Archive for the ‘Oregon Coast’ Tag

Single-Image Sunday: Last Light is First Light   19 comments

I’m a photographer who gets way more pumped up about the photography than the camera equipment.  But I do occasionally get jazzed about gear.  When I buy a camera or lens brand new, its first light is something to be celebrated.  I buy used quite a lot, so when I get something that has never seen light enter it, I want to make it special.

I had just arrived in the little town of Pacific City, Oregon.  I was late because of too many little detours along the way.  Having not visited the piece of heaven called the Oregon Coast for a long time, I was very excited.  I missed sunset at Cape Kiwanda, but while searching for a place to camp, I came upon an arm of the Little Nestucca River estuary that looked quite nice in the evening light.  Since I got my kayak, I’m constantly on the lookout for cool places to park and drop it in the water.  It was too late for that, but estuaries are one of my favorite environments (see below), so I stopped.

Though I really couldn’t afford it, I recently bought a new lens.  It is a 21 mm. f/2.8 prime lens made by Carl Zeiss: manual-focus only, all metal construction.  The very last of the day’s light was backlighting some flowers blooming on the bank of the estuary, so I decided this would be first light for my new lens.  The exposure was long at 25 seconds, so the flowers have a little bit of blur from the small breeze.  But the sharpness and color rendition are Zeiss-like for sure!

Estuary of the Little Nestucca, Oregon Coast.  21 mm., 25 sec. @ f/13, ISO 200.

Estuary of the Little Nestucca, Oregon Coast. 21 mm., 25 sec. @ f/13, ISO 200.


Estuaries are where rivers meet the sea.  All sorts of interesting things take place in these transition zones.  They’re not just fascinating in a biological sense, but also in a geomorphic and geological sense as well.  Abundant sediment from the river gets strung out by waves and longshore currents into spits and bars, forming embayments.  Sedimentary features of estuaries show the influence of tide, delta and waves, with of all sorts of burrowing life marking the strata.  And so ancient estuaries, while fairly rare, stick out prominently in the ancient rock record.

But it’s the mix of freshwater and marine life that makes modern estuaries so interesting and productive for fishing.  Life is in delicate balance, and because humans like to settle along estuaries, they are under threat worldwide.  With the salt-tolerant grasses and other plants forming shelter, estuaries are nurseries for a huge number of species.   Pollution hits the young especially hard.  Sediment tainted by humans covers oyster beds, killing them.  Overfishing and pollution both reduce crabs and fish dramatically.

I grew up near the shore of the biggest estuary in North America, the Chesapeake Bay.  I remember fishing and crabbing as a kid in the summer.  I can still feel the cool mud squishing between my toes as we walked from crab line to crab line.  For us, a crab line was simply a thick piece of string, one end tied to a stick sunk in the mud and the other tied around an old piece of chicken (which we’d get from the store before they threw them out).

You threw the chicken in the water from shore, let a little time go by, then while one person waited with a long-handled net, the other slowly drew the string into shore.  As soon as you could tell there was a crab (or crabs) dining on the chicken, you scooped them up.

Later that day you steamed the crabs live in a big pot with Bay Seasoning, the live crustaceans making a huge racket.  Newspaper was spread on a picnic table.  Wooden mallets in hand, we would feast on fresh Maryland blue crab!  Sadly, these days crabs can’t be caught by kids along the shore using such simple methods.  And the oyster beds are a tiny fraction of what they once were.

Let’s hope humans can get their act together before these precious ecosystems are rendered sterile.  I would love it if, one day in the near future, young boys and girls could once again tramp down to the bayshore and make memories crabbing and fishing.

Happy Summer Solstice!   10 comments

Sunrise over Klamath Marsh, south-central Oregon.

Sunrise over Klamath Marsh, south-central Oregon.  Click on image for purchase options.

It is that special day today, Summer Solstice!  It’s the longest day of the year and the first day of summer for the Northern Hemisphere.  For all you Southerners it’s Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and start of winter.  For today I’m posting one sunrise, from Klamath Marsh in southern Oregon, and one sunset, from the Pacific Coast just south of the Oregon-California border.

Please let me know if you’re interested in fine-art prints of the images here, or want to buy rights to the high-resolution files.  They’re not available for free download except with my permission.  Please contact me, thanks!

You may already know this but the Earth is tilted on its axis about 23.5 degrees.  This tilt gives us our seasons, and means as we go around the Sun there are four moments (not whole days) when things line up.  In March and again in September there’s a moment when the North Pole is tilted precisely along our path of travel, our orbit, at a perfect right angle to the Sun’s direction.  These are the equinoxes, when day and night are equal the world over.


In December there’s a moment when the North Pole points directly away from the Sun.  In June, usually on the 21st but sometimes on the 20th, a moment comes when the North Pole points directly toward the Sun.  This puts the Sun as far north in our skies as it can get.  In the Southern Hemisphere it’s low in the sky, leading to short days.  In the Northern Hemisphere it’s high in the sky, leading to long days.

In the far north above the Arctic Circle, where I spent a couple summers a long time ago in Alaska, the Sun never sets at this time of year.  It skims along nicely above the northern horizon throughout the wee hours.  I went on several long hikes in the Brooks Range when I was up there working.  I’m a person who needs darkness to sleep, and I was having trouble staying asleep.  So I used the time to see the midnight sun trace its path across the sky above the Arctic Plain.

Our encampment was down in a valley with a fairly high ridge to the north, so you couldn’t see the midnight sun for about 8 full hours.  It took about an hour and a half to climb the ridge, and I”m sure it would take twice that long for me now!  In good weather there was a clear view out to the Chukchi Sea to the west, the Noatak River Valley to the north.  The glowing sun glided not far above the horizon.

I recall seeing a few grizzlies on their rounds down below.  I never ran into one close, but being alone I was cautious.  I avoided obvious passes and other places a bear might use to cross from one valley to another.

So enjoy our long days all you fellow Northerners.  If you live relatively close to the equator, I’m sorry but all this talk of seasons and change is a bit lost on you.  But heck, go ahead and celebrate with the rest of us!

The rugged Pacific Coast of far northern California witnesses many a fine sunset.

The rugged Pacific Coast of far northern California witnesses many a fine sunset.  Click on image for purchase options.

The Campaign   18 comments

A skiff of snow overnight and a very frosty autumn morning near Dallas Divide in Colorado's Rocky Mountains.

A skiff of snow overnight and a very frosty autumn morning near Dallas Divide in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

This is an image from my last road trip through the American West.  I had hoped to just catch the fall’s last colors in the Rockies, after most of the other photographers had gone, believing the peak had passed.

I spent a freezing night and next morning the sun didn’t show.  Instead the light was a sort of overcast glow, great for details and colors in either macro or intimate landscapes, but with a sky very unfriendly to larger landscape images.

Besides very high contrasts, the relatively featureless sky was a problem.  As I drove down out of the Mt Sneffels Range trying to avoid being stuck in the snow, it turned to rain.  So I just stopped and admired the beautiful tones and detail in the landscape, and the great fencing in that country, decorated with frost.

I decided to throw on a parka, protect my camera from the cold rain and make an attempt at capturing some images.  I was sure none would end up to be award-winners, but that wasn’t stopping me with this fairly unique color palette in front of me.

Now I know that just broke my promise of avoiding giving you a boring blow-by-blow account of image capture in this blog.  But I just wrote that because this is one of those images I could never have made with this point and shoot camera I’ve been using ever since my DSLR died a painful death.

Too much detail and depth would have been lost, and the colors would not have been rendered quite as faithfully by the little zoom lens.  And besides, you really need a decent DSLR, one with good dynamic range, to handle these contrasts.  Even using a graduated ND filter is virtually impossible with a point and shoot camera.

And there are countless other images that I’ve made that would never have been possible without a certain minimum  in quality of camera and lens.  Starscapes, for example, are impossible.

In other words, this little snapshot camera can only go so far before it stymies me.  It won’t work.  I simply cannot remain a serious photographer this way.  I can’t pursue my short and long-term goals, can’t chase the dream.

This long exposure starscape from the Grand Canyon would of course had been impossible without my full-size camera.

This long exposure starscape from the Grand Canyon would of course had been impossible without my full-size camera.

Last week I started a crowdfunding campaign in order to replace the lost camera gear.  Although I’ve gotten some contributions, for which I am so grateful, it needs to ramp up in speed.  I’m working on some other (local non-tech-based) ways to advertise the campaign, but I definitely need more online help as well.  There is no problem with the campaign.  The goals I have are both realistic and designed to make a difference.  And in exchange for contributions I am giving away high-resolution, high-quality images, plus my knowledge.  But more eyes need to see it.

I can be persistent, almost to an extreme.  I will keep at this until I succeed.  I have real faith that my vision and the way I see this beautiful world will garner enough genuine appreciation among people to be worth continuing and doing something useful with.

And so, please, when you have a few minutes, check out the write-up and sample gallery.  It is on a crowdfunding site called Indiegogo, and here is the link:  My Campaign.  If you decide you can afford a contribution, you will not only have my heartfelt thanks, you’ll have some of my images for your wall too!

But I have another request.  Equally important to contributions is getting the word out to a wider audience.  You all are a pretty darn loyal and sincere bunch.  In fact, you’re what has kept me blogging!  So I have faith you can help me to spread the word.  Share that link, talk to your friends, have them take a look at my website (though there is a good sampling of images also on the campaign’s page).

I hope you don’t mind if I remind you by including a simple blurb and link in succeeding blog posts.  It’s very important to me.  Thanks for reading and have a fantastic weekend!

One of my favorite sunset  images, classic Oregon Coast.  The metaphor is too tempting: I don't want the sun to set on my photography.

One of my favorite sunset images, classic Oregon Coast. The metaphor is too tempting: I don’t want the sun to set on my photography.

Quick Trip to the Coast: Part II   8 comments

Low tide at the Oregon Coast

Low tide at the Oregon Coast

This is the second of two parts on a section of the Oregon Coast between Cannon Beach and Depoe Bay.  It’s a part of the coast where you can make a sort of loop from Portland.  Just take Highway 26 west from town and head all the way over to Cannon Beach.  Then travel south on Highway 101 through Tillamook (did somebody say “cheese tour”?) and on to Lincoln City.  Past this large town is a beautiful stretch of coastline to Depoe Bay.  From here you can backtrack to Lincoln City then take Highway 18 back to Portland.

Perched Gull

On the way south to Depoe Bay, a beach stop I can definitely recommend is Fogarty Creek.  This state park has two access points about 1/4 mile from each other; turn east off the highway.  Either one takes you to a large grassy and treed area where you can park and picnic.  But the real show is out on the beach.  Walk the short trail along the pretty creek to a wild beach where you can explore for fossils and agates.  It’s easier to walk north; southward you’ll soon be blocked by a headland in all but very low tides.  The fossil clams and other concretions are very easy to find in the rocks along the beach.

Exploring somewhat inaccessible rocky areas of the Oregon Coast is my favorite thing to do there.

Exploring somewhat inaccessible rocky areas of the Oregon Coast is my favorite thing to do there.

Depoe Bay is one of those little towns that make the Oregon Coast popular with those who like cute towns and plenty of gift shops.  It has an excellent little whale-watch museum/station where volunteers are very eager to show you gray whales if they are visible.  There are also whale-watch tours that leave from the snug little harbor.  You can see them year-round, but spring and late fall are probably best.


Boiler Bay is a great place to explore.  You will see a sign for it on the left as you drive out of Depoe Bay heading north.  You can pull off and get a view of the bay.  This is a good place to watch for whales.  But to access the shore of the bay for its excellent tide-pooling and exploration you’ll need to do a little more work.

Working your way down this is the first sight of Boiler Bay.

Working your way down this is the first sight of Boiler Bay.

Boiler Bay

Boiler Bay

 Access is impossible from the viewpoint, but if you’re adventurous enough to handle the slippery rocks, you can certainly handle finding the access.  So I won’t spill the beans here (I might anger a local!).  This is the second time I’ve explored down here.  There were a healthy number of tourists up above, but despite the fact they could see me from the viewpoint, I had the bay to myself.



I see you sea anemone!

I see you sea anemone!

The rocky coastline at Boiler Bay is really only navigable during low tide, and my timing was good in that respect.  Making my way over slippery rocks, around small headlands and into coves where you never know exactly what you’ll find, peering into tidepools at sea-stars, anemones and crabs: this is what I love best to do on our coast.  The old rusty boiler for which this place is named has been sitting in this spot since 1910 when the ship it came from exploded and sank.  For me it made a good subject despite average light for photos.

Boiler Bay

Seastar not starfish!

The old boiler in Boiler Bay is used as a perch by seabirds.

The old boiler in Boiler Bay is used as a perch by seabirds (murres I believe).

What a spectacular place and day!  A couple gray whales were spouting just offshore of the bay mouth.  I watched them for awhile but they were too far for pictures.  This is a fine spot to go tidepooling, and I want to come back for sunset pictures someday, hopefully when we have unusually low tides.  All in all a great foray to the Coast.  Hope you enjoyed the pictures and story.

Edge of Kiwanda

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