Experiments on the Oregon Coast

In early October I needed a break so I scheduled some time off and headed up the Oregon Coast. One of the places I stopped for a few days was Bandon, partly to see some friends and partly because it’s a part of the coast I’ve often driven through but rarely really stopped and explored.

The trip wasn’t specifically about photography but I did haul out the camera a few times. In all honesty, the conditions weren’t great, the light wasn’t very cooperative and the skies weren’t all that interesting so I spent the time experimenting more than trying to create final images. Still, I did end up with some things I liked.

One of the looks that has interested me recently is the water softening you get from long-exposure photography, so I spent a fair bit of time exploring that. I had no real idea what my results would be, but I’d decided to ditch my Vari-ND because there were too many negative artifacts in the images, and I had a brand new set of Tiffen ND filters I wanted to play with (.6, .9, and 1.2 respectively).

My first stop was late afternoon along the Bandon harbor shore with a lighthouse conveniently placed as a subject. This first image is your typical late afternoon, no-clouds, headed-into-sunset image. For reference, 1/4 second at F11 at ISO 200 with the Fuji XT-1 and the 18-135 lens.

Bandon Lighthouse Sunset, Bandon Harbor, Oregon

Bandon Lighthouse Sunset, Bandon Harbor, Oregon

I then started adding the ND filters to the setup. this image is about 5 minutes later, with the .6 and .9 added, taking the exposure to about 6 seconds and changing the aperture to F/16.

Bandon Lighthouse Sunset, Bandon Harbor, Oregon

Bandon Lighthouse Sunset, Bandon Harbor, Oregon

I think this is a really nice example of how the addition of the ND filters affects the look of the water, and honestly I think it makes the image a lot more interesting. At the same time, six seconds is still fairly short and the water is nicer but not great and the image could (at least) use some water breaking up onto the breakwater on the far shore. Even with that though, this light is still pretty, well, boring. but these images make a nice example of the kind of look you can expect using longer exposures with ND filters compared to a more traditional image.

Still, these are interesting shots showing an experiment, nothing worth keeping for any other reason. I kept experimenting with the filters and longer exposures for about another hour as the light faded, and I ended up with a shot around 7PM that went for 25 seconds @ F/16.

To be honest, I still wasn’t thrilled with the light or the color in the image (or more correctly, the lack of it) so when I hauled it into Lightroom, I decided to see what I could do to bring out the potential of the image. And this is what I ended up with:

Bandon Lighthouse

How did I get that color into the image? Lightroom’s split toning capability. Did this color, especially with this intensity, exist in real life? Not really. Is this cheating?

It is definitely more manipulation and processing than I do on a regular basis. It is definitely enough manipulation that some venues wouldn’t accept it. On the other hand, I really like the image and I like the result, and honestly, isn’t that what matters? (I know, I know, to some, the answer is no…)

It’s an image I’m going to happily keep and will likely print for my walls, and that’s what matters.

The next evening we went out to the shore to shoot some of the sea stacks around Face-in-Rock. Again, the light was rather boring and the skies not terribly interesting, so I spent my time more on experimenting with the ND filters and long exposure and seeing whether I could make something interesting out of a nice location but poor landscape conditions. And then the fog started moving in to make it even more, well, interesting.

Bandon Sea Stacks, Bandon, Oregon

Bandon Sea Stacks, Bandon, Oregon

here’s a fairly early (about 6:30PM) traditional shot with one ND filter and a 3 second exposure of some of the sea stacks, with fairly blah pre-sunset lighting and an absolutely cloudless sky. 20 minutes later with a lot of ND filter stacked onto the lens, I’m now shooting 1 minute exposures at F/11. As with the lighthouse, I decided to see what I could do to take rather blah lighting and make it a more interesting scene, and I ended up with this:

Bandon Sea Stacks

To me, the water starts getting really interesting when the exposure moves beyond 45 seconds or so. The water takes on an almost ethereal feel.

Finally I turned my attention to the Face in Rock formation itself, but by this time the fog was sprinting in and challenging the ability to shoot at all — plus it was cold, windy, and stupid me forgot to pack anything warmer than a hoodie and didn’t bring gloves, so my incentive to keep shooting was leaving almost as fast as my will to live. you can see the almost cloudless sky and the thick band of fog out beyond the rock, guaranteeing sunset would have no real color. (28 seconds at F/11 with two ND filters attached, 6:45PM). Still I love the look of that rock and I wanted to see if I could do anything with it.

Face in Rock, Bandon, Oregon

Face in Rock, Bandon, Oregon

And then the fog took over…

Face in Rock in the Fog, Bandon

And if live gives you lemons, add a bit of sugar and enjoy the lemonade. this shot is literally less than two minutes later than the previous one, and two minutes after that you couldn’t see the rocks at all and I was headed for the car and the car heater. But still, it’s an image I really think turned out well overall — fog photography can be really subjective and depends a lot on luck, but I think that rock (which is likely best shot at dawn, IMHO) is well represented here. (58 seconds at F/11)

The rest of the trip? the rain kicked in, the clouds took over, the light went to hell and there really wasn’t much worth shooting that turned out worth keeping. But that was okay, since I got to do a lot of exploring (and sleeping) and the weather meant I felt absolutely no guilt over not setting an early morning alarm…