Artwork From the Best Oregon Coast Photography Locations
As I share in my article, Eight Challenges of Coastal and Seascape Photography, I love being out on the coast shooting seascapes. The smell of the fresh salt air, the sound of the waves hitting the shore, the beautiful beaches, and the stunning rocky coasts are all reasons that bring me back again and again. So thus, I love taking photos of the Oregon coast.
What makes the Oregon Coast a special place for fine art photography? One reason is the captivating scenes of sea stacks emerging from coastal fog such as seen at the Samuel Boardman Scenic Area. One of the most photographed spots in Oregon is home to one of the biggest sea stacks—Haystack Rock—rising out of the ocean at over 200 feet tall. A “top ten photograph” of the Oregon Coast would certainly include a photo of Haystack Rock at sunset.
As a fine art photographer, I am captivated by the Oregon coast waves. Mix the drama of crashing waves with fog and you have a unique fine art Oregon Coast photography print. There are several days in the winter when large 15-20-foot-high swells coincide with high tides resulting in some amazing waves crashing on the shore at Cape Kiwanda and Shore Acres State Park, which make for dramatic one-of-a-kind Oregon coast photographs.
Over the years I have experimented with fog photography techniques as well digital darkroom processes so my fog photographs are more than various shades of gray. The result…. a fine art print that captures the mystery and beauty of a foggy morning on the Oregon Coast…whether it is of the sea stacks or the Yaquina Head lighthouse.
This brings me to the question of What Does Fine Art Photography Mean? Although there are many answers, the simplest answer is that fine art photographers, such as myself, create photographs that go beyond merely capturing what is in front of the camera….they capture the emotional mood of the moment and the range and depth of the colors seen. Fine art photography can be very powerful in scope and feel.
An example of this is the famous Oregon coast photographic site known as Thor’s Well which gives the appearance of a gaping sinkhole that “swallows” the seawater around it. It provides the opportunity for striking fine art photography.
There are many reasons why the Oregon Coast has top-rated photography locations. For you, the purchaser of fine art, you can rest assured that my photography techniques and interest in this area guarantee that the stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, and varied landscape of the Oregon Coast will be portrayed in a manner that reflects the true beauty of the area.
Visiting and Photographing the Oregon Coast
Oregon has, in my opinion, the most interesting and diverse coastline of any in the United States. The photographic possibilities are almost endless with the constant changes in weather.
After quite a few trips to the Oregon Coast, I think my favorite is the south end. It can be foggy almost anytime, but late Spring and early Summer seem to be when it's at its heaviest.
If you’re there at that time, it’s worth a side trip down to Northern California to photograph the Rhododendrons in the Redwood trees. I have found Del Norte State Park to be the most productive area for this. The Rhododendrons can bloom early or late, so check with the park service before you go.
Brookings, Oregon is a great place to base for visiting or photographing the south Oregon coast. It’s a short drive up to the Samuel Boardman State Scenic Area. What makes the sea stacks here so attractive is the trees growing out of the top of them.
My favorite spots here include Natural Bridges, Secret Beach, and Arch Rock. The Winter brings a much different sun angle than the summer, usually less fog and good opportunities for big waves.
Moving north, there is the Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint and Ariya’s Beach. These locations are different from others because of the grass-covered sand dunes between the highway and the beach. Early morning is a great time to be here for the rising sun to light up the dunes as well as the sea stacks offshore.
Continuing up the coast, there are a number of rocky beaches to pass before coming to Cape Blanco State Park. There is a wonderfully restored lighthouse there that you can go up in and learn about its history and the way the light works. I found it quite interesting.
Bandon Beach is practically a required stop for any photographer. The beaches are flat and wide allowing for many possibilities of capturing the movement of water coming in or out with the sea stacks in the background.
The sea stack called Wizard’s Hat is probably the most photographed. There is also the Coquille River Lighthouse at Bullard’s Beach. For some reason, it seems to look good with dark stormy clouds behind it.
Shore Acres State Park is where you can see and photograph some of the largest exploding waves during the winter. There is usually a day or two in November, December, and January when the King Tides are at their highest. The result is exploding waves that are simply hard to believe.
Just south of Florence, Oregon is some great sand dunes by the coast. They are best accessed at Siltcoos Beach and from Sand Dunes Road to the north. I keep promising myself to spend more time there, and then I start thinking about hiking in the soft sand and somehow that promise gets broken.
The Heceta Head Lighthouse is probably the most picturesque scene of a lighthouse on the ocean. You can actually stay overnight at the lighthouse, which has a 5 room Bed and Breakfast. It looks pretty special, and I’m sure reservations are required well in advance on their website.
Up the road from the lighthouse is Thor’s Well at Cape Perpetua. I had more fun photographing there than just about anywhere. Catching the water descending into Thor’s Well was a blast. The trick is being there at mid-tide at sunset, so check your tide tables in advance.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse is another impressive coastal lighthouse scene. April is a great month to be there for the flowers and the Harbor Seal Pups. If you like exploring tide pools, it is also a great location for that.
Further north is Cannon Beach, which is famous for Haystack Rock, a huge sea stack just offshore. The beach is wide and flat, with possibilities at low and high tide. Every time I visit, there seems to be a group somewhere on the beach with a bonfire going. The walk on the beach at sunset is beautiful.
Immediately to the north of Cannon Beach is Ecola State Park with elevated views of Cannon Beach. Late afternoon and sunset is the time to be there.
Lastly, at the beach of Fort Steven State Park, is the wreck of the Peter Iredale. There are the skeletal remains of the steel-hulled sailing ship that ran aground in 1906. There’s not much left, but it’s a popular location to visit and photograph.
As you can see, there is a good reason that I have a separate gallery for the Oregon Coast and Inland Oregon. There is just that much to see and photograph. I hope you get the chance to get out there.
Fun Facts About the Oregon Coast
There are 363 miles of coastline in Oregon. It is a dream for Landscape and Nature Photography. Oregon is known for its amazing sea stacks, and Washington has a little bit of everything.
In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Captain Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to lead an expedition to the Pacific Coast. They reached the Oregon Coast near what is now Astoria in the winter of 1805. After establishing relationships with local Native Americans, they began their trip back home over a year later. The information learned from the Lewis and Clark Expedition began the process of the settlement of the west coast of the United States.
The Oregon Coast Trail runs 350 miles begins at Fort Stevens State Park in the north and runs all the way to the California border at Crissey Field State Recreation Site. The majority runs along the beaches, and it reaches an elevation of 1661 feet at Neahkahnie Mountain.
Opposite from the Atlantic Coast, high tide at sunset may be desired, but there are photographic possibilities on some of the wide beaches at low tide. The storms in the winter can result in incredible photographs of crashing waves in Oregon. The Pacific Northwest has it all.