I don’t normally put myself in such a sleep-deprived position, but I can most assuredly say it is worth it. Two days in a row I have gotten up well before sunrise. 3:30 AM and 4:30 AM respectively, to drive out to the Oregon coast trying to capture a stunning image. That is not the whole story though…
The awesome people from the Photog Adventures group as well as Aaron Kind and Brendon Porter from the podcast were in the area! It is always so much more fun to go on these sorts of adventures when there are others to share the experience with. I absolutely must give a shout out to these guys, the group, and their podcast.
I was off to bed early Friday night to prepare for the earliest of wake-up calls at 3:30 in the morning on Saturday. I must be nuts!
After a 2.5 hour drive to Newport, Oregon I was met with a group of tripod-bearing guys walking up the hill towards the bridge. I hurriedly parked the car, grabbed my equipment and raced up the hill to meet them. The Newport Bridge is a perfectly fine spot to take a photo, but I think it takes something very special to make it worthwhile. After firing off a fair amount of photos we all went our separate ways as I needed to go back home for the rest of that day.
The rest of the group went to Pacific City and Cape Kiwanda later for sunset, but I couldn’t join them as I had some prior commitments. The weather looked promising as the clouds were supposed to be lining up nicely for an interesting sky. I ended up guessing correctly as the sun poked though in the final moments of the day making for a brilliant sunset.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
A much shorter drive, but still very early morning to start the day. I arrived at Cannon Beach with close to an hour before sunrise which still wasn’t quite early enough to beat the guys from Photog Adventures to the location. I walked the short distance to the haystack rock just off the coast, and with great luck we had a low tide coinciding with this particular morning.
I love shooting at Cannon Beach during low tides because of the various compositions you can have access to. Being able to get right up next to Haystack Rock shooting ultra wide and filling the frame with waves is my favorite, but you can also go for reflections on wet sand, lines in the sand, sky, or including wildlife/tide pools in your compositions.
It didn’t seem likely that the sky would ‘pop’. I didn’t think the odds were in our favor. It takes an awesome sunrise to fill the whole sky and that’s what it would take to add anything compositionally to this location as everything is facing west.
I was shooting on my D800 and 16-35mm f/4. It tends to have trouble focusing in very dark conditions like it was on this morning. Luckily, I was able to get a good sharp image by using the higher contrast edges of the rock and sky with the center focusing point.
The sky lit up out of nowhere as I was walking and chatting it suddenly exploded with the pinks, purples, yellows, etc. that make for a nice sunrise. Wow… We were already standing there in a wide flow of slow-moving water out into the Pacific Ocean, which made for some nice soft reflections of Haystack Rock in the foreground.
After capturing several images with that composition to edit in post, we went over to try capturing a different foreground of receding waves closer to the rock itself. The sky was even still filled with sunrise colors in the background, which was a real treat! In order to get the best sharpness, I would tend to bury the legs of my tripod into the sand so it wouldn’t shake or sink when the waves came through. Another method I used was to stand on a rock for a solid base while holding the tripod. This worked for a while but I had to move a couple times because the tide was rising rather quickly at this point and the waves were starting to topple over my boots.
I shot these for probably 20-30 minutes before calling it a morning alongside fellow Portland photographer Kirk Keyes. Photographing waves must be one of the most fun things to photograph as they constantly change and you can never shoot the same thing twice. They are also a challenge because they can be dangerous, shake the tripod and camera, and they can make you very uncomfortable this time of year if ill-prepared. Needless to say, it is all worth it!
After all of that, we collectively called it a day in order to get some good food together. We stopped at a small café in a town nearby to get breakfast and to chat about photography. Such a refreshing and pleasant way to round out an exhausting weekend of photog adventures!
If you want to learn more, see more, and hear more stories from this trip and ones like it check out photogadventures.com!