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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.