Boaters beware! The mouth of the Columbia River Bar is as beautiful as it is treacherous. The Peter Iredale met it’s match in 1906 and is one of the 2,000 ships that have been eaten by the mouth of the Columbia River since 1792. Sea goers have named this place the Graveyard of the Pacific and there isn’t a single shipping captain or deckhand that would challenge that assumption. People may ask what makes it so treacherous and one only needs to witness the diabolical challenges that it possesses. Unlike other major rivers, the current is focused “like a fire hose” without the benefit of a river delta. Conditions can change from calm to life-threatening in as little as five minutes due to changes of direction of wind and ocean swell. Since 1792, approximately 2,000 large ships have sunk in and around the Columbia Bar and because of the danger and the numerous shipwrecks the mouth of the Columbia River acquired a reputation worldwide as the Graveyard of the Pacific. In fact, Commercial vessels can’t even cross over the bar without having a pilot climb aboard your vessel and steer it in for them. Now that’s what you call a river that demands your attention and respect. Another amazing fact about the Columbia River is that it has the greatest flow of any North American river draining into the Pacific and Its drainage basin is roughly the size of France and extends into seven U.S. states and a Canadian province. Even with better built boats and better technology available to keeping boaters more safe, there are still several boating accidents each year at the mouth of the Columbia River. Most people would be surprised that the Peter Iredale didn’t wreck along the Oregon coast during a huge storm that was ravaging and causing massive waves and thunderous rain but nothing more than just a change of the wind, a strong current and a lot of bad luck. The Peter Iredale was no match for the mighty Columbia River bar and there was nothing left for the crew to do but wait for a very hard landfall along the Oregon Coast. There isn’t much left of the old ship but it’s worth a visit if you’re visiting Fort Stevens State Park.
If you are ever interested in getting a beautiful and unexpected sunset shot along the Oregon Coast, I would recommend that you visit during a time when the weather is stormy and unpredictable. You can almost always expect the weather, along the Oregon coast, to be unpredictable but you can never be sure what to expect. The summer months are the most predictable unless the fog stays enough offshore that you aren’t able to get a good sunset shot. This is usually the only thing that you will ruin your shots. However, if they are predicting stormy weather, you can have a much better chance of being surprised by some crazy sunset opportunities. It’s important that you closely watch the weather predictions and then adjust for the chance that they will get it completely wrong. However, if you’re wanting to get some crazy sunset weather, you don’t really need to check the weather unless you want to be sure and pack the right clothes. I find that rainy and stormy weather offers photographers the chance to really step up their game and allows you to really step out of the box. I try not to be a storm chaser but rather choose a location that will create the best canvas for some stormy weather shots. Utilizing rocks, sand and trees can really enhance your photo and if you can include the clouds and sun, you really have a winning shot. I took this shot and it shows how I took advantage of the offshore rocks, beach, clouds and sun cutting through the clouds. To get this shot I set the camera mode to shutter priority and set the speed at 10 seconds. I wanted to get the movement of the clouds and make the ocean look frothy. You can’t really see the beach but it’s in the foreground and the beach is made of medium sized black rocks. I attached my CIR-PL, warming filter and ND filter in order to increase the shutter speed and not have too much glare from the sun. I also wanted to capture the reflection of the sun beaming off the frothy ocean in order to create a biblical type of photo. I also set the ISO at 100 and put the white balance at +1. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 55mm.
My first trip to the San Juan Islands in Washington State was an awesome experience. The weather was stellar and the sights were an amazement of incredible views. San Juan Island is one of the largest of the islands and it’s about 55.3 square miles and about 6,950 residents. However, I’m not sure if that’s full time or part time residents. Friday Harbor is the only town on the island and also where the ferry drops visitors off. We caught the ferry at Anacortes and it was about a 45 minute trip. However, make sure to get there early and plan on waiting for a while before boarding the ferry. It’s pretty expensive on the island so I would recommend bringing as much food as possible and make sure you fill up your gas tank in Anacortes. When driving through the island, it looks more like an agricultural area more than an island. It reminded me a lot of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. However, the rocky shores were teaming with viewpoints that included Mt. Baker to the east, the Olympic mountains to the south and Vancouver Island, Canada to the west. There are also two lighthouses on the southern part of the island, several densely forested areas as well as numerous fresh water lakes dotted along the island. There are plenty of historic places to visit and the interior has several rolling hills that offer some of the best road bike riding I have ever seen. We saw several deer as well as several sea otters in Mitchell Bay. There are several places that you can view orcas from the island, but unfortunately we didn’t see any. There is a small winery and an alpaca farm. Several cattle, horses and sheep are raised here as well as wheat and grass. There are several old barns and houses to photograph and with the Olympics always close by, you can sometimes get the mountains in most of your pictures when visiting the southern side. There are two harbors and dozens of coves and bays throughout the island. I was amazed with the amount of kayaks on the island. Most visitors coming off the ferry had either a bike or a kayak strapped to their vehicles. Sometimes they had both. I was able to get a lot of photos with kayaks in the picture, which made for some great sunset photos. I was able to kayak where I was staying, which was at Mitchell Bay on the north side of the island. You could see Vancouver Island, Canada and I paddled near several sea lions, kayaked through a kelp garden, saw several jelly fish and watched as some very expensive sail boats and power boats steamed by. There is also a 1 mile hike up Young Hill, which is about an 800 foot elevation gain. It provides a fantastic panoramic view of the Olympics, the many harbors and Vancouver Island. One of my favorite spots to photograph and visit along the shore was at tiny Reuben Tarte County Park, which is on the north east tip of the island. You have an incredible 180 degree view with several islands in the distance. You can see the mountains on Vancouver Island and photograph the ferries heading to Sidney Harbor as well as the many sailboats and power boats in the San Juan Channel. Since I was limited on time I visited San Juan County Park to get my sunset shots. It was only about a 10 minute drive from Mitchell Bay and there were several areas to set up my tripod. To get this photo, I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 38mm. I was using my CIR-PL, warming filter and UV filter as well as my tripod and remote release. The sun had just set so I was able to get the orange glow exploding over Vancouver Island and Andrews Bay. I wanted to get a good glare from the sky but I was afraid that the moon would come out too blurry so I only set the shutter priority to 10 seconds. The F stop was at F-5.6 and I set the ISO to 100. I have several photos where I had set the shutter to 30 seconds but this photo really shows the colors of the sunset. While I was taking these photos, I noticed several sea lions swimming by and I was hoping to maybe to spot a pod of killer whales but unfortunately that didn’t happen. I would highly recommend visiting the San Juan Islands if you want to really experience an epic journey. There are several other islands that the ferries can take you to, but I was very impressed with what this island had to offer.
We are only a few short days away until the rains in the valley and the snow in the Cascades will subside and the warm weather will return to the Pacific Northwest. This means only one thing and that is that you should head out the the great city of Seattle, Washington and get your photos on! Don’t hold back and what I mean is that you should pack all of your gear and expect to use every piece of equipment that you own. They don’t call Seattle one of the most photogenic cities for nothing! You can literally expect to change out your wide angle and your telephoto zoom lens as you capture the landscape. One would also be advised to study the best locations and best times of the day to visit. This means that you will want to have a car and plan on driving all over the city as you try to capture the best shots as you try to get a handle on the best colors presented by the sun. This photo was taken from one of the many piers and I tried to capture as much of the buildings as I could without having any of the traffic from the road below. I normally just crop out what I don’t like and then just photoshop when needed. The clouds were really cool as they were swirling above and the color of the sky was perfect since there wasn’t too much glare. If you are visiting from out of town I would recommend staying at least two full days since you never know what the weather will be like and you will need at least two full days to feel like you had enough time to visit each of the photos spots once or more.
Late Winter and early Spring are the best times to catch a glimpse of a bald eagle almost anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. They have been making such a great come back that I’ve had the privilege to watch them for several months over the past 5 years or so. Many of the juveniles are finally starting to leave the nest and the parents are seen nervously hanging out by the nest as they wait for it to return. It really is awesome to watch the parents standing like statues as they gaze into the horizon hoping to spot the younger eagle. If your lucky you can even watch the young eagle practice their fishing tactic when they swoop down onto a lake or river and then stretch out there talons like they’re about to grab a fish. You really know that the juvenile eagle is getting close to home when the parents start to squawk like mad and then carry on when the juvenile gets closer to them. I took this shot along the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon. If you want to guarantee an opportunity to see some eagles, I highly recommend that you plan a visit Astoria. There are several eagles within the city and you can pretty much just camp near the river and wait for one to fly overhead.
One of the best Coast lines, along the Pacific Ocean, sits between Brooking’s Oregon and Gold Beach, Oregon. Here is where you will find Oregon’s Gold Coast. You will find yourself drenched in the warm evening sunset’s, warm breezy afternoon’s and sunny and cool morning’s. Late summer and early Fall are the best times to experience the Mediterranean type climate that rushes through Southern Oregon’s coastline. Here you will also find Oregon’s pine apple express that brings warm offshore winds as they collide with the warm beaches. There are also hundred’s of miles of trails that take you inside the coastal mountains or drop you into the many private and hidden beaches. You may also spend several days navigating some of the amazing river’s that work their way towards the Pacific Ocean. If you don’t want to spend all of your time in hotel’s you can choose from the many camping grounds that are scattered throughout the region. If you enjoy taking photos I would recommend that you bring all of your camera gear since you will be amazed at the possibilities available. There are botanical gardens, rocky cliff’s, wildlife, waterfalls, creeks, lighthouses, seabirds, and the list goes on and on.
[/caption] No, this isn’t Hawaii, the South Pacific or the Caribbean! This is actually Cannon Beach, Oregon! There is one sure way to get great shots like this that begin to take on the likes of some tropical island area! Usually the summer months offer the perfect sun soaked days that allow you to trick people into thinking that the photo was taken somewhere else. Most of the vegetation along the rocky cliffs are almost identical to tropical vegetation and all you need to do is find the best shot that looks semi tropical. I actually took this shot at the southern most end of Cannon Beach. There is a trail that takes you high above the beach and is located between Cannon Beach and Ecola Beach! The views are amazing and the bird watching is awesome. There is a private beach directly below that can only be reached when the tide is low and if you look closely you may see several seals swimming about near the rocks below.
[/caption] Just another beautiful August day in Cannon Beach, Oregon! If you want to know the best times to get the best photos in Cannon Beach I would suggest that you visit between 10:00-11:00am and then again at least 2 hours before sunset. Sunset times can be as late as 9:30pm during the summer and as early as 5:30pm during winter months, so I would suggest that you pay attention to the time of the sunset. The reason for the specific times is that you will have the best chance of being there when the reflection from the rocks are at their best. Also, the sun is still somewhat lower in the sky and the rocks won’t seem as washed out. However, keep in mind that the temperatures can be pretty chilly during the morning, even during the peak summer months. The temperatures will pick up and become pretty warm later in the day but be prepared for the temperatures to drop quickly as the sun begins to set. This is obviously true anytime during winter but even the summer months can drop pretty fast, even after a 75-80 degree day. This particular shot was taken at 6:05pm and the temperatures were around 75 degrees and the water temperatures were even warm enough for me to splash around the low tide pools and small swells in order to look for that perfect shot. Late summer is probably the best time to visit since you’re most likely to experience the most epic day of your life. Warm and tropical weather during the later afternoon and awesome and warm sunsets. Late August and up until the end of September has always been my favorite times to visit and almost all of my best photo days are during these days.
[/caption] Summer weather in Seattle, Washington offers some of the best sunny and warm weather in the Nation! If you’re looking for the best city to visit during the month of August, you may be surprised that Seattle, Washington offers some of the most amazing weather in the country. You will find the days long, sunny, warm and especially nice and breezy. Plan on bringing some comfortable walking shoes because you will find yourself spending each day walking along some of the best trails around as well as experiencing some of the best city walks in the country. If you plan on bringing a camera I would recommend bringing a wide angle lens as well as a semi telephoto lens. I would also pack your CIR-PL, warming filter and a ND filter. Sunsets are amazing and the city is so huge that you will need a wide angle lens in order to capture the entire city in a panoramic shot.
[/caption] You know that you picked a good day to visit Seattle, Washington when there isn’t a cloud in sight, the temperature is 81 degrees and the moon is directly over the city. I took this photo from the top level of Bell Street pier 66. It is by far the best place to get epic photos of the sky scrapers, adjoining piers, and of Elliot Bay and the Olympic mountains. I could pretty much set up my tripod and spend an entire 24 hours shooting from this pier. You can also get some great shots of Mt. Rainier with the massive cranes in the foreground. However, if you have a descent telephoto, you can zoom in and almost see the mountain climbers heading towards the summit.