Along the long Oregon Coast there are so many beaches to be found that it is difficult to see them all. Many are right there in the open while many others are hidden and secluded. A lot of the hidden ones are reachable only by long hikes to get to them while others are right there under your nose. When Jeff Clow and I scouted the coast on a rainy day last year, we were driving by this spot and we noticed two cars parked on the roadside. Curious, we parked there and noticed a small trail that led down to the beach that we didn’t realize was there. We found out that this secluded beach was named Short Beach and was only a little over 1,000 yards long. It features this rock formation with trees on it’s top and the sound of a creek falling to the beach behind me. Turns out, Short Beach is not named after the shortness of its beach but rather for the small creek (named Short Creek) that plummets to its sands.
The Oregon Coast conjures up images of unusual sea stacks rising from the ocean, miles and miles of pristine beaches, towering capes looking over the vast Pacific Ocean and, of course, the weather. One thing that is often missed by visitors is the hidden life that is exposed when the tide is out, otherwise known as tide pools. When the tide is in, the life beneath is full of activity with starfish moving on the rocks looking for food. Anenomes will utilize their tiny tentacles to sting their prey or defend themselves against predators. When the tide recedes, the sea life clings to the rocks and sea stacks and they become visible to the human eye. There is something quite striking as you look at these beautiful creatures and appreciate that their life is relentless with the changing tides. This photo features starfish in various colors, a green sea anenome and lots and lots of mussels.
There is no doubt that Bandon Beach is one of the most photogenic beaches on the Oregon Coast. What makes it even more so is all of the access points and views it provides. Most visitors spend the majority of their time at Face Rock State Park, where you can stand above the sea stacks looking down at them or climb down the stairs and walk among them depending on the tide. Many are unaware that there is another great spot down the road at Coquille Point. There you can look south toward the sea stacks below the state park or go down the stairs to the beach. Photos from there provide this different perspective to stacks. I took this photo as I was descending the stairs to the beach.
After a couple of days of intermittent rain and fog on our inaugural tour, the skies cleared up. There is no better place for that to happen than on Bandon Beach. I have often described Bandon Beach as “seasick heaven”. There you can walk almost a mile to the south jetty and feast your eyes on some of the most amazing sea stacks on the whole Oregon Coast. Many of the stacks have unique names while others are unnamed. I decided that I would pick one of the unnamed stacks for my sunset shot and close down the lens to get a sunburst.
Ask ten people who are familiar with the Oregon Coast to name their top ten locations and you might get fifty different locations. Yes there are tons of possible candidates along the 363-mile long rugged coastline but there are three that may make everyone’s list and this is one of them. Meyers Creek Beach is located south of the town of Gold Beach and is named after the creek that runs into it. Before anyone tells me that I misspelled Meyers and it should be Myers, I have seen signs that spell it both ways. In fact, I went onto Google Maps and discovered that the same creek has both names on it depending on its location.
What makes this location a top one? There are many characteristics that make it so. The dunes on this beach, while not very high, are reminiscent of the dunes found in the desert. The number of sea stacks and rock formations are very much in abundance, although you can’t see the majority of them due to the fog in the background. When the tide is out, you can walk up to these formations and see terrific tide pools, along with quite the number of starfish clinging to them. When the tide is in the right positions, the reflections of the formations and stacks are just about perfect. Finally, being in the most southern part of the coast, you often have the whole beach to yourselves, as most visitors don’t make it down this far. That certainly works for me along with other photographers.
The Oregon Coast often gives you very different looks at its beauty. The beautiful rock formations and sea stacks have different looks depending on the weather. Sunny vs. rain. Clear vs. shrouded in fog. Tide is in vs. out. The tide might be the most surprising factor. Some locations are phenomenal when the tide is in with waves crashing against the rocks. Others are terrific when the tide is out and you can check out hidden caves and walk right up to the sea stacks. Spending two weeks there allow you to see the many facets of the coast. This photo of Face Rock was taken on our fourth visit and the only time the tide was out. I was able to get a reflection of it in a puddle left by the retreating water.
Back from two weeks on the Oregon Coast. Had a great time with old friends and made new friends. The coast is known for some great sunsets and it did not disappoint on a few nights. This is Yaquina Head Lighthouse with an amazing sky as a background. The only downer is that they closed the park at sunset and we missed out on the photo opportunities that come after the sun sets.
One of the most amazing examples of erosion shaping rock formations is Balanced Rock in Arches National Park. The rock formation is probably the Park's most recognizable formation. While being named Balanced Rock, the formation is not technically balancing the rock but rather, it is one solid piece of sandstone. The formation is pretty big, measuring 128 feet tall with the "rock" portion being the top 55 feet of it. The "rock" portion weighs a mere 3,600 tons. While it is currently defying gravity, it will collapse some day like it's smaller "sibling", "Chip off of the Old Block" did in 1976.
On Saturday, I will be headed to one my favorite coastlines for two weeks. The coast is known for its amazing beaches and sea stacks that are at their best at sunsets. Of course, there are a few lighthouses that I will be visiting. While you would think that there are a lot of lighthouses on the 360+ miles of coastline, there are less than ten. This is It because the Pacific Ocean waters are not very deep close to the shoreline, making it very dangerous for large shipping vessels to dock there. This one located on Cape Meares is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon, standing a mere 38 feet tall. In fact, the parking lot is actually higher that the top of the light. There is a short path to see the light, and as I was walking down toward the light, I spotted the red fresnel lens through the trees and captured this photo of it. Usually, the path is full of people but the rain had scared most of them away.
Shooting the redwoods is simply a great experience. The challenge of planning a trip there is selecting where to go. Why? The redwoods stretch for about 470 miles down the coast of California (there are some in the southernmost part of Oregon) and the National Park is actually made up of several State Parks that surround the National Park and they are all run as one big park. If you are coming south from Oregon, the first place you should stop at is Stout Grove. The road there has pretty narrow dirty holes with quite the number of potholes. Once there, the parking is limited and I am sure that visiting in the summer would be a challenge. There is a loop trail that is a little over a half-mile long and pretty flat. There you will be treated with some of the tallest trees in the world. The tallest redwood in Stout Grove is 342 feet tall (the tallest known one is 380 feet tall) and it is extremely difficult to convey its size through a photograph -- I know as I have tried. It is safe to say that you must see the redwoods in person to get a sense of how big they really are. I liked these particular trees, as the light was really nice on them, which I hope accentuates how tall they are.
So how do you capture the magnificence, vastness and the wonder of the Grand Canyon? The answer is that you don't. The best that you can do is to capture a small slice of the canyon and hope that a little of it's beauty comes through your image. There are two times to best photograph the park: sunrise and sunset. When the sun is near the horizon, it's light casts long shadows and adds great definition and depth to the canyon walls. Any other time, photographs seem flat with little or no definition because the sun is higher in the sky, thus casting very shallow shadows. This image was taken just before sunset from Yavapai Point on the South Rim of the canyon. The sun cast a great golden glow onto the rocks, creating terrific long shadows in the canyon itself. While many shoot into a rising or setting sun, my tendency is to shoot away from the sun to capture the great warm tones on the surrounding scenery.
I am sure that everyone with an imagination has looked up toward the sky and has seen all kinds of different "images" in cloud formations. This same imagination has been applied to the many of the mountains, rock formations, buttes and mesas on the ground. Nowhere is this more true than in the American Southwest, especially Monument Valley. Almost all of the structures in the Valley have a descriptive name and it is often unknown whether the name was originally created by early settlers, the Navajo people or someone else. Mentioning names like "The Mittens", the "Rain God Mesa" or "The Three Sisters" to people who have visited the Valley will conjure up great memories. For the first time visitor, it might be daunting to remember all of the names, but after a few trips through, they become indelible in your mind. This rock formation is known as "The Hand of God" whose fingers can be seen on the right side of the formation.
If you think that the Palouse is all about rolling landscapes of farmland, barns, abandoned houses and Steptoe Butte, you would be mostly right. The one thing that you might not expect are the old cars that also dot the landscape. Someone once told me that the Palouse is where old cars go to die. The treasure trove is a place where the owner has a replica of a Texaco station along with some awesome collection of cars. The owner used to allow photographers on the property to shoot as long as they made arrangements beforehand and made a small donation. The time I shot this, he spent about a half hour with us talking about his cars. Unfortunately, the owner does not allow anyone on the property anymore due to a very selfish photographer who did not make an advance arrangement and banged on the owner's door at 6am. Just like in other situations, this bad apple gives other photographers a bad name and has ruined an amazing spot for others.
The Oregon Coast stretches along the Pacific Ocean for 363 miles and there are some amazing places to visit and photograph. One of my favorite places on the coast is the town of Bandon on the southern part of the coast. If you are driving on the coastal highway (Route 101) though this bedroom community, you might miss one of the must-see seascapes in Oregon. The gem is Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, where there are some of the most amazing sea stacks that you will find anywhere. After visiting there, you might be tempted to be on your way. Don't. A few miles down the road, there is another spot you need to see -- The Coquille Point Interpretive Trail.
At the southern end of the trail there is a parking lot that leads to a big decision: do you take the trail or climb down the well-built stairs to the beach. My recommendation is to do both. The trail weaves parallel to the coast with beautiful cliff-top grass on either side of the trail. You can walk out to the edge of each outcrop and look down on superb rock formations and beach. This photo was taken from one of the overlooks. The trail is a little over a mile long and my advice is to descend to the beach and walk among the rock formations on your way back to the parking lot.
The Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park has quite the number of small waterfalls that just demand photographers to set up a tripod and shoot a few long exposure shots. These type of photos are best captured when there are overcast skies. That gives the scene even light that doesn't have any "hot spots" that is caused by the sun on a bright day.
The rolling landscape of the Palouse is always more pronounced when the sun is low on the horizon. At sunrise, as the sun peeks above the horizon, the top of the mounds begin to light up, leaving the small "valleys" in shadow. As the sun rises, the "valleys" begin to light up before being totally lit. My favorite part of the sunrise is when the "valleys" are still in shadow. This brings out great contrast in the scene that emphasizes the natural contours of the fertile land. The best place by far to capture these types of scenes is Steptoe Butte, where you can get a 360° view almost 3,600 feet above the landscape.
The name Death Valley conjures up visions of a vast desert that can reach temperatures as high as 134˚ Fahrenheit. While these visions are true today, picture the landscape above being underwater some 5 million years ago. That's right, the whole area was once covered by Furnace Creek Lake at one time. During several million years of the lake's existence, sediments such as lava from nearby volcanos, gravel from nearby mountains and saline muds formed on the bottom of the lake. When local mountains began to be formed, they impacted the weather to become more arid, causing the lakes to dry up. Over time, erosion began to carve the rocks to what it looks like today. One section of the rocks is known as the Red Cathedral, the geological formation pictured above. It is clearly visible from Zabriskie Point, a premier location in the park.
As we are nearing the end of summer, my thoughts turn toward the annual color display that Mother Nature puts on each Autumn. This is particularly true here in New England. Unlike the thousands of "leaf peepers" who travel here from all over the world, we New Englanders only have to look out the window to see when the peak colors are happening. The foliage can reach it's peak any time from late September to late October. I always feel bad for those who visit from other places who spend a lot of money and just miss peak by a week or two. Some foliage seasons are better than others depending on all kind of variables, such as rainfall and temperatures, but even the "bad" ones are pretty good. I can't wait to visit some local spots when the foliage does hit that are just around the corner from my home, like this scene from Pennwood State Park.
One of the best locations to see wildlife in Yellowstone is in Hayden Valley, located on the eastern side of the park. The valley is between Yellowstone Falls and Yellowstone Lake, with the Yellowstone River connecting the two ( it is 7 miles long and 7 miles wide). The valley floor once was an ancient lake bed from a time when Yellowstone Lake was much larger. It has long been a wildlife location providing the natives with a source of food and, later, trappers with furs. Alas, I spent some time wandering the valley looking for wildlife and didn't see any. On the way back to the Yellowstone Hotel one evening, I stopped here to capture the late evening light and a perfect reflection.
If you want to be one of the first people to see the sunrise each day in the continental United States, head to Maine. A great place to capture the first light is Acadia National Park. While it is not the most eastern part of the state (West Quoddy Head is), it is pretty close. You also won't find a more beautiful part of the coast to shoot it from. The Maine Coast in Acadia is one of the most rugged in the US. Jagged rocks and boulders of all shapes and sizes are the norm for the coast. Every step might land on what looks like solid rock, but sometimes the rocks move unexpectedly.
There is nothing like the feeling of climbing to your spot on the rocks before the sun rises above the horizon. As you stand there waiting, the sound of the waves hitting the rocks, and the clouds beginning to light up in different shades of colors make you feel insignificant in the overall scheme of things. On this morning, the tide was out, so Thunder Hole was rather silent for the most part. Then the sun crests the horizon and you are glad that you were out of the hotel to experience the scene.