Posted by: kerryl29 | August 10, 2020

The Story Behind the Image: Oceanside Gloom

Five years ago I paid a return visit to the Oregon 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 case.  On one evening I essentially outran the marine layer, but for the most part on the 2015 trip, the confounding mix of clouds and fog stayed at arm’s length.  That decidedly was not true, however, on Day 6 of that trip, when the marine layer was dominant all day long.

My last stop that day was at Myers Beach, a location I frequented during the trip.  Broadly speaking, I don’t think that even light and low-hanging clouds are particularly conducive to color photography at wide open locations–like beaches.  There are, as always, exceptions to the rule, but they are relatively few and far between in my experience.  But relatively moody scenes can, in my estimation, be rendered with some effectiveness in black and white and that’s what I turned my attention to in the early evening of this day.  After some false signs, it became clear that there would be no significant breakthrough in the marine layer and I sought out scenes, both intimate and sweeping, that I hoped would bring out the emotion of the setting under these circumstances.

Myers Beach is a long, deep stretch of sand that lies on both sides of the Pistol River estuary.  I spent a fair amount of time wandering around the area set back from the surf and sea stacks that dominated most of my forays on the beach.  On the northern edge of the beach that lies north of the river, near Cape Sebastian, I found the remnants of what had probably been a massive piece of driftwood.  It had clearly been in place, far up the beach from the surf, for quite some time and a depression had formed around it in the sand, punctuated by a collection of scattered beach stones.  The dry sand area nearby had been sculpted by the wind into copious ripples.  Because of the location–far from anything–nary a footprint marred the scene.

I carefully approached the log from the rear, taking care not to mar the pristine spot with my own footfalls, and surveyed the scene.  The large scattered sea stacks to the south made for the more pleasing backdrop, I felt, and the contours of the sand made for attractive lines as well.  The looming clouds–best brought out with detail using the enhanced contrast capabilities endemic to monochrome renderings–capped off the scene.  I contemplated the specific perspective that I felt most suitable; lower than eye level, surely, but not too low in this instance.  The mid-ground sand ripples were too sublime to minimize more than a bit.  The driftwood fell naturally into the lower left-hand corner, allowing for the elimination of US-101 to the left and keeping the upper right from being dominated by featureless space, even if it meant losing the very edge of the faux shadow that made up the depression surrounding the log.  A polarizing filter helped bring out some of the detail in the sky and eliminated some sheen caused by the bright overcast conditions.  Wait for a wave to break at the waterline and…click.

Myers Beach Evening Black & White, Pistol River State Park, Oregon


  1. Ah, is that what the coastal clouds/fog are called? Marine layer? I had some other, more colorful, names for it during my visit . Nice comp.

    • Hi Steve. Yeah, my first extended photographic experience with the marine layer was on the initial part of that 2009 trip (not the one from which the image in the post came from) on the beaches of the Olympic Peninsula. This was in early July and the marine layer was absolutely relentless. It would be a cloudless, bright sunny day a few hundred yards inland, but on the coast it was completely socked in. Day after day. It was…frustrating; sounds like you can identify with that. 🙂

  2. I had no idea what you meant by ‘marine layer” so was glad that reading the comment above answered my question. Here in Alberta I would think of blue green algae which happens on many of the lakes making them dangerous for any living thing. I do like the black and white image with the rippled sand and most interesting rocks in the distance. I like the pebbles to the left of the log as well, probably left by the tide.

    • Thanks, Jane.

      The marine layer–usually–takes on the appearance of coastal fog (though it can appear in other forms as well).

  3. A well composed and interesting image that really works well in b&w. You have inspired me to explore B&w more in my photography.

    • Thanks! And good to hear that you’re going to do some additional experimenting with black & white. Monochrome can really open up some options that are ordinarily eschewed with color photography.

  4. Great capture, Yeah the Marine layer is a pain in the backside to deal with, but as I become more accustom to living here now I am learning to wait it out. Usually it burns off around Noon in the summer time, then we get the gorgeous sunny warm weather the rest of the day.

    • Thanks!

      Interesting…my experience in the summer, depending on where I was on the coast, was that the layer typically lasted pretty much all day long. Probably the function of a limited sample size.

  5. Beautuful image! It took readif the comments to know what you meant by marine layer. I hope to travel to the coast in the next few years…Its on my list! I enjoyed reading your post and love the composition and feel of your image!

    • Thanks very much!

      The Pacific Coast has many beautiful spots, but the Oregon coast–and the southern Oregon coast in particular, in my opinion–is simply not to be missed. I hope you have the opportunity to visit there at some point in the relatively near future.

  6. […] fog and, as the sun was rising, it was lifting…everywhere.  It reminded me of a kind of thin marine layer often seen on the Pacific coast…in a place that couldn’t be less […]

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