November in Tofino is pretty chilly. There were plenty of surfers out in the water in their wetsuits. However, it seemed to be a bit too cold for swimming. A couple obviously had a different view of things. The girl initially came running down to get in the water in her swimsuit. She soon headed back but returned before too long with the guy and they both jumped into the surf. I’m not sure this was terribly smart but they seemed to have fun.
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).
The stretch of coastline in Oregon that we visited had plenty to do. We had to scratch a few of the things we had thought about in order to do other things given the time available. One of the things we didn’t get close to was Thor’s Well. This is a hole in the rocks along the shore where the water can rush up from underneath. You can get close to the hole but you have to be careful as this is the sort of thing that can overwhelm you if you are not careful.
We only got to watch this from the overlook along the highway. The surf was running in quite strongly while we were there and the tides combined with it to provide a fair bit of action at the well. Even so, from this distance, you didn’t get much of a sense of the power of the water. If we go back, I will take the trail down there to get a closer look.
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.
Watching the surfers trying to catch the big waves was cool but, even when they didn’t make it, I wasn’t disappointed. The waves themselves were fantastic to watch. The color of the water as the waves built up as they came into the shallows and then became unstable and broke was fantastic. The spray from the breaking wave would fly back up the face of the wave and over the crest. Sometimes you would briefly see into the tube and the wave rolled towards us. Fantastic stuff and so powerful!
The Pacific Coast is picturesque at any time. Add into the mix a decent swell and things start to look really cool. We took a trip to Santa Cruz while my mum was staying and the waves were larger than we have seen on any of our previous visits. The waves were running up to the shore and crashing against the rocks in a very dramatic way. This wasn’t a stormy day. There was some wind but the sun was out and it was a very pleasant temperature. However, something out in the ocean was a bit more active and it had driven the big waves towards the shore.
Not only were the waves crashing into the rocks along the shore, they were also crashing into each other. As one wave hit the shore, it would reflect back out to see. There it would meet the next wave coming in. Waves go in phases with times of small waves interspersed with times of big waves. (An old Navy helicopter pilot friend of mine – used to landing on pitching decks – said they come in sevens. I don’t know whether this is accurate but it seems about right.) When a couple of big waves were together, the impact of the reflecting wave on the incoming wave was pretty dramatic with the water shooting vertically in the air. I can stand and watch waves all day without any trouble. Each one is slightly different and they are so full of power. They are mesmerizing.
Further up the coast from Grandma’s Cove was Lime Kiln State Park. The area used to be a hive of lime production – hence the name of the park – but now the focus was on the lovely shoreline and the great views. The inclusion of a lighthouse certainly did nothing to harm the view. There were also the remains of a fortification of some sort on a headland which we had seen from further away when traveling towards to the park up the coast road.
The lighthouse provided a base for a volunteer group that was tracking the wildlife in the area. They had some signs identifying which whales had been seen in the area and when. We did not time our visit there well to see the whales although we did catch some later in the day further up the coast. The volunteers had binoculars to lend out to visitors if they needed them but, with no whales to be seen, we didn’t require them this time.
Take a walk from Americas Camp on San Juan Island and you are quickly down by the water. One of the trails leads to a lovely little bay called Grandma’s Cove. I don’t know who Grandma was or even whose grandma she was. Why the cove was hers is a mystery to me too. However, she obviously had pretty good taste because it is an idyllic spot. Almost no one was there when I visited. Unfortunately, a couple of guys were down on the beach and were interested in making art in the sand. This disrupted my vision of the shots a touch but, when you are somewhere so lovely, it is hard to be upset about anything for long.
I’m sure this will look very formulaic to a number of photographers but, for the longest time, I have loved the image of a lone boat in the open sea. I think the first time I took a shot like this was on the Ribble Estuary in Lytham. That was on film of course. Now, even when I know it is not being terribly original, I can’t help myself but be drawn to an image like this. Maybe one day I will have the perfect shot but I doubt it.
The way the light bounces from the water, the shadow that the boat is in, the texture of the waves and the isolation of the boat in the expanse of the water all appeal to me. Hope you like it too.
At the end of Baker Beach there are some rocks. One guy had set himself up here to do a bit of fishing. He knew exactly where the waves would crash over and where they would miss – unlike some of the other people clambering across the rocks. The image of him alone with the sea seemed rather compelling to me – certainly more so than the view in the opposite direction of a naked guy on the beach applying sunblock!