Last week I flew out to Portland Oregon to attend the WebVisions design conference and while I was there I had some free time to explore. Scouring Google Maps and various online resources I put together a small list of places I wanted to see and things to shoot. On my list were Cannon Beach, Saddle Mountain, Pittock Mansion, and Multnomah Falls. I knew I couldn't hit them all with my limited time, so I figured I would play it by ear and wait to see what the weather was like when I arrived.
While flying in the captain came over the intercom to say that out the right side would be Mt Adams and Mt Saint Helens, so I was able to grab a quick shot of them before touching down at Portland Airport. Having grown up in the midwest, mountains and large elevation changes are still amazing to me.
After getting out of the airport and checked into the hotel the forecast looked perfect, so I headed up to Cannon Beach along the coast to see Haystack Rock. Fans of The Goonies will recognize this as the iconic rock formation just outside Astoria where Mikey holds up the key to learn the location of the entrance to the cave where One Eyed Willie's ship was.
One amazing feature of Cannon Beach is the tide pools that host a wide variety of wildlife which you can explore at low-tide. I arrived an hour or so before sunset so I had time to soak in the scenery and setup my shot before golden hour began. While walking along the beach I found a huge boulder sticking out of the sand completely covered in mussels and barnacles.
One particularly bold seagull was picking mussels off the outcropping while hopping around avoiding the larger waves. I snapped a few photos of him just as he was taking off.
After taking off he headed over to a small set of rocks that were getting pummeled by the waves but he didn't seem to mind at all, jumping up and down as the water almost swept him away a few times.
Inspired by Doran Morgenstern's work I tried my hand at a few long-exposure pans of the waves to see if I could get some dreamy abstract photos of the early evening sunlight on the ocean water. It's a shame I don't live on the coast because I would love to try more work in this style. You can see Doran's amazing work on his website here.
There were a number of photographers on the beach setting up for different angles for sunset however I was the only one brave enough to get wet. I rolled my jeans up over my knees and firmly planted my tripod about two inches down into the sand. If you don't firmly seat your tripod the undercurrent will strip sand out from underneath the feet which will ruin your exposure. With my 16-35mm I was able to get in close - at 235 feet tall Haystack Rock took up the right side of the frame with the two large rocks called The Needles setup on the left third. In the foreground was the barnacle covered rock from earlier getting swallowed by the incoming tide. I didn't notice this particular shot until I saw it on the computer - having the shutter open for 2 seconds the water cascaded over the large rock in the foreground creating some really white streaks over the top and front.
As the light really started dropping off and I started losing feelings in my toes I decided to get back to dry land. Knowing I already had a number of shots I really liked from in the water I decided to take a few more from a bit farther back until the light was gone. This is one of the last shots of the night, as the light is dying the waves broke over a medium sized group of rocks sending water high into the air as the tide came in.
After being rained out the second evening, the weather cleared up the next afternoon so after the conference I headed east to Multnomah Falls just outside Portland. The photos I had seen made it look like a remote location, however when I got there it was swarming with tourists. As fought for a parking space the skies opened up and dumped a massive amount of rain down almost out of nowhere. I stayed in the car for about 10 minutes until it slowed down to a drizzle, then got out my rain gear and headed out. Thankfully the rain drove a lot of tourists away so when I walked up to the base of the falls there were only a few intrepid (and soaking wet) people left.
At the base of a cliff, the Multnomah falls are split into two main sections, combined they reach over 600' straight up, quite a wondrous sight. Shooting all the way open at 16mm I could have gone from the base to the top however the sky was an ugly gray, so I zoomed in a touch to just below the horizon. Adding a variable ND filter I was able to open the shutter up for about 1-2 seconds each time depending on if the sun was peeking through or not. This shot is from when the sun was completely covered, casting a soft light over the entire area.
I shot for a while with the 16-35mm and was happy with what I was seeing, so I decided to try the 70-200mm and get in close to the water. At this point the wind was picking up so just about every shot was blurred from the camera buffeting in the wind. This was the only one that made it, just as the sun broke through the clouds casting a spotlight down on the top of the second portion of the falls.
The last day's forecast looked like I had a 50/50 chance of being rained out and since I had a limited amount of time left I decided I had to try, so I packed up and headed up to Saddle Mountain. The drive out was nice and clear, however when the road started getting higher in elevation the rain started in again. After reaching the base of the mountain it wasn't too bad so I decided to give it a try. I didn't get more than 1/4 mile in when it started getting too dangerous to try alone while carrying a bunch of camera gear. The trail was very narrow and slick so I figured instead of risking my safety I would come back some day when I could properly do the hike.
Saddle Mountain was not too far Cannon Beach so I decided to head down to the coast and see if conditions improved at all, if they hadn't I read of a few places that served some wonderful clam chowder so win/win either way.
When I had arrived it was a complete 180° from Saddle Mountain. On the coast it was in the upper 70s and not a cloud in the sky. People were everywhere so I took some candid photos of a woman's black lab as it sprinted in and out of the waves, having the time of its life.
Having gotten some amazing shots of Haystack Rock a few nights before, I wanted some closer shots of the waves breaking over The Needles. With the variable ND filter on my 70-200mm I was able to slow my shutter down to about 1/4th of a second, capturing a bit of motion without over exposing the shot. I love the colors of the ocean here, lots of turquoise and blues, much different from my first visit.
The evenings sunset was a bit less dramatic than before, however it was serene and calming, so I took some long exposures looking Southward from the other side of Haystack. I had attempted to shoot some panoramas but with the waves in different positions between frames it's proving to be extra difficult stitching them together, lots of work to be done. Here's one of the final shots from my last night in Oregon, I hope to bring the family next time and see even more of the coast.