Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Magic of Cannon Beach in Winter

The sun sets behind Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Cannon Beach is one of those places you just can't seem to get enough of.  The area offers so much to visitors.  It is one of the choice destinations on the Oregon coast, offering sandy beaches, sea stacks, nearby state parks, family lodging, nice restaurants, tourist shops and most all services available within walking distance of your place of stay. 

It's a great place to take the family;  the beach is perfect for kids and pets to play, beachcombing at low tide, a romantic walk in the evening, and of course, the chance to break out the photography gear.  My personal experience?  The former allows the latter!

While I have visited Cannon Beach many times during the spring and summer months, I most recently enjoyed it with family over the holidays.  It was our favorite visit to date.

Winter is a great time in general to visit; the crowds are gone, lodging is very reasonable (often half price), and the air is much clearer and the skies so much more interesting.  In summer, the warm air tends to bring fog in the mornings and evenings.  In winter, the air stays cool and the views clear for those dramatic sunsets.  Or, maybe you want to storm watch, which was our original intention.

Pink morning clouds above The Needles at Cannon Beach, Oregon.
I'm going to plug my favorite place to stay, Hallmark Resort.  It is located right on the beach and has the closest lodging to Haystack Rock, has direct beach access, is pet friendly, is located on the edge of downtown so that you can walk to all amenities, and has an indoor pool, spa, sauna, exercise room and more to keep the family entertained.  The rooms also have a full kitchen so that you can cook your own meals if you wish (I did a prime rib in the oven for Christmas dinner).

For the photographer, this is a great place to keep your family busy while you get down to business!  Cannon Beach is in close proximity to two of the most iconic images on the Oregon coast:  Haystack Rock & The Needles, and Crescent Beach from Ecola State Park.

As mentioned earlier, one of the big differences in the winter is the lack of morning and evening fog on the horizon and even engulfing the beach.  The other noticeable difference is that the sun sets so much further to the south, lighting up the southern sky and possibly encouraging you to set up for a slightly different composition than you would in the summer.

The classic composition here is of Haystack Rock and The Needles at sunset silhouetted against a dynamic, radiant evening sky.  Even better is to catch the reflection of the scene in the water along the beach as the tide recedes.  Watch out for those sneaker waves; they typically aren't strong enough here to be dangerous, but they can make you very wet on an already chilly evening if you are not careful.

Sunset behind Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Spending multiple evenings here will allow you a little more freedom to play with placing the sun at different locations as it sets.  You may also be rewarded with much different patterns in the sky, or dramatically different skies altogether.

While you may have some small crowds to deal with in the evening (nothing like in summer, mind you), you will find their numbers directly proportionate to the temperature.  As the sun sets and the temps drop, so do the people.  When the best light arrives after the sun has set (and pink clouds emerge), you may be all alone.

Sunrise at Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Morning can also be an inviting time to photograph Cannon Beach in the winter, so don't forget to set your alarm!  This is best done with light clouds present in the sky to catch the suns early rays.  Again, the colors can be reflected in the water thanks to the flat, hard-packed sand on the beach. 

While the entire sky is subject to fantastic morning color, fishing boats with their bright lights are common just out to sea, mainly directly west and northwest.  A south facing composition catches the most dramatic early light and avoids these unwanted objects.  As the morning grows lighter, the clouds to the west and northwest will turn pink to purple and the boats will be less noticeable, if not entirely undetectable.

Crescent Beach from Ecola State Park, Oregon.
Don't forget to visit Ecola State Park, just a short drive north from Cannon Beach.  Photographs can be taken almost from the parking lot, though walking the short paved trail west will offer a wider view.  Cresent Beach is best photographed from here in late afternoon and at sunset, hopefully with some clouds on the horizon to catch light.  In winter, this sunrises can also be attractive from here.

There are other places to visit and photograph within Ecola State Park as well - don't forget to check out Indian Beach and the views out to Tillimook Lighthouse!

I recommend a mid-telephoto lens, such as a 24-70 lens for these locations.  I also recommend both a 2 and 3-stop reverse gradual neutral density filter for shooting the sunsets.

I will be adding these and more images to my Oregon Coast Gallery soon.  In the meantime, check out images from here and the entire Oregon coast here.

As always, thanks for viewing!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Happy New Year!

Yes, I know I am late.  The holidays have been extremely busy in the Geyer household...well, out of it, actually.  Christmas was spent at Cannon Beach along the Oregon coast (future post), and what a magnificent time it was.  Now it is "back to the grind" to start the new year, with lots of new challenges ahead!

Pike Place Market in Seattle Washington lit up at night.
I thought I would start the new year by sharing an image that was taken during the holiday season a few years ago.  This is Seattle's famous Pike Place Market, taken very early on a December morning - well before sunrise.  It's a much different setting at this time.  The streets are quiet and the workers are focused on preparing their stands for the busy day ahead.

I'm often surprised at where some of my images end up, and this one is no exception; it will be appearing on a corporate web site for a prominent Seattle based company.  Details to follow.

I hope your 2014 is off to a great start.  I'm looking forward to many new projects in the coming year, and can't wait to get started.  Happy New Year!