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!