Posted by: kerryl29 | May 26, 2020

The Story Behind the Image: By the Sea

Landscape photography is fundamentally about seeing; of that I am convinced.  But sometimes seeing is only the first step; completing the photo requires figuring out how to execute the process, and that can take on many different forms.  Consider the following experience.

In the spring of 2015, I took a trip to the 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 secondary destination on the same trip was the redwood forest of far northern California, where I spent a few days.

There are several state parks–and one national park–devoted to the redwood groves in this part of California which are jointly managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the National Parks Service.  I was staying in Crescent City and was making the drive to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park, both of which are located 30-plus minutes south of Crescent City.  Doing so required driving through Del Norte Redwoods State Park which, unsurprisingly, is mostly made of up of forest.  But as you drive south on US-101, known colloquially as the Redwood Highway, and you reach the southern portion of the Del Norte, you hit a clearing and you can see the Pacific Ocean.

The Redwood Highway in this area is a winding two-lane road that hugs the coastal area; it’s quite hilly, if not truly mountainous in nature.  Guard rails line most of the ocean side of the road, for obvious reasons.  Shoulders are narrow and rare.  Pull-offs are rarer still, and when they are present, it’s almost impossible to anticipate them because of the dramatic curves in the road and the decent amount of traffic on this, the only north-south through route in the area.  By the time you see a pull-off, it’s virtually impossible to safely access it.

On the morning of my drive south, I was admiring the scene, while still keeping my eyes mostly on the road, and I caught a glimpse of a patch of yellow in my peripheral vision.  I quickly glanced at it, saw what looked like a shock of flowers and the ocean and then…it was gone…because I’d driven past it, whatever it was exactly.  I went on to my planned destinations, where I spent most of the rest of the day, but I couldn’t get the earlier experience out of my mind.  I attempted to find the location again when I returned to Crescent City that evening, but I was heading the wrong direction and couldn’t spot it.

Determined to get a better look at what had caught my attention, I made a special trip back to the area, again heading south on the Redwood Highway, the next day.  I couldn’t remember exactly where I had seen what I’d spotted, but tried to go relatively slowly when I approached what I thought was the area, without holding up traffic.  I caught sight of the yellow this time and could tell that the color represented a patch of wildflowers.  What’s more I could see, though I didn’t have time enough to slow down and stop, that there was a pull-out located a very short distance north of the wildflower patch that would provide some access to the spot.  I drove ahead to the Wilson Creek Beach parking area, about a mile south of my pull-out, and turned around, heading back north on the Redwood Highway.  When I got all the way to the parking area for the Damnation Creek Trail, at least five miles up the road to the north, I pulled in and again turned around, heading back south.  I made sure that I waited to pull out on the road so that no one was right behind me and headed back toward the pull-out.

This time, I was able to anticipate the spot and was able to get off the road.  I still wasn’t sure that there was a photograph to be made, but I felt compelled to check it out.  The light wasn’t any good at the moment, but if I determined that the spot was photo-worthy, I could plan to come back when the light was nicer.  So, I checked it out.  What I found was the patch of wildflowers serving a s foreground for a very attractive coastal view.  With good light and a nice sky, I reasoned, this would make a very nice image indeed.  Accordingly, I marked the spot on my GPS so finding it wouldn’t be a problem in the future.

Early evening on the following day, I planned to photograph sunset at Wilson Creek Beach.  My pull-off would be right along the way, so I made the decision to stop there first.  The conditions were almost perfect.  The light was quite nice, the sky was partly cloudy, with interesting formations and there wasn’t a breath of wind–a much appreciated factor since I knew that I’d have to focus stack to complete the shot.  With access to the pull-out and the lack of wind, executing the final image was a simple matter and, I think, well worth the effort.

Pacific Coast, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California


  1. This is a wonderful coastal image. I really like how the diagonal lines of the flowers, hillside beyond, and the clouds compliment each other.

  2. Pretty colourful with nice leading lines. I know what it is like to pull off the highway in spots like got to be careful, but worth the many images did you stack. AmI correct ot think that process is done so the whole photo is in focus, from nearest to the farthest?

    • Thanks, Jane.

      Correct on your interpretation of focus stacking; I believe this was a stack of three images.

  3. Do you know what the yellow flowers were?

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