Destination: Oregon

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Haystack Rock dominates the landscape at Cannon Beach. The wet sand, dramatic skies, and great light combined for some great images. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF 24-70 f/2.8L II at 24mm.  1/40 second at f/16, ISO 200.  I used a 4 stop graduated neutral density filter on the sky.

Haystack Rock dominates the landscape at Cannon Beach. The wet sand, dramatic skies, and great light combined for some great images. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF 24-70 f/2.8L II at 24mm. 1/40 second at f/16, ISO 200. I used a 4 stop graduated neutral density filter on the sky.

Every year I try to dedicate at least one week of vacation to photographing a destination that’s on my lifetime list of places to see- some might call it their bucket list for photography.  The past few years those trips included Yosemite, Acadia, and Denali.  I have wanted to photograph the Oregon coast since I first began photographing landscapes, and decided that this year was the year for that.

I had seen photographs of the beaches in Oregon and knew they were beautiful, but nothing prepared me just how beautiful they really were. And nothing prepared me for the diversity of the landscape. From wide sandy beaches, to towering sea stacks, rocky headlands, and temperate rainforest, the coast of Oregon offers a little of everything to photographers seeking dramatic landscape images. I was in heaven.  For this trip, I took along the following: EOS 5D Mark III, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II, EF 24-70 f/2.8L II, EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS, EF 100mm f/2.8L IS macro, and EF 14mm f/2.8L II. I had my lightweight travel tripod (a Gitzo 1541T), and my set of 4×5 inch graduated ND filters and ND filters, as well as a polarizer.

Indian Beach features a rocky area along with a wide expanse of sand.  On this day, gray clouds had been hanging around all day, keeping the light pretty flat and boring. Just as the sun began to set, the layers of clouds separated and began reflecting this unbelievable color. To capture it, I used both a 3 stop hard edged graduated neutral density filter, stacked on top of a hard edged 4 stop graduated ND. That brought out the color nicely and allowed me to maintain good detail in the foreground. 1/15, f/16, ISO 400. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 24-70 f/2.8L II at 50mm.

Indian Beach features a rocky area along with a wide expanse of sand. On this day, gray clouds had been hanging around all day, keeping the light pretty flat and boring. Just as the sun began to set, the layers of clouds separated and began reflecting this unbelievable color. To capture it, I used both a 3 stop hard edged graduated neutral density filter, stacked on top of a hard edged 4 stop graduated ND. That brought out the color nicely and allowed me to maintain good detail in the foreground. 1/15, f/16, ISO 400. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 24-70 f/2.8L II at 50mm.

I stayed in Cannon Beach, and was immediately drawn to the dominant feature of the landscape, Haystack Rock.   At 235 feet tall, Haystack Rock towers above everything else in the area.  Cannon Beach, like much of the coastline, features sand pounded flat by the tides, so you can see for miles down the beach. When the sand is wet, it becomes highly reflective, and since the beach is so flat, the water just keeps running over the sand.  This presents fantastic opportunities for reflections. In addition, the water and wind will carve the sand, creating patterns that just beg you place it in the foreground using a wide angle lens. Finding interesting compositions of the monolithic Haystack Rock can keep any photographer going for days.

The temperate rain forest features a plethora of flora. This is wood sorrel blanketing the forest floor. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 14mm f/2.8L II. 1/25, f/8, ISO 400.

The temperate rain forest features a plethora of flora. This is wood sorrel blanketing the forest floor. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 14mm f/2.8L II. 1/25, f/8, ISO 400.

Low tide is a macro photographer’s dream. You can walk all the way out to Haystack Rock, where tide pools form around smaller rocks.  These tide pools feature a plethora of marine life, including crabs, star fish, limpets, ochre sea stars, and sea anemone, among others.  One can spend hours amongst the tidal pools, alternating between landscapes and macro work, and still not exhaust all of the opportunities presented.

Just north of Cannon Beach is Ecola State Park. Ecola State Park is a mix of rocky headlands, temperate rain forest, and sandy beach.  I spent half a day photographing in the rain forest. Trees covered in moss, ferns and wood sorrel blanketing the forest floor, and winding trails lead to tons of photographic opportunities.

Thor's Well, at Cape Perpetua, is breathtaking in showcasing the ocean's power. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 24-70, f/2.8L II, at 31mm. 1/5, f/16, ISO 100.   Due to the spray I was unable to use a graduated neutral density filter, so in the raw processing I pulled the exposure for the sky back using a digital graduated filter in Adobe Camera RAW.

Thor’s Well, at Cape Perpetua, is breathtaking in showcasing the ocean’s power. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 24-70, f/2.8L II, at 31mm. 1/5, f/16, ISO 100. Due to the spray I was unable to use a graduated neutral density filter, so in the raw processing I pulled the exposure for the sky back using a digital graduated filter in Adobe Camera RAW.

South of Canon Beach is a stretch of beaches and state parks such as Arcadia Beach, Oswald West State Park, Hug Point State Park (which features a beautiful waterfall), and more.   A few hours further south is Cape Perpetua, which features some of the most dramatic coastline I’ve ever seen.  Specifically, the area around Devil’s Churn, which features waves crashing on the rocks like thunder, water being forced out of blow holes, and a cauldron-like feature called “Thor’s Well”.  This area is best photographed at high tide, where the waves create massive splashes, and Thor’s Well literally boils over.  While I was there, the wind was blowing spray all over the camera, making it a nightmare trying to keep the camera dry.

From Ecola State Park, you can view the vast expanse of Cannon Beach below.  EOS 5D Mark III, EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS, with a 5-stop and 6-stop ND filter stacked together to create the long exposure. 30 seconds, f/25, ISO 160.

From Ecola State Park, you can view the vast expanse of Cannon Beach below. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS, with a 5-stop and 6-stop ND filter stacked together to create the long exposure. 30 seconds, f/25, ISO 160.

I could not believe how many good photo ops there were waiting for me in Oregon, and I didn’t even get a chance to explore the Columbia River Gorge or the southern coast. I definitely plan to go back and explore more, so it stays on my list.  And I must go back for a marionberry scone from the Lazy Susan Cafe in Cannon Beach!

Wind and Water carved up the sand on the beach, creating a great foreground to use for this shot. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 16-35 f/2.8L II. Exposure was 4 seconds, f/16, ISO 100.  I used a 3 stop, soft edged graduated ND filter to help darken the sky, and a 6 stop ND filter to slow down my exposure.

Wind and Water carved up the sand on the beach, creating a great foreground to use for this shot. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 16-35 f/2.8L II. Exposure was 4 seconds, f/16, ISO 100. I used a 3 stop, soft edged graduated ND filter to help darken the sky, and a 6 stop ND filter to slow down my exposure.

The Needles are the tall, thinner sea stacks to the south of Haystack Rock. I photographed this with the EOS 5D Mark III and EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS. 1/10, f/16, ISO 200.

The Needles are the tall, thinner sea stacks to the south of Haystack Rock. I photographed this with the EOS 5D Mark III and EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS. 1/10, f/16, ISO 200.

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Rick Berk is a photographer based in Freeport, Maine, shooting a variety of subjects including landscapes, sports, weddings, and portraits. Rick leads photo tours for World Wide Photo Tours and his work can be seen at RickBerk.com and you can follow him on his Facebook page and on Instagram at @rickberkphoto.

  • Glad to hear you loved your trip! I live on the Oregon Coast and it never ceases to provide some amazing photo opportunities any time. Sunsets are best during winter and early spring for sure though. Wonderful pictures you captured to showcase just a handful of the areas.

    Best part was your comment on the Marionberry scones. Marionberry anything is delicious and hardly anyone outside of the state has ever even heard of it!

  • Connie

    You need to put Neskowin Oregon on your list, it is a lovely little beach just north of Lincoln City. It also has a large rock, but also has what is call the Ghost Forest of Neskowin. It is an ancient forest that has sunken into the ocean with only the tops of the trees left visible. There is a better explanation here: http://www.oregoncoasttoday.com/neskowinghostforest.html, the day I was there I couldn’t get over to the beach itself because I wasn’t prepared to wade through a fairly deep run off between me and the forest. I think you will find it a fascinating area to photograph. Then when you are done with the coast you need to go inland to the Columbia Gorge and see the water falls. You may actually have to move here to see all of the beauty to be found. There is a young photographer here that has taken some astonishing photos of the Southern Oregon Coast: http://aaron1013.smugmug.com/.

    Your photos are outstanding and I may just have to run over to the coast in the next week or so and try to get some of that color.

  • But the miracle is not happening.Lumia920 launched in September 2012, forced by the high cost of listing and lower production issue at the price of up to 4,600 yuan.

  • Jason Racey

    Let’s play math:

    Oregon Coast – marketing hype – hordes of tourons + remote wilderness = Washington Coast

  • Hi,

    Great article and pictures.

    What would be the graduated ND filter you would take for sunny days landscapes ?
    I’m about to buy a 4 stop soft… is 4 enough ? too much ?
    Thanks

  • Jan Langley

    Thanks for sharing your work! It is so beautiful and I hope I get the chance to go there. I would love to see it and to photograph it will be icing on the cake! 🙂 Jan

  • Thanks everyone for the comments.
    @prune- it really depends on the conditions. Some days it’s too much, some days I end up stacking a 4 stop and a 3 stop to get enough density. You really can’t pick just one, because the conditions always change. A set enables you to adjust for the conditions. If you have to start with just one, I’d probably suggest a 4 stop soft edged ND grad and build from there.

    @Connie- yes I read about the ghost forest and would have loved to see it, but time just didn’t permit. I need to make another trip soon.

  • Many thanks Rick, this is what I’m going for, a 4 stop graduated plus a 3 and a 6 stop !

  • John

    I grew up in Oregon and still live there. I resided in Brookings, Oregon for a year and must that the southern Oregon Coast is more interesting than the northern coast. Also, don’t forget that we have real mountains out here, some even erupt now and then.

  • Rachel

    I moved to Portland, OR 5 years ago and I never cease to be amazed by the stunning beauty of our rocky coast. They say the only thing Oregon is missing is sunny, warm beaches, but I wouldn’t trade our amazing coastline for anything. Gorgeous photos! However, I do wish you had included more of the rest of Oregon. The Gorge, the Coastal Range, all the mountains, and the deserts of central and eastern Oregon are equally as breathtaking.

  • Kerri

    Beautiful shots. thanks for the teaser. I to have been there, and it is amazing. I will be there this fall to visit family and hope to go back to the cost. Yes you did miss out on the falls at the gorge! Thanks for all the helpful info.

  • Daniel Scott

    You should have gone a few more minutes south to Florence and got some shots of Heceta Head Lighthouse.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dnjscott531/4411783559/sizes/o/

    There is some amazing stuff to photograph along the entire coast. The old tug boat in Gold Beach, Battle Rock, Suislaw River Bridge, etc. Great place to live, just don’t come in the winter months unless you really enjoy the rain.

  • Bruce Hausmann

    Great shots Rick
    I would like to know when you there. I have been trying to decide what time of the year is best for my trip. I had wanted to do Washington and the Oregon coast at the samt time.
    Thanks
    Bruce

  • Annalee

    I grew up very close to Cannon Beach, and used to love eating what you called wood sorrel. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and thank you for giving me a much appreciated view of home!

  • Well made images!!

  • As a ‘native’ Oregonian, I have lived in several other states and photographed all 50 states over 30 years. But I always come back to Oregon for its wide variety of landscapes from the awesome coast, to Cascade mtns to the eastern high desert. Scenery that rivals pretty much the best of the best! If you have not been there, consider the Steens Mtn area of SE Oregon, the cascades around Bend, the waterfalls of the Gorge, and Wallowas in the NE.

  • Barry

    The coast is amazing. Next time try Mt Hood, the waterfalls, lakes and forests. Oregon has incredible beauty.

  • Those of you pointing out all that I missed- yes, I know. But when I travel, especially for photography, my philosophy is quality over quantity. I don’t go with the aim of seeing as many places as possible. I go with the aim of photographing the places I DO see under the best possible conditions, as best I can. This means I’d rather spend less time in the car and more time in the places I do get to. Do I have more places in Oregon I’d like to see? Of course. I’ll reserve those for another trip. On the other hand, if someone wants to offer me a job to live out there so I can photograph there all the time, I’m always open to new adventures!

  • Kathy

    Loved your column. It made me look at our Oregon in a different way. You should definitely visit the Columbia Gorge and its great scenery. Petite Provence in The Dalles at the desert east end of the gorge has marionberry scones I wager will top the Lazy Susan. To die for!

  • Cathy

    Can we assume you photoshoped people out of the pictures of Cannon Beach /Haystack rock area? At the Central OR coast, Waldport OR , and Florence, you can be on 6 miles of beach even in the summer and be the only one on the beach, but I’ve never seen it bare of people at Cannon Beach! Destination place for all the Portlander’s! You totally lucked out if there really were no people in any of your shots! Congrats, on all your beautiful shots, but considering what you had to work with, how could you get anything less than beautiful shots?

  • @Bruce- I was there the first week in June.
    @Cathy- I honestly did not photoshop anyone out. But I was conscious of my angles and where people were. Also, the first week in June is apparently still off season so there weren’t many people around.

  • gregvaughn

    Great job capturing some of the majesty of the Oregon coast! I especially like the photo of Haystack Rock with the sand patterns in the foreground.

  • Kirpi Hanim

    I love the Oregon Coast! A bit further south, near Charleston OR. This is Sunset Bay.

  • Fran

    My favorite vacation spot. I’ve been to the Oregon coast 5 times. I’m about ready for another trip now after seeing your beautiful shots.

Some Older Comments

  • Rick Berk June 27, 2013 09:39 am

    @Bruce- I was there the first week in June.
    @Cathy- I honestly did not photoshop anyone out. But I was conscious of my angles and where people were. Also, the first week in June is apparently still off season so there weren't many people around.

  • Cathy June 26, 2013 07:58 am

    Can we assume you photoshoped people out of the pictures of Cannon Beach /Haystack rock area? At the Central OR coast, Waldport OR , and Florence, you can be on 6 miles of beach even in the summer and be the only one on the beach, but I've never seen it bare of people at Cannon Beach! Destination place for all the Portlander's! You totally lucked out if there really were no people in any of your shots! Congrats, on all your beautiful shots, but considering what you had to work with, how could you get anything less than beautiful shots?

  • Kathy June 24, 2013 03:38 am

    Loved your column. It made me look at our Oregon in a different way. You should definitely visit the Columbia Gorge and its great scenery. Petite Provence in The Dalles at the desert east end of the gorge has marionberry scones I wager will top the Lazy Susan. To die for!

  • Rick Berk June 22, 2013 06:42 am

    Those of you pointing out all that I missed- yes, I know. But when I travel, especially for photography, my philosophy is quality over quantity. I don't go with the aim of seeing as many places as possible. I go with the aim of photographing the places I DO see under the best possible conditions, as best I can. This means I'd rather spend less time in the car and more time in the places I do get to. Do I have more places in Oregon I'd like to see? Of course. I'll reserve those for another trip. On the other hand, if someone wants to offer me a job to live out there so I can photograph there all the time, I'm always open to new adventures!

  • Barry June 22, 2013 05:38 am

    The coast is amazing. Next time try Mt Hood, the waterfalls, lakes and forests. Oregon has incredible beauty.

  • charlie borland June 22, 2013 01:37 am

    As a 'native' Oregonian, I have lived in several other states and photographed all 50 states over 30 years. But I always come back to Oregon for its wide variety of landscapes from the awesome coast, to Cascade mtns to the eastern high desert. Scenery that rivals pretty much the best of the best! If you have not been there, consider the Steens Mtn area of SE Oregon, the cascades around Bend, the waterfalls of the Gorge, and Wallowas in the NE.

  • SreelalTViswanathan June 21, 2013 08:32 pm

    Well made images!!

  • Annalee June 21, 2013 10:45 am

    I grew up very close to Cannon Beach, and used to love eating what you called wood sorrel. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and thank you for giving me a much appreciated view of home!

  • Bruce Hausmann June 21, 2013 09:32 am

    Great shots Rick
    I would like to know when you there. I have been trying to decide what time of the year is best for my trip. I had wanted to do Washington and the Oregon coast at the samt time.
    Thanks
    Bruce

  • Daniel Scott June 21, 2013 09:12 am

    You should have gone a few more minutes south to Florence and got some shots of Heceta Head Lighthouse.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dnjscott531/4411783559/sizes/o/

    There is some amazing stuff to photograph along the entire coast. The old tug boat in Gold Beach, Battle Rock, Suislaw River Bridge, etc. Great place to live, just don't come in the winter months unless you really enjoy the rain.

  • Kerri June 21, 2013 06:50 am

    Beautiful shots. thanks for the teaser. I to have been there, and it is amazing. I will be there this fall to visit family and hope to go back to the cost. Yes you did miss out on the falls at the gorge! Thanks for all the helpful info.

  • Rachel June 21, 2013 03:23 am

    I moved to Portland, OR 5 years ago and I never cease to be amazed by the stunning beauty of our rocky coast. They say the only thing Oregon is missing is sunny, warm beaches, but I wouldn't trade our amazing coastline for anything. Gorgeous photos! However, I do wish you had included more of the rest of Oregon. The Gorge, the Coastal Range, all the mountains, and the deserts of central and eastern Oregon are equally as breathtaking.

  • John June 21, 2013 03:00 am

    I grew up in Oregon and still live there. I resided in Brookings, Oregon for a year and must that the southern Oregon Coast is more interesting than the northern coast. Also, don't forget that we have real mountains out here, some even erupt now and then.

  • prune June 20, 2013 11:52 am

    Many thanks Rick, this is what I'm going for, a 4 stop graduated plus a 3 and a 6 stop !

  • Rick Berk June 20, 2013 10:56 am

    Thanks everyone for the comments.
    @prune- it really depends on the conditions. Some days it's too much, some days I end up stacking a 4 stop and a 3 stop to get enough density. You really can't pick just one, because the conditions always change. A set enables you to adjust for the conditions. If you have to start with just one, I'd probably suggest a 4 stop soft edged ND grad and build from there.

    @Connie- yes I read about the ghost forest and would have loved to see it, but time just didn't permit. I need to make another trip soon.

  • Jan Langley June 18, 2013 01:14 pm

    Thanks for sharing your work! It is so beautiful and I hope I get the chance to go there. I would love to see it and to photograph it will be icing on the cake! :) Jan

  • prune June 18, 2013 01:12 pm

    Hi,

    Great article and pictures.

    What would be the graduated ND filter you would take for sunny days landscapes ?
    I'm about to buy a 4 stop soft... is 4 enough ? too much ?
    Thanks

  • Jason Racey June 18, 2013 06:07 am

    Let's play math:

    Oregon Coast - marketing hype - hordes of tourons + remote wilderness = Washington Coast

  • digiphone June 17, 2013 04:24 pm

    But the miracle is not happening.Lumia920 launched in September 2012, forced by the high cost of listing and lower production issue at the price of up to 4,600 yuan.

  • Connie June 17, 2013 09:20 am

    You need to put Neskowin Oregon on your list, it is a lovely little beach just north of Lincoln City. It also has a large rock, but also has what is call the Ghost Forest of Neskowin. It is an ancient forest that has sunken into the ocean with only the tops of the trees left visible. There is a better explanation here: http://www.oregoncoasttoday.com/neskowinghostforest.html, the day I was there I couldn't get over to the beach itself because I wasn't prepared to wade through a fairly deep run off between me and the forest. I think you will find it a fascinating area to photograph. Then when you are done with the coast you need to go inland to the Columbia Gorge and see the water falls. You may actually have to move here to see all of the beauty to be found. There is a young photographer here that has taken some astonishing photos of the Southern Oregon Coast: http://aaron1013.smugmug.com/.

    Your photos are outstanding and I may just have to run over to the coast in the next week or so and try to get some of that color.

  • Zach June 17, 2013 06:39 am

    Glad to hear you loved your trip! I live on the Oregon Coast and it never ceases to provide some amazing photo opportunities any time. Sunsets are best during winter and early spring for sure though. Wonderful pictures you captured to showcase just a handful of the areas.

    Best part was your comment on the Marionberry scones. Marionberry anything is delicious and hardly anyone outside of the state has ever even heard of it!

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