Archive for the ‘seascapes’ Tag

Golden Hour on the Olympic Coast   6 comments

On the way to the intended sunset spot, I had to stop & shoot this sea stack. 50 mm., 1/80 sec. @ f/10, ISO 200, handheld.

On the way to the intended sunset spot, I had to stop & shoot this sea stack. 50 mm., 1/80 sec. @ f/10, ISO 200, handheld.

Sometimes I follow up the previous week’s Friday Foto Talk post with one that relates in some way to the topic.  So this post is an extension to Using Foregrounds Judiciously.  It’s an example of how I go about using foregrounds, and in general how I often shoot landscapes (it’s not how most do it).

EXAMPLE – Golden Hour on the Olympic Coast:  

A few days ago I was at Rialto Beach on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.  You may have seen pictures of the Olympic Coast on the web; it’s pretty popular with landscapers.  Less popular are sections of the coast away from the road that require hiking.  Backpackers are more common than serious photographers in these areas.

I scouted this one in the afternoon, hiking north along the beach to find good locations for what was looking like a great sunset.  I only took a few photos; mostly I just had fun beach-combing and exploring tide pools.  I don’t always scout ahead of time, but it’s nice when time allows.  It helps to give me ideas of how I want to portray the place.  And it’s fun!  Often I scout but then decide before golden hour to shoot somewhere else.  It’s still valuable though, since I can always return another day.

The coastline north of Rialto is spectacular and much too rugged for a road.  It has a wilderness feel, and it’s wise to take care if you decide to hike here.  Slippery rocks, rough surf, sneaker waves, and giant drift logs that can shift alarmingly under your weight are all potential dangers.

After setting up my camp just inland, I was pressed for time.  I knew where I wanted to hike to: just north of a place called Hole in the Wall (image below), but preferably a 1/2 mile or so farther.  Even though I was in a hurry, I shot along the way.The light was beautiful!  I didn’t take time with a tripod, but it wasn’t strictly necessary with the sun still above the horizon.  These little stops meant I wasn’t going to make it any further than Hole in the Wall, and even then it would be close.

Hole in the Wall, Olympic Coast, Washington. 50 mm., 1/50 sec. @ f/11, ISO 200; hand-held.

Hole in the Wall, Olympic Coast, Washington. 50 mm., 1/50 sec. @ f/11, ISO 200; hand-held.

There is a campsite just before a headland that you have to climb up and over to get where you can shoot Hole in the Wall itself.  Some large sea stacks (formerly one single stack that collapsed several years ago) lie just off the beach there.  This spot is the most popular at Rialto (why I wanted to go further).  A few had their tripods set up, waiting for sunset.  I passed them, shooting a few quick hand-helds.  The stacks there are just too big and close for my liking, at least in silhouette shooting sunset.

From atop the headland over Hole in the Wall, Olympic Coast. 50 mm., 1/6 sec. @ f/13, ISO 50; tripod.

From atop the headland over Hole in the Wall, Olympic Coast. 50 mm., 1/6 sec. @ f/13, ISO 50; tripod.

This may seem like I’m describing a measured approach, and it would’ve been if I was a bit earlier and the sun wasn’t sinking quickly (as it always does except for higher latitudes).  Truth is I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off!

I climbed the headland and shot a few pictures from up top, looking down and out to the north (image above).  Then I stumbled down to the beach, taking a shot along the way, and still I had not gotten any close foreground.  I spotted a tide-pool that was reflecting the lovely light.  It was on a rock shelf composed of thin-bedded sedimentary rock stood on its end, forming great leading lines.  Running down there, I finally got those close-foreground shots I wanted just as the sun set.  I was actually a tad late for the peak light, more on the cusp of blue hour.  But I was just in time for images that I’m happy with, and that’s what counts.

Post-sunset with turbidite sandstone beds standing on their ends, Olympic Coast. 21 mm., 0.5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50; tripod.

Finally some close foreground, which is turbidite sandstone beds standing on end: Olympic Coast. 21 mm., 0.5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50; tripod.

The forest marches right up to the coast, and the big old-growth trees are eventually toppled and add to the collection of huge driftwood logs. 50 mm., 1/50 sec. @ f/11, ISO 400; hand-held.

The forest marches right up to the coast, and the big old-growth trees are eventually toppled and add to the collection of huge driftwood logs. 50 mm., 1/50 sec. @ f/11, ISO 400; hand-held.

As you can see, I try to jam in as much as possible when the light is good.  This is one reason I like to shoot alone.  Most landscapers would look at me and think “there’s a rank amateur”.  Most prefer to be already set up at one place, from which they will shoot for the entire time that light is at its peak.  They don’t miss shots like I sometimes do, but that’s because they’re not trying to get as much as I am.

Sometimes things backfire on me, but I like the variety I can get from a single “light event”.  And even well-planned shots can backfire anyway.  I do sometimes plan or visualize beforehand and stick to a plan to get a particular image.  On those occasions I try not to extemporize (much!).  But that isn’t my main modus operandi, simply because planned shots so often don’t work out.  There are too many variables at play.

This was actually shot a few days later when I returned to get further north, where many pointed sea stacks lie offshore. 70 mm., 1/4 sec. @ f/14, ISO 100; tripod.

This was actually shot a few days later when I returned to get further north, where many pointed sea stacks lie offshore. 70 mm., 1/4 sec. @ f/14, ISO 100; tripod.

To me it seems a bit old-fashioned to set up way ahead of time and stick your feet in the same place throughout the shoot.  It’s what was done in the old days with heavy large-format film gear, even glass plates if you go far enough back.  It’s also what you have to do when you’re shooting very popular compositions, just so you beat your competitors to the spot.  But digital gear is pretty darn lightweight.  So if you’re practiced at using your tripod and camera you can shoot different compositions in fairly rapid succession.  And who wants over-done shots anyway?

As you can see only one of my many shooting positions had very close foreground; the rest had either more distant foreground or middle-ground elements.  Some are just subject and sky.  I don’t always shoot like this of course.  Sometimes I like to work slower and get fewer shots, with more time to admire the moment.  But in a place like the Olympic Coast in great light, it’s tempting to make it sort of a workout.  When it goes well (like last night) I don’t feel stressed.  It’s actually sort of a rush, one that I slowly came down from walking back along the beach, the Pacific glinting in the moonlight.  Happy shooting!

Sunset captured from atop a big drift log, the foreground not very close. 50 mm., 1/5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50; tripod.

Sunset captured from atop a big drift log, almost to my close foreground but not quite there.  50 mm., 1/5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50; tripod.

Quick Trip to the Coast: Part I   8 comments

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I rarely go to the Oregon Coast during summer, since it tends to be too busy and also because other times of year (especially early Spring) are generally better for photography.  Recently it’s been on the brain, however, so I decided a quick trip was in order.  I went during the week, but it was still as busy or busier than I like it.  The weather was sunny but windy and a bit on the cool side.

Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach.

Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach.

The typical summertime weather pattern for the coast is morning clouds breaking for brilliant sunshine by mid-day.  The closer to the ocean itself you get, the cooler it is.  Drive inland for 20-30 minutes and the temperature jumps a good 15-20 degrees.  On the beach itself the wind makes it a little chilly but hide behind a dune and you can be in shorts with no shirt and not feel cold.  The highs adjacent to the beach were in the mid- 60s to low-70s (Farenheit) during the day.  At this very same time much of the rest of the U.S. was suffering through incredible heat.  And even Portland just over an hour away was in the mid-90s (but with low humidity).

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In other words, our coast was the place to be, despite the fact that it would have been perfect had it been 10 degrees warmer.  I’d rather be someplace where you need to move it out to feel comfortable in shorts and T-shirt than be where you make any movement whatsoever and you’re drenched in sweat.

I only spent two nights, heading over to Cannon Beach for sunset then down the coast to the Depoe Bay area before heading back.  This section of our north-central coast includes some great natural sights along with several cutesy towns for strolling.  Cannon Beach is scenic but a bit too popular for me.  I headed down to the Manzanita area to spend the first night.  This is not far south of Cannon Beach yet is less crowded and with a bit more of a natural emphasis.  The huge bulk of Neahkahnie Mountain guards the north side of the little town of Manzanita, where you can rent a house for a weekend or week and enjoy a super-wide beach.

Coarse Sand

The hiking here is among the best on the Oregon Coast.  You can do a short but fairly steep hike up Neahkahnie Mountain from either the south or north.  The south side access is up a little dirt road just south of Highway 101’s high point as it traverses up and over the mountain.  The north side trailhead is on the highway across from a pull-out.  You can also hike the opposite way from this point toward the high sea cliffs and down a switchback trail that eventually leads to spectacular Short Sands Beach.

A pond just inland from the coast has abundant water lilies.  Or are these lotus flowers?

A pond just inland from the coast has abundant water lilies. Or are these lotus flowers?

A much shorter trail to Short Sands starts from a bigger and busier parking lot not far north along the highway.  In either case, a trail continues from Short Sands a couple more miles out onto Cape Falcon.  This is a fantastic hike, well worth it.  Short Sands, which has become quite popular with surfers in recent years, occupies a rocky cove marked by dramatically tilted layers of sandstone.  In summer the beach is plenty wide for standard beach goings on.

I like to combine Neahkahnie and Cape Falcon in a longer hike.  A car or bicycle shuttle makes it a very feasible dayhike.  Leave a car at the main Short Sands parking lot then start at the south trailhead for Neahkahnie.  Hike up and over the mountain down to the north trailhead.  Cross the highway and continue down to Short Sands Beach, then out to Cape Falcon.  Return to the Short Sands parking lot where you left your shuttle vehicle.  This  9- or 10-mile hike gives you an outstanding taste of the wilder side of the Oregon Coast.  It’s just the ticket if you have spent too much time wandering through gift shops in Yachats, Seaside or Cannon Beach.

Gray volcanic rocks are smoothed and polished by the surf.

Gray volcanic rocks are smoothed and polished by the surf.

I drove part of the wonderful Three Capes route, a detour from 101 that takes off from Tillamook & rejoins 101 further south.  For photos, I think Cape Kiwanda is the best of the three.  But Cape Lookout certainly has a lot going for it, including a hike out to the tip of the cape and a great campground & beach.  At Kiwanda, I hiked over the big dune marking its south side, where it’s two steps up and one step down.

The view south from Cape Kiwanda on the Oregon Coast.

The view south from Cape Kiwanda on the Oregon Coast.

I scrambled down to the two rocky coves incised into the soft rock of the cape.  This “almost-sandstone” is buff and orange in color, which is partly why this place is so popular with photographers.  In the largest (and most difficult to reach) rocky cove, a spectacular tall archway is only visible if you walk all the way to the northern tip of the cape.

A nice sunset captured earlier this past spring down in one of Cape Kiwanda's rocky inlets.

A nice sunset captured earlier this past spring down in one of Cape Kiwanda’s rocky inlets.

Your reward is a running and hopping descent of the huge dune on the south side of the cape.  A real return to childhood it is, and since it faces the beach you’ll have an audience!  A further reward is had adjacent to the beach, where friendlies at Pelican Bay Brewery are ready to pour you a mega-pint of IPA (the p standing for pelican not pale).  This little travelogue of the Oregon Coast continues next time with the second of two parts, so stay tuned.  Thanks for reading!

The sea stacks just offshore of Cannon Beach, Oregon are set against a peaceful summer sunset.

The sea stacks just offshore of Cannon Beach, Oregon are set against a peaceful summer sunset.

Spring in the Pacific Northwest – Part II   5 comments

This is an impressive waterfall in Washington's southern Cascade Range, near Mount St. Helens.  Here you see it in full-on spring flood.

This is an impressive waterfall in Washington’s southern Cascade Range, near Mount St. Helens. Here you see it in full-on spring flood.

One Soggy Rose.

One Soggy Rose.

This is the second of two parts on what regions to visit and when in the Pacific Northwest.  The recommendations are particularly relevant for nature and landscape photographers, but anyone who plans to visit during spring or early summer will find it useful.  Since I’m going to just jump in where I left off, it’s best to check out Part I first.

POPULATED AREAS

Speaking of spring flowers (I was actually speaking of them in the 1st part!), let’s not forget the gardens and cultivated areas through the western valleys and cities of the Pacific Northwest.  The tulips bloom starting in April and there are several farms that welcome visitors.  The area around Woodburn is very popular; so popular with photogs. in fact, that I’ve stubbornly avoided taking one picture there!  I do love tulips, and there are plenty around town to photograph.  The roses for which Portland is famous bloom about the time of the city’s signature event, Rose Festival (go figure!).  This is late May into June.  A visit to Portland’s Rose Garden during a cloudy day right after rainfall can yield amazing flower pictures.

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At Portland's Rose Garden, spring showers linger into the season of bloom.

At Portland’s Rose Garden, spring showers linger into the season of bloom.

For people pictures, head down to the waterfront for the Rose Festival itself, or to one of the street fairs such as Last Thursday (Alberta Street, last Thursday of every month, May – October).  Or just go to one of our “hip” neighborhoods and hang out.  There is always something going on in this town.

The cherry blossoms and unsettled weather go along with Spring in Portland, Oregon.

The cherry blossoms and unsettled weather go along with Spring in Portland, Oregon.

Portland's Rose Festival is a great place to stroll around, enjoying the perfect weather and comfort food.

Portland’s Rose Festival is a great place to stroll around, enjoying the perfect weather and comfort food.

The street fair in Portland known as Last Thursday attracts thousands of artists, musicians and spectators.

The street fair in Portland known as Last Thursday attracts thousands of artists, musicians and spectators.

THE COAST

At some point in springtime, hopefully during the kind of off and on weather that the season is known for around here, you’ll want to visit the coast.  The greening up does not skip this part of Oregon, and spring storms can bring great wave action as well.  Extra-low tides are great for exploring (and photographing) the fascinating sea life in tidal pools.  The Oregon Coast is simply one of those places you should try your level best to see at some point.

Big waves pound the tilted layers of an ancient delta at Cape Arago on the central Oregon Coast.

Big waves pound the tilted layers of an ancient delta at Cape Arago on the central Oregon Coast.

And while you’re at it do the northern California coast and/or the Olympic Coast in Washington.  These are just as beautiful as Oregon, since it’s really just a continuation.  Have to admit I’m partial to our coast though.  For one thing, you’ll see no private property signs or fences blocking access to a beach in Oregon.  That would be against the law, since every bit of coast up to high-tide line is public property.  For another, the whole coast is beautiful, from one end to the other.  It’s one long continuous stretch of pretty little towns, capes and sea stacks.  The Olympic Coast is wilder though, being in a National Park.

The sun goes down as wading birds forage for tiny crustaceans along the northern California coast where a creek enters the ocean.

The sun goes down as wading birds forage for tiny crustaceans along the northern California coast where a creek enters the ocean.

Spring used to not be my favorite season around these parts.  I still don’t really like how long it can be. Enough already!  But with the flowers and generally good weather conditions for photography, with the lush green forest and filled-to-the-brim waterfalls, with all the days conducive to rainbows, I’ve come around to liking this season..a lot.  There must be some reason I tend to stick around the Northwest during this time of year.

A small barn in rural western Oregon, at day's end on a typical spring showery day.

A small barn in rural western Oregon, at day’s end on a typical spring showery day.

A perfectly symmetrical daisy blooms in Portland, Oregon.

A perfectly symmetrical daisy blooms in Portland, Oregon.

Of course we have beautiful (but much shorter) autumns.  And summer is filled with near-perfect days and breezy nights (generally too clear for a photographer’s liking though).  Come November now, I’ll be itching to get out of Dodge.  But spring and early summer are really when the Pacific Northwest shines.  The only problem?  There is much too much to do, and with the year’s longest days to do it in.  Spring is also the time to kayak and raft the whitewater on the smaller, undammed rivers.  It’s the time to climb (and ski down) the snow-clad volcanoes.  It’s time to join in the fun of outdoor festivals and outings.  It’s a time when you wonder if sleep really is overrated.

Thanks for looking!

A spring storm clears at Cape Kiwanda on the Oregon coast just in time for sunset.

A spring storm clears at Cape Kiwanda on the Oregon coast just in time for sunset.

Visiting the California Coast near Big Sur   3 comments

In my last post I ranted about the crowds along this stretch of the California Coast that includes the stunning Big Sur.  Well, if you insist on visiting this area instead of the slightly superior (in my opinion) Oregon Coast, please do so during a week other than this one – the week between Christmas and New Years.  I would think much of summer would also be too crowded.  First the bad news, then the good with some recommended stops.

The view north along the California Coast near Big Sur is a classic.

The view north along the California Coast near Big Sur is a classic.

CONS: ACCESS PROBLEMS

I’ve noticed many of my fellow travelers here are on a different wavelength than I am.  They’re dressed to the nines, with heels and nice clothes.  So for them a simple drive with stops to snap photos is what they’re after.  With some exceptions, this is what they get in California.  Coastal access is hampered in this state by lack of foresight.  In Oregon, during the 1960s, Governor Tom McCall passed a law that was brilliant.  In that state, nobody can own the beach; it’s all public.  You will never see a fence with no trespassing signs stretched across the sand in Oregon.

Anna's Hummingbird Feeding

Additionally, there are many many more state parks along the Oregon Coast than on the California Coast.  There are places to access the coastline here, mostly north or south of the Big Sur area.  But a combination of geography (the San Jacinto Mountains are a long and unbroken rank of mountains that keep Highway 1 well up above the ocean) along with the private property have blocked my attempts to experience this coast in the way I like.

I like to take long hikes along the coast, exploring coves and headlands.  This is harder to do here than in Oregon.  Shorter explorations can be done in California, but I’ve found that around Big Sur it’s very difficult.  The Redwood Coast is a little better in this regard.

A green home on the California Coast south of Big Sur basks in winter sunshine.

A green home on the California Coast south of Big Sur basks in winter sunshine.

PROS: 

Redwoods: On the California coast, even this far south, you’ll find the famous Redwood trees.  This is, by the way, something Oregon lacks except for one place in the far south.  Of course if you really want to see the big trees, go up to the Redwood Coast, just south of the border with Oregon.

Golfing: I am not a golfer, but you could do much worse than the Monterrey Peninsula for this sport.  Pebble Beach and a plethora of other courses carpet the land.  By the way, in Oregon, Bandon is a similarly great golfing center.

Elephant Seals and Sea Otters: The stretch of coastline south of Big Sur has many places from which to see these sea creatures.  I would add gray whales to this, but you can see these giants anywhere along the west coast.  Go to Baja in Mexico if you want to get up close and personal with them in their breeding grounds.

Wine & Dine: Although wine country is inland and north from here, there is no shortage of restaurants and wine bars featuring great wines.  In fact, the fine dining in this area is pretty special.  I don’t go in for this type of thing generally, preferring funky cafes and eateries.

Moderate Winter Weather: One winter while living in Alaska I was sent to a conference at Stanford University.  Talk about being thawed out!  The winters south of San Francisco are famous for being rather warm, though big storms are not uncommon.

An Anna's hummingbird rests in the sun before an incredibly energetic feeding session.

An Anna’s hummingbird rests in the sun before an energetic feeding session.

A flower in the gardens of Big Sur Coast Gallery, blooming here in December, is shaped especially for Hummingbirds.

A flower in the gardens of Big Sur Coast Gallery, blooming here in December, is shaped especially for Hummingbirds.

TRAVEL TIPS:

I will focus on photography and nature, since that is what I’m into.

  • Elephant Seals on the beach at San Simeon near the Hearst Castle: These big-nosed seals haul up on the beach and are fairly used to photographers, so you can get pretty close. Don’t get too close though. Males especially can be extremely dangerous.
  • McWay waterfall:  A gorgeous cove and waterfall are accessed by a short trail from Julia Pfeifer State Park, near Big Sur itself.  See image below.
  • The garden at the Big Sur Coast Gallery Cafe:  Up on the headland, you will pass a few lodges and restaurants.  Behind the gas station here (Big Sur’s only one), you’ll find a little cafe with good (but expensive) coffee.  There are cactus all around the place, and they dominate the garden.  But there are all sorts of plants, including those with flowers that draw hummingbirds.
  • Point Lobos:  Not far south of Carmel, you’ll find the Pt. Lobos Reserve.  Hiking trails wind through the trees, and the rocky coastline is chock full of great foregrounds for sunset shots.  This place is very popular, so if you want more solitude try…
  • The headland just south of Point Lobos:  If Pt Lobos is too crowded, go south to the very next headland, just past the public beach.  There is not much parking, but pull in on either side of the hill next to the highway.  A trail heads around on an ocean-side bench.  South of the hill, downhill toward the ocean, a bit of scrambling will take you down to a small beach. There are great tide pools. Back up on top of the bench, work your way around to the north to find all sorts of rocky foregrounds.
  • Lucia: The people at this little lodge south of Big Sur are very friendly and it is a world away from the hoity toity atmosphere of Carmel.  Their restaurant is perched well above the Pacific, with a view into a cove where sea otters play.  You’ll need a big telephoto to get photos of them though.
  • Carmel by the Sea: You’ll find plenty of eating and lodging options, all fairly spendy.  This is a fine town to stroll, but it’s crowded on holidays.  There is an oyster bar named Flaherty’s, so you know I had to visit (that’s my last name).  While it is necessarily more upscale than oyster bars should probably be (it’s Carmel after all), the food is good and the atmosphere not as stuffy as other places in this town.
  • Carmel Mission:  Especially nice if you are religious and want to attend one of the services, this old mission a few minutes west of Hwy. 1 towards Carmel by the Sea is worth a stop and a few photos.  It is well preserved.
  • Monterrey Bay Aquarium:  A can’t miss destination, this aquarium is regarded as one of the best in the country, if not the world.  It lies on the north side of the Monterrey Peninsula, facing the bay to the north.
  • Garland Ranch Regional Park:  This is a nice change from the coast, lying inland in the Carmel Valley about 10 miles from Hwy. 1.  Locals take their dogs for leash-free walks in this beautiful 4500-acre park.  It consists of valley bottom oaks and sycamores, but also ascends to 2000 feet (if you need real exercise).  There are historical remains, both American Indian and that of the Rancho Don Juan.  You can hike, bike or ride horseback on trails of varying lengths.  There is also a visitor center.
A couple walks the trails of Garland Ranch Regional Park in Monterrey County, California.

A couple walks the trails of Garland Ranch Regional Park in Monterrey County, California.

An old wagon sits on the grounds of the old Rancho Don Juan in the Garland Ranch Regional Park near Carmel, California.

An old wagon sits on the grounds of the old Rancho Don Juan in the Garland Ranch Regional Park near Carmel, California.

A simple but beautiful fly appears to be trying to figure out how to get the nectar from this cactus flower in the garden of Big Sur Coast Gallery.

A simple but beautiful fly appears to be trying to figure out how to get the nectar from this cactus flower in the garden of Big Sur Coast Gallery.

A waterfall on the California Coast near Big Sur drops directly into the Pacific.

A waterfall on the California Coast near Big Sur drops directly into the Pacific.

So that’s it for now.  It’s a pretty subjective report I know.  If you’re not really a photo or nature geek, I would recommend some further searching of more standard travel sites.  Just try to visit during an off week.

The rocky Monterrey County, California coastline includes some granite, which looks great with the low plants in December sunshine.

The rocky coast of Monterrey County, California includes granite, which looks great with the low plants in December sunshine.

Waves crash up onto the shore of the California Coast near Big Sur.

Waves crash up onto the shore of the California Coast near Big Sur.

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