When the bridge was built over Deception Pass, it provided a reliable method of crossing off Whidbey Island. Prior to the bridge, a boat was needed. I was there on a rough day – the weather was lovely – but the current running through the pass was pretty impressive. Watching the boats fight it made the flow very apparent. Closer to the shore, the current would churn up the water to create standing waves a short distance away from the beach. It looked like the sort of thing that could easily overwhelm a smaller craft if you didn’t know exactly what you were doing.
The stormy waves coming ashore in Yachats were providing some great splashes as they broke on the shore. They would crash into the rocks and send spray high into the air. If you were further along the shore and looked back at the people closer to the rocks, they would occasionally be silhouetted against the plume of spray. The cool thing about shooting this with a long lens is that it looks as if they are almost being overwhelmed by the waves. Get a bit closer and they are clearly a long way from the water and in no danger of getting wet (except for a bit of the mist if you are downwind of the impact point).
After dinner one night in Yachats, I decided to go out and see what I could make of the waves crashing on the shore at night. A number of lights were trained on the shoreline from the local properties so it wasn’t too dark out there. Even so, it certainly wasn’t very light. Time to test the low light capabilities of the cameras. The fact I was going to get slow shutter speeds didn’t bother me particularly as I was interested to see the effects that I could get showing the motion of the waves.
Light levels were indeed better than I had anticipated and I was able to get a lot of shots that came out okay. There was a good element of luck involved too. Waves are horribly unpredictable. If you see something good, you can almost guarantee it won’t do it again and, even if it does, it will be ages before the next set of waves comes in and, even then, the big wave will break differently. Also, some of the shapes they make turn out to look good in the shot and others are just indistinct messes. Nothing to do but hang around for a long time and try and lot of different shots and see which ones work. This randomness is a little frustrating as you feel you should be able to do something to improve but, in this case, it is a case of being there.
We drove along the seafront from Cowes to Gurnard. The tide was high and the storm was bringing a swell in from the west. Consequently, there was a lot of water along the road with sections under a few inches. Some caution as we drove and we could get through. Meanwhile, the waves were bashing in to the wall and splashing high in the air. With the wind being so strong, it was tricky to hold steady for a shot and I was also a bit vulnerable to getting a lot of spray in the face. However, I managed to get some shots and some video while minimizing how damp I got and how much salt water got near the camera.
As a kid, I always loved being down on the seafront when the weather was stormy. It is way more fun to watch the waves crash in than to see a calm sea. This proved to be a perfect day for me to visit as the following day things had calmed right down.
My trip to the Island was in the middle of Storm Brian. It was lashing some parts of the country and the western end of the Island was apparently getting some serious wind but the east side was enjoying a bit of shelter. That didn’t mean there wasn’t still some strong wind and a decent amount of wave action. What better time for someone to go windsurfing? Actually, several people were windsurfing. One of them was close to where I was standing on the shore and, as he went out, he was running against the waves but with the wind behind him. I was hoping for some big jumps off the waves but, while there were jumps, they were not too big. He was certainly braver than I would have been though!
Every once in a while, when photographing a fast jet at transonic speeds, you might get something in the background that allows the diffraction caused by the formation of shockwaves to be visualized. I have posted about that here. I was in Vancouver and shooting the floatplanes taking off from the harbor (since it is a Canadian harbor, perhaps I should write harbour). As I was looking through the images zoomed in to check on sharpness, I realized that there was a visual effect of a similar nature. (If you think this is a Schlieren effect, it is not. That is a technique that involves a certain type of lighting to show the density differences but should not be applied to every time you see it in the wild.)
I don’t know whether what is showing up is the result of shocks forming on the props as they spin rapidly or just the tip vortices causing a similar effect. You can often see diffraction in trailing vortices. Whatever the reason, as you look above the aircraft at the patterns of structures on the shoreline beyond, you can clearly see some interesting effects. Since the props are spinning fast and there is an overlap of the wakes from each pass of a blade, the shapes are rather complex. Now I know that this is a thing, I might be tempted to take a longer lens and see what I can get in more detail of this interesting visual effect.
Our trip down the coast included some driving down the Pacific Coast Highway. This is undoubtedly a gorgeous place to be. Each turn in the coast brings with it another lovely view of rugged cliffs and crashing waves. Add some sun and it really is wonderful. There is little point in saying much more. Instead, here are a few shots to show just how great it is.
A once popular attraction for San Francisco residents was Sutro Baths. Located on the shore looking out into the pacific, the baths were fed by sea water and covered a large area that was enclosed by a glass and iron structure. A railway brought visitors around the cliffs from the city for their day out. Landslides eventually did away with the railway while other entertainment took visitors away and a fire eventually dealt with what was left. However, the underlying structures of the pools are still there.
The water is not recirculated as it would have been in the days of operation so some of the pools have a decidedly murky quality to them. The concrete dividers between the pools are still mostly intact so you can walk along them to check the place out. If you aren’t confident with your balance or are likely to be freaked out by having to pass someone coming the opposite way, this might not be for you. If you do lose your footing, you will be damp!
There is a tunnel under the cliffs that comes out amongst the rocks where the waves are crashing up. Halfway along the tunnel is another hole to the shore and, as the waves rush in, you feel the air pressure change briefly. It is certainly cool and damp in there. Given how derelict the place is, it is hugely popular with visitors. Cars circled the lot looking for spaces all the time we were there. The opportunity to hurt yourself was certainly available but, despite the current risk aversion of locations, this one seems remarkably open to allow you to explore and (if you are not careful) do yourself some harm! It’s like being a kid again.
Being lucky is so cool. I don’t know how many excellent opportunities I have missed without realizing it (that’s the benefit of not realizing it), but I have been fortunate to stumble into some good stuff. We were driving down towards Hilo when we came to an overlook above a bay. We pulled over and walked up to the edge to see a great view down into a lovely looking bay. The waves were crashing in from the ocean and the place looked cool. We were so close to moving on after a few minutes.
Just before we turned to go, we saw a couple of people down on a headland in the bay. We weren’t in a hurry so we figured we would head down the trail and see what was there. The area was butted up against a botanic garden which we weren’t planning on visiting so we knew we wouldn’t go far. As we got to the bottom of the trail, we came to an entrance to the garden with a security guard sitting watch over who came through. Then we saw a small side track alongside the fence heading to the water. A short excursion brought us to a beach. The waves were crashing up on the shore by our feet and everything was covered over with a dense canopy of trees. A little climb took me out onto a spur of rock with the waves crashing either side. A rocky cliff face was on one side and the waves were striking it violently.
There was a small blowhole in the rock near where I stood. As the waves came in just right, the water would fire out of the hole. Other times nothing would happen or there would be a small gurgle. I talked to a couple of guys out there who obviously knew the place well. They pointed out how far out you could go without getting completely drenched by the waves. More importantly, it looked like the sort of place that you could get caught out by a wave easily. If you went into the water, I suspect it could have ended badly.
Forget that though. The place was gorgeous. When the guys left, we were the only ones there. The waves were pounding the shore, the scenery was stunning and you felt like you were the only person in the world who knew it was there. It was hard to break away. We stood there for ages. Sometimes the waves would come that bit further up the beach than normal and they would wash over my feet. No point in objecting. Just stand there and enjoy it. Of course, we had to leave eventually. Those visiting the botanic garden had a promontory a short distance away but they were really not in a good position to enjoy the experience because they were on one of the nicer parts. We met a couple coming down the trail as we left. They looked ready to turn back and had not seen where we had gone. We made sure to explain where they needed to go. I hope they liked it.
While watching the waves come rushing in to the Santa Cruz shore, I saw something floating on the surface just a little way out. It appeared to be seaweed but that wasn’t all that was there. A look through the longer lens confirmed that a sea otter was sitting out there enjoying the ride. The clump of weed was drifting closer in so, when the waves started to break over the top, the otter would dive underneath and pop back up once the turmoil had passed. The current was taking him along the shoreline over time so we lost track of where he ended up but he seemed to be enjoying the ride quite a lot!