Posted by: kerryl29 | April 27, 2020

The Story Behind the Image: Bandon Beach at Sunset

[If you’re wondering why I’m detailing photographic experiences on this blog as if a pandemic wasn’t ravaging the planet, click here.  Be sure to read the comments.]

Photographing on the Oregon coast can be frustrating.  Despite indescribable beauty stretching for hundreds of miles, being able to appreciate the splendor without a thick pasting of marine layer fog can be difficult to achieve.  That truism, in fact, describes pretty much the entire Pacific coast, from (roughly) Santa Barbara, California in the south all the way to the Cape Flattery, on the northwest tip of Washington.

I got a heavy dose of this reality when I spent a few days on the Oregon coast in July of 2009, when views, particularly around sunset, were pretty much always extinguished by the marine layer.  On one of two days when I was based in Bandon, Oregon that year, I spent hours on the beach beginning in the afternoon, right through the evening, in a futile attempt to see a Pacific sunset.  It wasn’t a total waste of time, as the marine layer thinned just enough shortly before the appointed hour of sunset to produce a diffused, surreal scene.  The glow was fleeting, however.

Bandon Beach at Sunset, Oregon

Bandon is known for its long, deep beach, which is rarely if ever truly crowded, and for its plethora of interestingly shaped offshore rocks and seastacks.  When I returned to the Oregon coast–this time for a full week–in May of 2015, I based myself in Gold Beach, a solid hour south of Bandon, but I was determined to spend a bit of time, weather conditions permitting, at the latter spot.  I wanted to see what a Bandon sunset was like.

I spent part of the third day of that particular trip mostly at points north of Gold Beach.  I was at Floras Lake State Natural Area, just north of Cape Blanco, late in the afternoon that day.  Unsurprisingly, a marine layer event had fogged things in that day, but as I was trudging back to my car I noticed that the marine layer was beginning to burn off.  I was only about 20 minutes south of Bandon and I decided that this was the time to take a chance.  I was nearby, the unfolding weather was beginning to look promising; this might be my shot at Bandon without the fog.

Sure enough, as I drove closer and closer to Bandon, the conditions became better and better.  By the time I pulled into the parking lot at Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, the marine layer was completely gone.  It was only about an hour until sunset and things looked good.  I descended to the beach, and headed to the area that I’d found so appealing six years earlier.  The tide situation was a bit different, but it didn’t matter all that much.  What did matter, however, was that, unlike my previous visit when I’d been the only photographer on the entire beach (best I could tell), this time there were a number of other individuals already set up when I got there.  That meant that, unlike my prior experience, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to go anywhere I wanted, whenever I wanted.  I needed to pick out a spot, one that wouldn’t interfere with anyone else already on site, and pretty much stay put.

And so I did.  And I got a few images that I was relatively pleased with, if not entirely wild about (see immediately below).

Bandon Evening, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

The thing about photographing rocks and seastacks is that composing them in a pleasing way, where they don’t merge with one another much, if at all, can be extremely challenging.  It can be hard enough when you’re free to set up anywhere; it’s immeasurably more difficult when you can’t move about.

The truly spectacular sunset that I think we were all hoping for never really happened.  Despite a very nice array of clouds, the sun dropped behind a cloud bank as it dipped below the horizon, which muted its impact considerably.  The other photographers melted off and I used that opportunity to move.  The light was still nice and if the post-sunset sky wasn’t epic, it was still quite pleasing.  Craving a completely different look, I virtually ran up the beach to the north, hoping that I’d find something that caught my eye before the light faded to nothing.

Suddenly, I found it.  Unmarred ripples in the wet sand.  An arching waterline lovingly wrapping around a foreground rock.  Face Rock itself, with a smattering of others, off in the distance.  The pastel-colored clouds and their reflections in the tidepool and wet sand.  I set up quickly, fine-tuned the composition to maximize the effect of the leading line and produced the image you see below.

Sunset, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon

Finally–and fortunately for me, not for the last time on this trip–the marine layer had cooperated at sunset.



  1. I wasn’t looking at the merging in the second photo at first because I was entranced by the colour and reflections. This is a good lesson for me, and often look for that in the field, but not often enough.Thanks for the lesson. The sunset is amazing.

  2. Gorgeous pics. We spent time in Bandon 2 years ago and had nothing but sunny, beautiful days. In fact, I completely fried my face on the beach! Everyone told us we picked the best week of the decade to visit, which is wonderful, but it makes us want to live there, our apparently unrealistic vision of the place! Have you been there for Circles in the Sand?

    • Thanks very much. Out of curiosity, what time of year were you in Bandon?

      I have not been there for Circles in the Sand. I’ve seen images of the creations, but haven’t seen them in person.

      • We were there over Memorial Day, 2018. Just fantastic. And, from what I hear, strange indeed! Circles in the sand was really something to behold. We helped a little and enjoyed the morning thoroughly. I wrote about it here: if you want to see a few more pictures!

        • Thanks for that link. It was interesting to see more images of the phenomenon, not to mention the advantage of the intriguing write-up.

  3. This is amazing. Love how you told the stories along with these breathtaking photos. Thank you so much for this.

    • Thanks very much for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment; I greatly appreciate it.

  4. congratulations on your perseverance because it certainly paid off. Also enjoyed the story behind the photos.

    • Thanks very much!

  5. Rippled and stippled.

  6. Beautiful photos!

  7. Beautiful glow and reflection! 💙

  8. […] West Coast.  The principal destination was the southern Oregon coast, where I spent a week.  (The Bandon Beach image that was the subject of a recent Story Behind the Image entry, was made on this trip.)  The […]

  9. […] Coast.  The hope on that trip was that I’d be able to avoid the occasionally persistent marine layer that plagued my previous experience back in the summer of 2009; in general, that proved to be the […]

  10. […] that mornings on the West Coast of North America aren’t utterly engaging (assuming that the marine layer is behaving […]

  11. […] have complained at length, on this blog and elsewhere, about my experience with the marine layer on the Pacific Coast during my time in […]

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