The Struggle of Indian Beach

It was Monday, and without even looking at the forecast I told my wife I was thinking about heading to the coast on Tuesday to shoot sunset. I hadn’t been in a while and didn’t really care about the conditions. I’ve just been shooting as much as I can lately. There was a beach I really enjoy, Indian Beach, and the last few times I went the road was closed after being washed out. I had heard it was open again so I thought it would be a good option as its about as close as you can get to Portland. That night just before bed, I checked my trusty sunset predictor, and it looked to be an all out firestorm on the coast. Sweet!

I woke up Tuesday morning and realized I wasn’t really excited for the solo car ride. It’s been a pretty rough few months for my mom, so I thought it would be fun to invite her as I know how much she loves the coast and she’s great company. I shot her a text around 730, and she was up for it, so the plan was made. I called the park and the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce to make sure the road was open, as I didn’t have the hike in me. I did it the last couple times and I wasn’t quite in shape for it. I didn’t imagine my 71 year old mother was either. Though I knew she could handle it!

Two o’clock came around, my mom arrived from Scappoose, and we were on our way. We made it to Indian Beach around four o’clock. I had informed her that my plan for shooting may be beyond her reach. The best place to shoot was up over a hill that was a tough hike for me, so I wasn’t about to let her do it. But Sea Lion Rock was magnificent. The sunset was timed perfectly with low tide, so I did have a small hope that we would be able to walk around. Upon arriving, it was pretty clear tide wouldn’t go that low, but I knew my mom would be completely content hanging out for a bit while I made the hike.

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“Beaming Through” I shot this image of Sea Lion Rock my first visit to Indian Beach in 2014.

So you can see why its worth it. It’s amazing. I made my way slowly over the rocks leading to the climb. I was having a little trouble as I had recently started wearing contact lenses while shooting to help avoid glasses fogging up, and my depth perception was a bit off. I also didn’t have that much time to spare so was in a bit of a rush. I hate rushing when it comes to photography. Actually, when it comes to anything. It wasn’t too bad getting to the top, much easier than I remembered actually. For some reason I stopped and snapped this shot of my feet on the top. Not really sure why.

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I also snapped this shot of the destination. So many possibilities. One of those places where its really hard to pick a spot to get situated on because there are so many compositions. But its not a great idea to run around during sunrises or sunsets, as they come and go shockingly fast. In fact the first time I was here, I was shooting next to a very odd duck who was literally running around hiding behind rocks shooting. No tripod. Thats a story for another day….

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I started the climb down, and got really freaked out. I’m not sure if it was my depth perception or what, but I found myself literally sliding on my butt. Inch by inch. I slowly started to panic.

I’ve recently been in some conversations online about photographers going where they shouldn’t for “the shot”. As I age, I think its stupider and stupider. Being a professional photographer does not mean you are a professional climber. If you actually are, great. But I am not. Nor are any photographers I know. And these days popular photographs of difficult to reach places cause problems. People post photos, and others want to mimic it. So even if you are qualified to go where you are going, its doubtful that the people that will follow in your footsteps are.  I have a pretty modest following. However you never know when a post will go “viral”. I think generally the big name people I follow realize this, and are careful about what they post. But in my situation, I try and remind myself, there is a one year old girl and her mother at home, who’s life would be turned upside down forever if something happened to me. Don’t push it Jarred.

About halfway down the other side I realized this was stupid as hell. Many that have done that trek would read this and think I’m blowing it way out of proportion. But screw them. It’s all about personal boundaries. That shot above was taken in 2014. I was 36. I felt way younger than I do now. I had a wife, but not a daughter.

I made it to the bottom. My heart was racing. I was shaking all over. I was crawling across rocks that I could have easily stepped across. My reality was totally skewed because I was petrified. So what if I’m a wuss, and so what if my photos suffer for it. I’m also going to throw this in, and I don’t want it to seem insignificant. My 71 year old mother came out here with me and was sitting by herself on the other side. I wasn’t worried about her safety, but she’s good company! I pulled my phone out to check the time and saw this photograph of my daughter. No. I don’t care what time it is. This is stupid.

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Fuck this. What the hell was I doing? This was tough coming over, how the hell would I ever make it back in a quarter the light? I would have max a half hour after I was done shooting to make the whole trek, including the 15 minute hike from my mom to the car. And of course how much time had I wasted? If I go back now I may not even make the sunset. So I honestly started hoping the sunset was a bust and started trekking back up the hill. If I missed it shooting, oh well. Whatever. I had a great time with my mom that day and I would be much safer this way. I was comfortable slowing down a bit and figure out if there was a better way back. Of course going up over the hill was much easier than coming down, but I had zero regrets. I got to the top and saw my mom sitting in her chair and new I made the right choice. I was back to her by about 5:40. I gave her a quick “that was stupid as hell” and proceeded to look for a spot to shoot.

I saw a rock that would get me something decent. I hoped. It took me three times longer than it should have to get to it, as I was still really nervous with my messed up depth perception and thousands in gear hanging around my neck, but I made it. It was covered in crazy cool barnacles that would make for good photos but my composition of the ocean and sunset would be awkward. I had very little options in movement, and time was out. If I tried to find something else I would miss the sunset or be too rushed to focus on what I was doing. This is what I saw. The sun was setting.

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So here I stayed for the rest of the evening. I’m going to share a bunch of photographs that were shot without moving more than a foot or two, but luckily I had the rock and barnacles to make for some interesting compositions. And now I could just hang out, on my knees, very uncomfortably, but I was safe. The chances were much higher that I would be returning home with no broken legs.

I shot a crazy amount of photographs over the next hour. My mom got pretty close behind me and started snapping shots with her iPhone. It was hard composing, especially after it got darker. But hot damn. It all worked out.

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This was over a very short period. But the sky changed so fast. From the tones of the blue background, to the fire of the sun hitting the clouds. Blue. Purple. Orange. Red. I shot non stop, not taking enough time to enjoy it with my own eyes. But I’m used to that! From the moment I arrived on this rock, I saw a barnacle that I was obsessed with. I shot it over several stages of the experience, but wasn’t sure how the composition would make sense larger. I was in a really awkward position shooting it and couldn’t get a great view on the screen or in the viewfinder. Well, it worked out. Everything had worked out. And I was safe.

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Suddenly I realized I had better get off my ass and get my mom back to the car safely. The colors were still going. They had been for a long time. Time was running out. Tide was low. I extended a leg of my tripod as a “feeler” stick and checked around the rock I was on. Turns out I was so paranoid about slipping on the rocks, and I could’ve just walked on out here. When I shoot the coast I wear waders and boots and can get wet up to my chest. Oh well, at least the trip back would be quicker!

I got to the beach and my mom and I started hustling. I stopped and turned just as the light was fading and got a final capture of the colors fading over the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse.

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We got back to the car safe. That lady is tough as nails. I’m excited to take her out with me more. I think she really enjoyed seeing how I do what I do, and she absolutely loves experiencing Oregon. As do I! She actually showed me some pics she shot with her phone, and I was like “shit I should have stayed with you on shore”! But after seeing my photographs when I got home, I was pretty content.

I don’t know if it’s age. I don’t know if its health. I don’t know if it’s having a beautiful wife and child that adore me, and completely rule my existence. Or maybe I’m a becoming a wuss. Thats cool. What I know is every time I’m questioning something that I’m doing, all I have to do is look at whatever current photo of Olive lives on my phones wallpaper. And it puts everything into perspective. Maybe it means the photograph I’m trying to shoot will be less than it could have been. In this case I doubt it. But if it was, so what? I could have sat on that beach with my mom that night and not shot one photograph and it would have been a night I would never forget. Almost daily I’m reminded not to take life for granted. I know its hard sometimes. Not sure why. But it is. I’m convinced we can find a balance. And maybe we can’t. But I’m completely content trying as long as at the end of the day I get the hug from my girls that makes everything okay. Getting the shot is great, but that’s much greater.

 

 

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A Cold Central Place

We got totally ripped off in Portland as far as snow goes. Schools were closed, and started late several days. In North Portland where I live we never got more than a 1/2″. This happened twice within a couple weeks of each other. I waited in anticipation. Let down.

My friends Dean and Becky live in between Warm Springs and Madras. They have 800 acres of gorgeous desert landscape that I try to visit at least a few times a year (I believe I’ve actually written about it before). The first storm of the year hit them pretty good but I wasn’t able to make it before the melt. But the second, oh buddy. It kept coming and wasn’t leaving anytime soon so I headed that way for a few days.

Being a Prius driver I borrowed the in-laws AWD and headed out not really knowing what to expect. As much as I love shooting in the snow, I haven’t had much experience doing it living in Portland for my entire photographic career. I haven’t had AWD so my winter travels have been somewhat limited. Getting over Mt Hood was a breeze, but descending into the Deschutes Valley into Warm Springs, it became obvious really quickly that I had taken the appropriate vehicle. I don’t think the Prius would have even been able to get off Highway 26 onto their road. It handles well in snow, but has really low clearance.

My first afternoon was pretty chill. I explored the backroads around their place a little bit before checking in with them. After a couple beers and catching up I did a little exploring up above their place. I kept it mellow, as I had an early day planned for the following, and wanted to get some rest. But I did end up getting a couple shots I liked!

After sleeping very little due to improperly stocking the cabins wood burning stove with logs, I woke up at a fun 4am to head to Smith Rock for sunrise. Normally its about a 30 minute drive from Dean and Beckys, but I knew it would be a little slower and take me some time to find my sunrise shooting spot. Sure enough it was 2 degrees, a total white out of fog, and the roads were solid ice. It took me about an hour to get there, but I was fine taking my time. I was the first person there. There was fog building, and I knew my window could be pretty short so I got right to it. It was a whomping 3 degrees at Smith Rock. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I was in no way prepared for this. My hope was to do some snow shoeing around to find my spot, but I was in pain after just 10 minutes out of the car. I shot for a few minutes and started seeing headlights from other cars arriving.

I jumped in the car to warm up and decided to move spots and try to get a better perspective. My whole idea coming here was to snow shoe around and get some unique compositions of a very photographed spot in Oregon. But the cold, the amount of snow, and thickening fog killed my spirits. I parked and hustled to the pretty standard viewpoint, and got what I could before the fog took over completely. I didn’t even have time to find any decent foreground subjects, as the snow made it difficult in the time I had. But I ended up getting a couple great shots. As we have all seen in the past few weeks, our normal iconic spots look quite a bit different when covered in a white blanket of snow. Smith Rock in the Snow

I was pretty bummed that the fog was taking over just as the sun was beginning to come over the horizon. It seemed pretty obvious that the other couple photographers there were too. I turned around and quickly noticed that it was making some beautiful colors through the fog, just not on the rock. So I decided to hop in the car and explore the area a bit as the sun came up. The light was becoming truly amazing incredibly quickly, and I was trying to find something without a house in the shot. I came back around past the main parking area for the park, and saw this out my window.

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I pulled up around the next bend and it just kept getting better. But changing very quickly. I hopped out of my car and as I was shooting this, noticed one of the other photographers struggling with the fog in front of the rocks. I was shocked that he didn’t turn and see what the light was doing behind him! watermark-7

The next hour ended up being my favorite shooting of the whole trip. As the sun rose and the fog thickened and thinned, it made for some amazing scenes with the fresh blanket of snow over the entire area. I drove around casually shooting, never needing to go further than 10 feet from my car, so staying warm in the process of capturing my images.

I was thrilled. I didn’t get what I had envisioned of Smith Rock, but it’s always exciting to shoot what I feel is actually better, and significantly more unique. It can be a struggle to captivate people with unfamiliar places vs well know spots, but I feel many will appreciate the beauty of what I captured more than they would of the same old scene. I hoped at some point the other folks shooting were able to see what was going on with the light that morning. As I headed back towards Terrebonne, the nearest town, Smith Rock was completely invisible in the fog so I decided to call it good with the area. It was still only like 730 in the morning, and I was ready for breakfast.

I have recently fallen in love with Sisters, Oregon. So next on my list was to drive that way. There was a couple things I wanted to shoot, the beautiful Ponderosa Pines that surround the town, and there’s a short hike to a great vista at Eagle Rock. On the way I stopped at Cline Falls to check it out. I couldn’t get to the falls with the snow, but got a nice view of some ducks bathing in the rising sun on the Deschutes River.watermark-12

I carried on to Sisters and started off at a local cafe with some breakfast. I headed to the Eagle Rock trail after, but un plowed roads prevented it from happening. I drove around for a bit looking for the ponderosa scene I was seeing in my head, with no luck. I decided to call it and head back north to where I was staying.

I got back to the ranch and just strolled around for a while. Something about this trailer covered in snow caught my eye. Maybe it was the mud tones on the front, or seeing the two windows as eyes gave it an interesting look. watermark-3

After this I decided to take my drone for a flight and check out the landscape from above.  I hadn’t flown in this cold weather before, so I wanted to do it in a safe place in case the battery instantly depleted. It actually did pretty good. Seeing the view of the vast landscape covered in white, had me excited for the snowshoe hike I would be doing for sunset. This ended up being another one of my favorites from the trip.Cold Springs

Clouds had taken over what looked like a sky with some potential for a sunset. They have an epic view of Mt Jefferson, but it appeared it wouldn’t be seen today. I decided to carry on, and had a great time with the new snowshoes hiking up the hill to a nice vista. I had such a calming, amazing couple days, and this was my last hoorah. The conditions didn’t really pan out, but I still had an absolute blast, sending my wife this selfie, feeling on top of the world. Not the most flattering photo, but I think it shows how happy I was. It had been a long time since I had felt this. My travel had been limited with the birth of my daughter, and I didn’t know how I would take being away from her. As you can see, I was able to enjoy it more than I thought. Though I did look at photos of her on my phone every hour or so!IMG_2012

 

watermark-16I hung out next to the fire for hours that night scrolling through my work from the past couple days. Its been a long time since I have been that relaxed and rested. I had a blast, but was ready to get up early and get home to my beautiful family.

The next morning I made my journey. The snow stopped on Mt Hood for long enough to send the drone up one more time. I had been wanting to get some forest shots in the snow for a while, and now I knew the drone could handle a bit of cold I went for it. I didn’t quite get what I was hoping for, but was still proud and wanted to share.

Success! I had gotten away, had some amazing relaxation time, and some great exercise hiking in the freezing cold. And I had some new work I was really excited about. I was ready to get home and see my girls, but also now knew that I could emotionally handle taking these trips that are so necessary to my sanity. It gave me an overwhelming desire to live somewhere that experiences snow at least once a year, but I quickly reminded myself that I can visit Mt Hood (or Dean and Becky) anytime I want and not have to deal with the stresses of living in a snowstorm. It also reminded why I truly love photography. Having not been on a trip in a while, or really alone in a while, it felt great. I am about as lucky as they get, my life is wonderful, but sometimes I need days like these. With nothing to think about, except peace, tranquility, and how ridiculously lucky I am to be surrounded by the people and places I am surrounded by.