half-mile, I found the pullout I had been looking for and accessed it without incident.  And I couldn’t have been happier that I did.

By walking around the end of a guard rail I found myself waist-high in a sea of yellow wildflowers, with a beautiful view of the coast extending to the horizon.  There was a breeze present but it was light; the sky was rich with complementary clouds and the directional light of early evening was already quite pleasant.

Pacific Coast, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Pacific Coast, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

With this unexpected treasure, I figured I’d already found the day’s payoff, regardless of what happened at the beach.  And that was probably just as well, because the sunset pretty much fizzled.  Oh, I got some images I was happy with, but any chance of a truly spectacular sunset didn’t come off because the cloud cover ultimately stretched all the way across the western horizon, and then some, blotting out the impact of the very best of the setting sun’s light on the clouds in the sky.

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

But the clouds–especially the ones to the southwest–were very appealing this evening

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

The scene to the west, however, just kind of petered out, as I noted above.  Still, I stuck around until it was almost completely dark, playing around with some moderately long exposures to see what kind of patterns developed in the water.

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

I packed up and headed back to Crescent City, quite satisfied with the day’s experience.  Little did I know that the following day would be considerably more memorable, and for reasons having nothing to do with photography.

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Responses

  1. Wow… this is quite a stunning post…

    Incredible landscape images and as always, very captivating write up too 🙂

    Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

    • Thanks very much!

  2. I always enjoy your posts! They are awesome.

  3. Oh the sunsets you’re missing now. I’ve been too preoccupied to catch any, but I’m hearing reports that they are other-worldly because of the wildfires near Gold Beach and elsewhere.

    • PS Someday I WILL catch a sunrise. You have inspired me with your lovely images.

    • That must mean that the marine layer is at bay this summer (otherwise there would be no sunsets of any kind). In any event, I can only imagine what the coast must look like in the evenings these days…

      • Made the time to check out the sunset tonight at Bandon. Got to the beach just as the sun started sinking toward the horizon. The color was pretty awesome. (Haven’t downloaded my catch yet.) But then it eventually disappeared into a low bank of marine layer. Snuffed the color without hardly trying. So it goes… summertime on the west coast! Have not had a chance to see what it’s doing farther south yet.

        • At least you got to see some of what happened. Your experience at Bandon parallels mine on the one evening I took the time to descend to the beach there back in May–it appeared that sunset might be something truly spectacular, but–though it was certainly nice–it fizzled in the end.

          I’m more convinced than ever, based on my own experience and talking with others, that Port Orford represents a kind of unofficial southern coast dividing line much of the time between areas that will be shut out due to the marine layer and those that won’t. South of Port Orford things are much more likely to play out than north of that spot. It’ll be interesting to see if you can essentially verify that once your down in Gold Beach full-time.

    • Thanks…and glad to hear it! I know it’s not much fun to get up well before dawn, but the experience (and the results) will be well worth the trouble.

  4. I have to say it again, not only are your images awe inspiring, but they continue to inspire me to improve my vision of what I want my landscape photos to look like.

    • Thanks very much!

  5. Wonderful light and design, as usual.

  6. BUENOS DIAS: ME DA MUCHISIMA LASTIMA QUE ESTOS LINDOS PAISAJES SE ACABARAN MUY PERO MUY PRONTO EN SOLO 29 AÑOS QUE YA LOS TENEMOS AQUI

    • Gracias por tomarte el tiempo para dejar un comentario.

  7. Your images are so interesting, gorgeous, and such fun…They are amazing treasures to share.

    • Thanks very much for the extremely kind words.

  8. I’ve been following this saga and have to thank you for your tip of ‘scouting the location’. I still carry my camera with me but I have found ‘scouting’ invaluable in the last months travels. Plus I have even more excuse (if it was needed) to get out and wander with a purpose when I am in a new location. Thank you again for your inspiring blog

    • Thanks very much, and it’s exceptionally gratifying to know that you’ve gleaned something actionable–and useful–from this blog.

  9. Love the colours and light in these especially Battery island numbers 11, 13 and 14, also the landscapes at Wison Creek Beach with interesting foreground. and leading lines.

  10. Kerry: I always enjoy and look forward to your work. Your descriptions provide us with the chance to be there without ever leaving the comfort of our homes. You provide one of our missing links to nature’s bounty.

    • Thanks very much–I’m truly happy to hear that you’re finding the write-ups to be of value. I view the text as an integral part of each posting–which is a large part of the reason why I only upload a new installment every week or two–so it’s highly gratifying to know that it’s regarded as valuable.

  11. Thank You. Our family didn’t go on a vacation this summer. Nevertheless, we are enjoying your images.

  12. […] story really starts the previous night (Tuesday, May 12).  As I related in my previous post, I photorgraphed at Wilson Creek Beach, which is about 12 miles south of Crescent City, California. […]

  13. […] returned to the Battery Point Overlook in Crescent City–first visited the previous day–in the pre-dawn darkness of Day 10 with the hope of experiencing some great light.  While […]

  14. […] evening approached, I made my way to Wilson Creek Beach, which I had discovered during my time in the area two years previous.  Now familiar with the spot, I made my way to the point where Wilson Creek […]


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