On Christmas Day, Tanya received a phone call from a friend of ours. The friend and partner had been in a car accident on the Oregon coast and were in the hospital in Tillamook, though luckily the injuries appeared to be minor. Their car, on the other hand, was totaled. Was it possible for us to drive down and pick them up? Both Tanya and I love the Oregon coast, so it wasn’t too hard for us to agree to drive down.
We drove to Tillamook the day after Christmas. I hoped to get some sunset shots on the coast that day, but by the time we checked the friends out of the hospital, it was getting dark. Besides, it was raining. Maybe at sunrise the next morning? The friends wanted to sleep in, so perhaps I’d have time in the morning to run to the beach.
Tillamook itself is inland off the coast, but it is close to three capes and many beaches. The Three Capes Scenic Route leaves Tillamook and is extremely scenic. I’ve driven it several times, and I highly recommend it. However, last week I only had a limited amount of time, so I picked Cape Kiwanda, the southernmost of the three capes, to go to. Cape Kiwanda is quite unusual for the Oregon coast. It is formed by an yellow to orange sandstone, unlike the black volcanic capes common elsewhere on the coast. Plus it is more accessible and not totally tree covered like the other capes. I have been there once or twice before, but never had time to explore it beyond the adjoining beach. I also picked it because of an added bonus of high tide occurring in the morning – perfect for capturing images of waves crashing on the rocks.
I got up early and convinced Tanya to come with me. We drove down to Cape Kiwanda, about 25 miles south of Tillamook. We got there about 7:45 a.m., a little before sunrise. It was raining, but at least it wasn’t completely overcast like the previous evening. There were even a few patches of blue sky and pastel-colored clouds to the northwest. I bundled up against the wind and rain, walked down the beach to the cape.
Cape Kiwanda is formed by sandstone cliffs jutting out into the water and a large, tree-topped sand dune plastered against the mainland. It is not large as far as Oregon capes go, it only sticks out into the the ocean from the beach perhaps a 2,000 feet. Nor is it tall, with the sand dune rising to a bit over 100 feet in elevation and the sandstone cliffs being half that. It is quite easy to walk out onto the cape by traversing the side of the sand dune from the beach up to the top of the sandstone.
The first thing one notices when climbing up onto the cape is a fence with warning signs attempting to keep the public from getting near the cliff edges. The fence is very easy to cross (in some places, sand has piled up against it so you can easily step over without any effort). But don’t be mistaken, Cape Kiwanda is a dangerous place. IT is perhaps the deadliest place on the Oregon coast; six people have died deaths there in the past two years. The pounding waves of the Pacific easily erode the sandstone cliffs, which helps create their natural beauty, but also makes them unpredictable. The edges of the cliffs can collapse at any time. As a geologist, I agree getting near the edge of such cliffs, particular when waves are hitting them is foolish. Additionally, it contains an area known as the Punchbowl – an inviting rocky cove with a sea cave that becomes a cauldron of white water at high tide.
The waves aren’t the only factor in eroding the cape. It’s famous hoodoo, known as the Pedestal or Duckbill Rock, was destroyed by vandals in 2016. What a waste. (This is another example of photograph it while you can because you will never know if you will have another opportunity.) Prudence is definitely called for if you venture beyond the fence. However, I freely admit I did to get the shots shown here, though I was careful to stay away from the edge.
By the time I hiked up onto the cape, the rain had stopped, though the wind was still blowing hard. I set up my tripod and shot the Punchbowl from a couple different angles, trying to capture the fury of the waves. Though I shot a few images with slow shutter speeds to create water blurs, I was worried about the wind causing camera shake, even with the tripod, so I increased my shutter speed and ISO setting (with the sun covered by clouds, it was a bit dark). I moved around a bit and found a nice view of a sea arch being pummeled by crashing waves. Unfortunately, the rain returned with a vengeance, and I packed up the camera for awhile. But just as quickly as it came, the rain let up, and I continued shooting. The sun even came out for about five minutes, lighting up the tops of the cliffs.
I was running short on time (we needed to get back to Tillamook to pick up our friends), so I huffed up to the top of the sand dune for a quick overview and then headed back to the car. I easily could have spent several more hours there. Tanya and I headed back to town, picked up our friends, made a visit to the cheese factory (a seemingly mandatory stop in Tillamook), and drove back to Tacoma. It was a quick trip, the result of an unfortunate accident that, based on the shots I later pulled up on my computer, had real Kiwanda benefits.
The second half of our long weekend on the Oregon coast started with Mother’s Day. Since it was also the first great weather weekend of the spring, the beaches were crowded. We stopped at Hug Point State Park and barely found a parking spot. People were everywhere, and I didn’t take any photos there. We then went to Ecola State Park at the northern end of Cannon Beach. It was also crowded (we had to wait for a parking spot at Indian Beach, and the Ecola parking lot was only had a few spots available), and I mainly scouted for views I’d come back for later. After scouting, we drove back to our camp for an early dinner.
I drove back to Ecola about 2 hours before sunset, going first to Indian Beach, than up to Ecola Point; it was much less crowded. While shooting at Ecola Point (taking the classic shot south to Cannon Beach), a couple named Sean and Lisa shared the viewpoint with me. After a short while, Sean got down on his knee and proposed to Lisa. Very romantic (except for the photographer trying his best to to interfere). They asked if I took “people pictures” (which I do) and asked if I’d take a few photos of them during this special moment. I shot off a few dozen shots and we traded contact information. A bit later, we both enjoyed the sunset, Sean and Lisa holding each other, me shooting away at the sun sinking into the Pacific.
The featured image above is a 3-shot panorama of the classic shot of Cannon Beach from Ecola Point. All the images below were taken in Ecola State Park, except the one of Carson, which I took on the beach near our campground in Nehalem Bay State Park.
Earlier this month, Tanya and I packed up Carson and the camping gear and headed south to the Oregon coast for a 4-day weekend. Being a Washington native, I suppose it is sacrilegious to admit I like the Oregon coast better than the Washington coast. Most of the easily accessible ocean beach in Washington consists of broad sandy beaches like those at Ocean Shores, which I posted about recently. I prefer a few rocky headlands to provide variety, tide pools, and wave action, like is found along much of the Oregon coast. Additionally, because of longshore drift bringing sediment north from the Columbia River, the water in Washington is silty and usually has a brown tint. Without any large rivers flowing into Oregon’s coast (south of the Columbia), the water is much cleaner.
Not wanting to drive too long, we chose to camp at Nehalem Bay State Park, about a 3 to 4 hour drive from Tacoma. This site gave me fairly quick access to the Cannon Beach and Three Capes areas. The weather couldn’t have been better (well, that’s not true, a photographer is never satisfied with the weather, there could have been a few more clouds to help create interest in the sky). The main problem was that the trip was over Mother’s Day weekend, which when combined with the nice weather, really brought out the crowds to the beach. As a result, most of the images I took were in the golden hours of early morning and late evenings, which not only had less people about, but better light than mid-day.
The photos featured here are from the Friday and Saturday portions of the trip. I’ll show images from the 2nd half of the trip in my next post.