Shooting around the coast has its own challenges, but it’s also the most dramatic landscape. What makes it so special, you ask? First, its constantly changing. Tides come and go bringing life to tide pools, high winds create massive crashing waves that erode the coast, clouds flare up at sunset and every wave with its unique form creates a work of art. And secondly, the sheer scale of the scene, the raw power of nature is just inescapable. Hard to imagine such an experience anywhere else.
After spending 3 days, in and around such a force of nature, I wanted to shoot something different. Next leg of my journey, although still along the coast was exactly what I needed.
I left Cannon Beach driving south towards my destination, Heceta Beach. Along the way my plan was to taste local food, drink loads of coffee, eat a lot of cheese at Tilamook Creamery and then visit a lighthouse at sunset. A loaded cheese sandwich, a delicious ice cream and few rounds of cheese curds later, it was time to move on to the lighthouse.
I reached the lighthouse late afternoon, unfortunately It also came to my attention that it is closed to public after sunset. But I guess a belly full of cheese imparts certain wisdom, so instead of wallowing in my disappointment I quickly found another lighthouse, just an hour away.
Heceta head lighthouse looks so beautiful on any day. Accessible from highway, it is also very easy to photograph. The Keeper’s house next door also adds to the beauty of the scene. If you are ever visiting this place, don’t forget to listen for Sea Lions barking and spot them in the water below.
As the sun went down it was time to leave. I was staying in very cool place for the night. Not a hotel room, but an airstream camp right next to the beach with campfire and all the jazz! I was super excited and it didn’t disappoint. Dan & Terry- the hosts were extremely friendly and they went out of their way in making my stay comfortable. They also provided tons of tips about the area and how can I get the best shot.
My plan was to shoot milky way, but the sky was full of clouds. I sat around the campfire drinking coffee and hoping I’d get at least one shot by the morning. An hour later, sky cleared and I ran to my camera. Instead of one shot, what I got was a clear sky full of stars for more than an hour. It was a night to capture star trails!
Star trails is what happens when you keep your camera shutter open for more than a few minutes. As earth rotates on its axis, stars seemingly move in the sky creating a trail of light. In the shot I captured you can see that all stars create a concentric circle around North Star that holds its place through the night.
There are two ways to capture the star trails. Either you keep your shutter open for a very long time or you take sequence of images and blend them together. I took the second option, as the first is prone to producing a grainy image.
Imagine a sequence of images with each one taken a minute apart. A minute later when I take a shot, stars in the sky would have moved just a little bit from the previous one. If I take hundreds of such images and blend them together as a sequence, it creates a light trail. I took the final shot of me sitting next to the campfire and blended that in as well. (No, I wasn’t sitting there for an hour!). So essentially its a composite of images and not a single image. Is it real then? Of course it is! The movement of stars captured is real. And like I said, had I kept the shutter open for a long time, I would have gotten the same image. I just chose the latter option.
Shooting star trails has been on my list for a very long time! So I was elated to see this image. Although far from perfect, it still is close to my heart. A few years ago, when I started following professional photographers who take such shots routinely, I always wondered how on earth can I achieve something like that? It seemed so …well, impossible. Not anymore.
What’s the one shot that you always wanted to take? what’s your aspiration? In the next blog, I go inland to the mountains of Oregon. A land of numerous waterfalls, evergreen forests and hikes… Stay tuned!
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