Tag

seascape

Our Journey, Photography

The Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast

Brookings is a sleepy little town that stretches along US 101 with a few small off shoots that lead to the shoreline. The true gem of this town, for us at least, was that just five minutes outside of town was a scenic highway with gorgeous sea stacks. Compared to the east coast, where such sights are rare, these jagged rock islands, dotted with occasional trees, are quite impressive. We also enjoyed the intensity of the ocean here. In Virginia, the waves are much tamer and you typically only see comparably sized waves when hurricanes approach. Here however, it was just another day at the beach.

Despite the fortune of being so close to so many places to shoot, we quickly learned that it was not going to be as easy as we thought. While most of the sea stacks were visible at odd angles here and there along the twisting highway, they were nearly inaccessible by foot. This was due to the fact that the highway ran alongside steep cliffs that were covered in an overgrowth of ferns and dense brush. Once you made your way through the brush you were faced with the decision of whether it was worth it to slide down the nearly 90 degree angled muddy embankment to the beach itself. Having spent the past several weeks seeing firsthand the number of mudslides that had damaged the area, we decided that was probably not the best plan and made due with what we could access with reasonable safety.

One of the places that we found to be fairly easy to consistently get to was called Whales Head Beach. Here we found numerous large boulders that were surrounded by shallow tidal pools which, as the sun set, made for beautiful reflections. Despite being aware of the tide tables, there were occasionally rather defiant waves that swept much further up the beach than predictable. One such wave left me quite soaked as the wave crashed into the rock I was standing on before I could make a run for it. We both got a good laugh out of it but I learned my lesson after that incident and kept to higher ground.

Consistently, the biggest problem we faced was the erratic weather along the coast. Every day it would call for rain but it was 50/50 as to whether it would actually amount to anything. On some days you would find thick, dense clouds that would make their way along the coastline, dumping rain continuously as they blew through, and then would suddenly give way to brilliant blue skies. Other days it would do nothing but pour all day long. Needless to say, it made things a bit more challenging.

On one afternoon we decided that the weather looked fairly promising and thought that we would go capture some drone footage of the area. We drove down to a viewpoint with a high angle of visibility for tracking. I will say, that when DJI makes a product, they do an excellent job of it. We flew the drone along the coastline and had the controller suddenly give out on us. We couldn’t see any visual from the drones camera, only the distance away and elevation. We tried desperately to find out where the drone had gone, but to no avail. A passing cloud of rain began pelting us with large rain drops and we feared that after so many adventures with it, we had finally lost our drone. Just when we had started to give up hope, we began to hear a recurring beep that let us know the home function was kicking in as the battery was about to die. I scanned the skies, squinting to try and keep from getting rain in my eyes as I quickly became soaked. Several minutes later and the buzzing of the drones rotors soon became loud and the drone made a delicate landing right back where we had first taken off. We hastily packed it back up and went back to the RV. When we finally got a chance to look at the footage, we were startled to find that the drone had gone from along the coastline directly into the thick forest nearby. By some miracle it had barely avoided hitting trees all around it and had made its way back to us.

At the end of the week, we packed up our things and headed further up the coast to the even smaller town of Bandon. The area is well known to photographers for such rock formations as Face Rock, the Wizard’s Hat and the Cat and Kitten’s Rock. Once we had setup camp we headed down to the state beach area and began to scout ideal locations to shoot from. Along the rocky cliffs you can find small caves worn into the stone as well as countless arches and spires. Just a few hundred feet out into the waves were dozens of jagged sea stacks that the waves hammered on furiously. Compared to the rest of the area which looked rather calm, this area seemed to be teeming with activity and waves. In addition to the choppy seas, there were also a few springs of water that ran off from the cliffs and into the sea. If you stood long enough in the path of these tiny streams your feet would slowly be swallowed up. One of the most appealing characteristics of the area was the amount of light that was reflected back from where these streams met the ocean. Coupled with the golden light of sunset and a set of filters made Brandon quite transfixed with getting as many shots as he could. We were warned though, that minding the tide was crucial throughout the area, as the tide comes in fast, and people have been trapped, and even drowned being caught up in the tides and washed away by “sneaker waves”. It became my task to ensure that while he was focusing on the camera that I give warning whenever the waves got too high. All in all, the first evening we were there we were treated with one of the most intense sunsets of the trip so far.

One afternoon while Brandon was working, I went to visit the nearby West Coast Game Park Safari. It was a small area that had a variety of large cats, wandering deer, goats, sheep, and peacocks. I had the amazing opportunity to pet several of the hand raised creatures during their exhibits. Despite this unique experience, I felt a great sadness here. In my opinion, the cages were much too small for many of the animals. Three foxes were in a cage together and two of them were fighting one another. In the cages with the big cats they were either pacing or just sleeping. They didn’t really have much to stimulate them other than the families calling out and making meowing sounds. When the staff were around customers they were smiling and friendly, but once they alone they looked rather more annoyed at being there. They had two chimps which were frequently disrupted by families harassing them and making them agitated. When I asked a worker about it he said it was fine, but it seemed abundantly clear to me that they were upset. The two snow leopards they had were beautiful, but also were often seen mating, much to the females annoyance. It made me wonder if they were keeping them together to try and promote them to breed in captivity. If you are interested in a chance to pet a lynx or bobcat, it’s a good place to accomplish that, but for those who are generally don’t enjoy the atmosphere of a zoo, I would recommend avoiding it.

Later in the week we decided to visit an area to the north of us known as Cape Arago that boasted a now inaccessible lighthouse. What had once been a part of an outcrop of land where the lighthouse was built, had become an island due to erosion and lack of maintenance. The lighthouse itself was used until 2006 upon which it was decommissioned and as of 2008 was turned over to the Coos tribe which historically had used the site as a burial ground. Despite being more than a mile away, we were still able to fly the drone over to the island to get a better look at the lighthouse. Video coming soon. Afterwards, we visited Simpson Reef which is a known pull out for a large population of sea lions and seals. The tide was high and only a few places had room for the creatures to find land but there were hundreds of them basking in the last light of the day. A local who had also come out to watch the wildlife informed us that if we were really luck, we might catch sight of a female humpback and her calf that often frequented the area. We were not so lucky but we enjoyed a nice chat before we moved on and made our way back to the RV.

The rest of the week was mostly spent indoors as the rain had picked up again. One night we got lucky and were able to get some additional shots from the beach but otherwise that was about as much luck as we could warrant. As the week concluded it was time to head back towards a big city so Brandon could return back to D.C. for a couple of weeks for work. In the meantime, I will be holding down the fort in Silverton.

Also, as an added bonus this week, we have included a link to drone footage taken near Brookings!

Our Journey, Photography

Last Days in California

Last Days in California
Last Days in California
Last Days in California
Last Days in California
Last Days in California
Last Days in California
Last Days in California
Last Days in California
Last Days in California

The week went by rather quickly due to a busy work schedule and the numerous outings to watch the sea otters in the evenings. On Thursday, we were able to join the The Sea Goddess Whale Watching Tour and based on the past few days it looked like sightings were plentiful. After a late start getting on the road, we hurried over to Elkhorn Slough Harbor to catch the boat. They had clear rules stating they wouldn’t wait and would leave without you and we didn’t want to be those people. We quickly grabbed our tickets and scurried to the boat just as they were closing up. Only a minute or so after we got on, they began to push off and before long we were out of the harbor and out to sea. With luck, we almost immediately spotted a pair of humpback whales hunting just outside the harbor and rather close to the shore. Our captain was extremely adept at knowing where the whales would pop up next and successfully maneuvered the ship to give us the optimal views of them as they came to the surface, blowing spouts of water high into the air. For all their size, the whales were noticeably graceful creatures. They would come to the surface, take a few deep breaths, lift their tails in a fluke and dive back downwards to hunt for more food. The only trace left behind were small motionless wakes called fluke prints that were created by their massive size. We followed them for a good hour before the captain decided to do a quick exploration further out.

We made a wide sweeping arc across the Monterey Canyon hoping to scout additional whales but with limited luck. Despite the fact there was another ship following a pod of Orcas three miles out, the likelihood of getting there in time was minimal. The Sea Goddess’ speed couldn’t compare to that of an Orca, and we wouldn’t be able to catchup to them. As the sun came out we noticed thousands of Moon Jellies just beneath the surface as well as large schools of anchovies that glittered and shimmered as they swirled past. After some time, the captain decided it was best to turn back and stick with the two humpbacks discovered earlier.

As we neared the whales again, we noticed countless splashes around the whales. Very much like a pack of dogs, sea lions were moving in a large group along the surface and diving down in a synchronized routine as they hunted with the humpbacks. When they burst up to the surface again, it almost always meant that the whales were not far behind. The sea lions traced the movements of the whales which made easy pickings of the anchovies that the whales missed. This clearly proved to be a much easier method of hunting than trying to chase the schools themselves.
Every now and then, the Humpbacks would decide to stay at the surface a bit longer, turning on their sides and raising their fins up out of the water, as a dancer raises their arms in a slow circular arc, before turning and bringing it back down. A friendly wave of sorts to show off for the boat of onlookers. They had no fear of the boat, at one point swimming directly beneath it making everyone aboard seem to run from one end to the next in hopes of catching a closer glimpse of these gentle aquatic giants. Before long, the captain informed us that our tour was over and after watching them surface one last time, we made our way back to the harbor as the humpbacks turned and made their way further out to sea. Even if the tour was three hours long, it didn’t feel like long enough and I sorely wished that we could dedicate a full day to watching these beautiful water dancers.

The next day was our last in the area and due to the rainy weather we decided to spend the evening visiting the Monterey. When we arrived, the downtown area was packed with people hustling about in the drizzle. We made our way down the main street to the aquarium where we found numerous families enjoying their afternoon. Children squealed in delight as a scuba diver fed the multitude of fish and sharks behind one of the larger tanks simulating a kelp forest. The whole aquarium seemed to be geared towards getting younger children involved and interested in marine wildlife. One of my favorite parts was a section that had a variety of tanks full of jellyfish that were floating about, a slight current created to give them movement as they moved in everlasting circles. As much as they terrify and scare me, I can’t help but find them fascinating and beautiful in their own way. Although the whole aquarium is lovely, it seemed like it was had far more to do for kids than adults.

While we were sad to depart California, it was time for us to continue our journey ever northward. The drive from Moss Landing to Bandon Beach was something like out of a dream. When I was younger, I used to imagine rainforests to be a bit like what you see in the Jurassic Park movies. Rich ferns in the undergrowth of moss covered logs, mist seeming to float about between ancient trees. More so than anywhere else I have visited, the coast of northern California and Oregon fulfilled these picturesque imaginings. As we moved further north, we drove through what exists of the remaining stands of coastal redwood trees. Many of which were draped in thick moss and the ground surrounding them was covered a mix of gnarled roots and branches. Eventually, the trees gave way to coastal vistas and the rugged coastline. Waves smashed against giant sea stacks as we passed by craggy beaches littered with countless bleached logs. While it was a simple drive, it was definitely one of the better ones for scenery. When we arrived, the sky was overcast with seemingly ever present clouds to account for the moisture that gave so much life to the forests nearby. We will be spending the next few weeks working our way up the Oregon coast and enjoying the coastal life for a bit.

Our Journey, Photography

Tybee Island

Tybee Island
Tybee Island
Tybee Island
Tybee Island
Tybee Island
Tybee Island
Tybee Island

Here are a few long exposure shots we took at Tybee Island pier yesterday morning. Also included a few stills from the drone footage of the Cockspur Island lighthouse. Very surprised that the osprey on the lighthouse was patient enough to let us fly around it without being bothered.