I spent a week in Pacific City, OR celebrating my birthday shooting Cape Kiwanda. Last summer I spent a day here and fell in love with this place. The lighting was just amazing that day and I’ve longed to come back and shoot again.
The weather was going to be hot and I wasn’t very optimistic since it was summer. But still I was taking a break from working so hard the past couple of months. I was going to be a lazy shooter that week.
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my photography and where it’s headed. Every photo I produce is a piece of my own art and with everything I do in life I want to refine it. Whether that it’s shooting techniques, post processing, or creative ideas. This topic has become more important to me lately.
While working 16 hours a day 7 days a week it can be a challenge to keep my creativity fresh. I needed to optimize my time even further.
My intermediate solution is to cut down and focus on specific things I want to shoot. There’s so many subjects and styles one can shoot but there are certain types of photos that really draws me in. So why do I want to waste my time and energy shooting mediocre stuff when I need to focus on what really matters to me.
I have been passing up a lot of opportunities to shoot simply because they have little or no interest to me. Although I will still shoot them for my own pleasure, I know exactly what I want to shoot. You have to shoot what matters to you not anyone else.
Best Times For Me To Shoot
If I lived in a perfect world where I can be productive at all hours of the day I would be heaven. However that is far from the truth.
I’ll share a secret with you. I absolutely love early mornings. There’s something magical that happens in the morning that is drastically different than the evenings. There’s a certain calmness when you’re by yourself enjoying nature while the world is still asleep.
The quiet energy that starts to get louder as the morning progresses makes you feel part of something magical.
A few years ago I literally spent a month crabbing in Nehalem Bay at this popular marina. I would be there during the weekdays and come camp there on the weekends. It was fun and I have fond memories of my time there.
I remember one time I woke up early to go crabbing before my daughters got up. I wanted to make sure we had our limits before they got up and I could be back to cook them breakfast. While aimlessly drifting in the bay the sun peeked out from the mountains and the whole bay was casted in a warm gold and pink light. This is what made me fall in love with mornings.
However, when I’m back home I don’t have that luxury. I typically end my work day around 1AM. This makes it quite hard to get up early for sunrise shots. So instead of beating myself up about it I’m just going to use it to my advantage. I’ll only shoot sunset for the time being.
I prefer sunsets due to the availability of my time. It’s not a hard and fast rule but that’s my general time to shoot for now. Will I shoot sunrises? Yes of course! I often find that I’m shooting sunrises when I’m on a planned trip like my last one to Cape Kiwanda.
Early To Bed Early To Rise
I awoke at 4am to get ready to go shoot Cape Kiwanda and I knew that would involve an early morning hike. My general plan was to get a shot of the sun coming over the iconic sand dune but the details were still up in the air.
Water is a very key element in my images and I knew I had to incorporate it. I hiked up the sand dune and down to the water’s edge and found my composition. The area was covered in a light fog and it just made the scene even moodier. Exactly what I liked. Thank you Mother Nature.
Here’s a big challenge with shooting a scene like this and it’s the high dynamic range of the elements. You have the darker cooler rocks and waves with a bit of fog. On the other hand you have the warmer tones and bright sun that’s starting to come over the ridge. If you’re in this type of situation, bracket your shots.
Take multiple images with different exposures.
Exposing for the highlights should be your first priority. Assuming you have a decent camera that can pull the details out of the shadows.
To be safe I always take multiple exposures just to have that safety net. I think it’s better to not use a frame instead of not having a frame to throw away at all.
Sunrise At Cape Kiwanda
The image above I took of Cape Kiwanda is a blend of two images. One for the shadows and mid-tones and one for the actual sunlight peeking over the ridge. With such a dynamic scene like this there would be no way for me to get this in one shot.
I took the two best images and blended them manually in Photoshop using luminosity masks.
While typically it would take me a 1-2 hours of processing, this image took longer. The reason as I mentioned earlier in this post is that I’m always trying to refine my process. So with this image I actually slowed down quite a bit and made precise edits. I would make an adjustment or a series of adjustments and then let it sit until the next morning. I would then make smaller adjustments and repeat.
This process may not be for everyone who just wants to get their image done. But for me it’s an experiment. I really want to fine tune my processing to take it to the next level and I can’t do that if I’m not precise.
I’ve actually learned quite a bit from this experiment and that’s what’s important. Do you experiment with your photography or do you just follow a certain process and call it good?
By the way, a word of caution: Cape Kiwanda is very beautiful and there’s so many photos to take. However it’s also quite dangerous and a lot of people have lost their lives. Please be careful when visiting and be aware at all times. There are many signs and a fence that warns visitors to stay away. Be prudent and cautious when hiking around these parts.
Thanks for reading!