Gorgeous colorful sunrise at Ecola State Park

Gorgeous colorful sunrise at Ecola State Park

For the few days we spent along the coast (it was nice to stop driving and relax after doing some 1200 miles in 3 days…), we spent quite a bit of time at Ecola State Park. It has nice overlooks of the ocean, rainforesty trails to hike, starfish-filled tidepools, views of some really cool sea stacks in the water, plenty of birds… and all in all lots of cool stuff to explore. 🙂

At Ecola State Park, one of the lessons we learned was the value of experience through trial and error, learning about the intricacies of a location and its relationship to natural weather conditions, and how it’s not so much about everything magically working out the very first time but making a bunch of mistakes which ultimately lead to the shot that you want, given beautiful weather conditions of course.

For example, when you get to an overlook, where do you stand to get the best angle?

The first morning when we arrived, it was still pretty dark, bang on right before the whole color show started to dance in the sky. The timing worked out perfectly, giving us enough time to sleep in, but still arrive when the show begins. However, one thing that’s difficult when you show up the morning of is that you don’t have much of a chance to scout out the location and find the best vantage point. The first morning we were there, we set up right from the big man-made overlook right by the parking lot. It must be a good angle, right? Well it was, but mostly after the sun rose above the horizon.

The sun peeks above the mountains at Ecola

The sun peeks above the mountains at Ecola

As the sun progressively started to rise, there was this gorgeous mist that started to glow near the sea stacks in the distance.

Shooting sunrise at Ecola State Park

Shooting sunrise at Ecola State Park

I shot both some timelapse and some realtime footage here and after looking over the results and experimenting with playing with the speed of the waves, it seems that ocean waves look better in realtime versus sped up as a timelapse. At regular speed, the waves are so calming and soothing. 🙂

Something I noticed here is that since the sun rises from behind the mountains to the left side of the image, the pre-sunrise color was even farther off to the left. If I wanted to get both the sunrise light in the sky and the sea stacks in the water, I had to move over to the right, moving my foreground to the left. The next morning this is exactly what I did and I got a shot much more in alignment with what I wanted, no pun intended. 😉

Gorgeous colorful sunrise at Ecola State Park

Gorgeous colorful sunrise at Ecola State Park

There’s some other beautiful sights around the area we got to see over the next few days while we were there.

One thing you can see from this area is the Tillamook lighthouse.

Waves crashing up against the Tillamook lighthouse in the distance

Waves crashing up against the Tillamook lighthouse in the distance

You can see the waves crash on up over the rocks… however, this was nothing compared to what’s possible here! Check this out… this is just an image I found online showing just how huge the waves can get!

Tillamook lighthouse with crashing waves, from lighthousefriends.com

Tillamook lighthouse with crashing waves, from lighthousefriends.com

Imagine being there when the waves were crashing clear over the lighthouse! Crazy!!

Along the coast, we were getting some pretty bangin’ waves.

Waves crash before the Tillamook lighthouse in the distance

Waves crash before the Tillamook lighthouse in the distance

As the tide rolls in and out, there’s some tidepools that form which are basically little pockets of temporarily captured ocean water. In these pools, starfish and other sea critters like to hang out as the waves rush in and out.

A bunch of starfish hanging out in the tidepools

A bunch of starfish hanging out in the tidepools

How many can you see? Keep in mind that some are being covered up by waves such as in the top right, and some are deeper in the water and you’ll only see them when the waves rush out. 🙂 (You can click on the picture to see a larger version, as well as to purchase a print!)

While we were out shooting these starfish and standing on these boulders, we got an unexpected surprise when a large wave (appropriately called a sneaker wave) suddenly snuck up on us and splashed us all over!

Here’s the area I was shooting when pointing the video camera at the back of the still camera’s LCD and got splashed.

More starfish chillin'

More starfish chillin'

It was really cool watching the starfish grip onto the rocks so tightly as the waves would continually brush by them.

Starfish cling onto the sides of boulders as the ocean waves continue to bathe them

Starfish cling onto the sides of boulders as the ocean waves continue to bathe them

Now one of the main reasons we had come down to this part of the park was to shoot Arch Rock. Here’s Marc’s version of the shot, followed by my story about trying to get a shot of this spot as well. 🙂

The Sun's Fortress by Marc Adamus

The Sun's Fortress by Marc Adamus

It turns out getting to this location was HARD work. There’s no accessible trails to it. I tried finding a suitable route for both Matteo and I to hike in while carrying camera gear and it involved bushwhacking and climbing over sheer cliffs if you come over from one direction, or carefully working your way over large sharp rocks coming from the other direction. In order for Marc to have pulled off the shot, he must have come when sunset occurred simultaneously with completely low tide. Hiking down to the coast from the overlook I showed you at sunrise, you walk along the beach and try to get far enough in to get the above angle. After having to climb over rocks because the tide was too high to walk around, I wound up going home with lacerated palms… You pretty much  have to 4×4 it (use your hands and feet) when going over those boulders, but the rocks will definitely do a number on your hands.

In any event, long story short, after finally finding a way over to this location (and being told earlier that day by a park ranger about two people who had been pulled out the water and lost at sea after getting hit by a sneaker wave some two days prior), we got as close as we could safely get to the angle we wanted. This is where we wound up:

Looking towards Arch Rock from the coastal boulders

Looking towards Arch Rock from the coastal boulders

The tide was much higher than it was when Marc was there. Not  only was he able to actually go down and stand on the sandy beach below, but the lower water levels revealed more of the sharp rocks in the distance in the vicinity of Arch Rock. The lower water levels also made is so that the water level was below the cave/hole rather than up at around the base of the hole. If you go back and forth, you can compare the water levels between my shot and Marc’s.

With my recently acquired 10x ND filter, I experimented a bit with smoothing out the ocean waves to create a more ethereal feel.

Smoother ocean waves at Arch Rock

Smoother ocean waves at Arch Rock

We had some time before sunset so I found a place along the side of the cliff to make myself comfortable. Going down to the water was definitely not an option here.

Sitting on the boulders, waiting for sunset at Arch Rock

Sitting on the boulders, waiting for sunset at Arch Rock

It was such a cool place to spend sunset and to shoot from. 🙂

Shooting Arch Rock at sunset

Shooting Arch Rock at sunset

As the sun finally started to lower down into the horizon, a thin band of clouds started to form over the horizon, effectively blocking any sunlight from hitting Arch Rock. Thus it looks like we wouldn’t be getting that beam of light through the arch the way Marc got. Oh well, we still got a chance to have some fun and get some cool looking shots. 🙂

Flowing ocean at Arch Rock

Flowing ocean at Arch Rock

Knowing what I know now, next time I come I will definitely be checking the tide tables and making sure that low tide corresponds with sunset. Weather forecasts are nice, but the weather here is so variable that, like a box of chocolates, you never really know what you’re gonna get.

One Comments

  1. Sarah Griffin
    on September 20th, 2012
    1

    Do you sell any prints? your photography is incredible!

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