Photographing Oregon Lighthouses

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

This is a short blog about photographing Oregon Lighthouses between Tillamook and Bandon.   Last weekend, Mary and I drove down the Oregon coast with Jack Graham.   Here are my notes and suggestions for photographing the lighthouses (all photos were taken with my Canon G12).  There are many other coastal landscapes and subjects, but that will be for another blog post.

There are eleven lighthouses between Canon Beach and Brookings.  With advice from Jack, we did not photograph each lighthouse, but hit the best ones.  We did not photograph the Tillamook Lighthouse near Canon Beach because there is really no foreground as it is a mile or so out into the ocean and you really need dramatic waves to make a good image.  We also did not shoot the Cape Meares Lighthouse near Tillamook because some kids had shot out the lens.  However, there are two viewing platforms next to the lighthouse that provide excellent views of the coastline and we did a sunset shoot there.

The best shooting was at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse near Newport.  It is a great setting.  There are numerous foreground options.  There is great scenery in every direction.  There is a large sea-lion colony just below the lighthouse and we saw a bald eagle.  Plan on spending 1-2 hours here.  There is a lot to see and do.

The Heceta Head Lighthouse north of Florence is one of the classic Oregon coast shots.  To get the best possible outcome you should have a telephoto lens and a tripod in order to get some detail of the lighthouse and the bay in the foreground. Remember to time your shot to get the “light” from the lighthouse in your photograph.  We did this one in the late afternoon.  I would imagine this  scene looks good at all times of the year and in almost all kinds of light.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

The Umpaqua River Lighthouse overlooks the Winchester Bay and is on an active Coast Guard Station.  The lighthouse base is blocked by an ugly fence and it is literally in the middle of a housing development.  However, if you photograph just the top half you will get a satisfying photo with a pretty red lens.

Umpqua River Lighthouse

There are many different ways to capture the Cape Arago Lighthouse depending on how much and how long you want to hike.  The following photo was taken from a highpoint about half a mile past the light house and beach parking.  In was a very short 5 minute walk from the highway to the lookout.  You will need a telephoto lens to get this shot, too.  The nice thing here is there is plenty of foreground subjects and crashing waves to bring more interest to the photo.  Another treat is the surrounding forest where there are plenty of other subjects to shoot.

Cape Arago Lighthouse

We did not shoot the Coquille River Lighthouse in Bandon.  I have seen a few good images and it is right in town and easy to see.

Lastly, we drove south to the Cape Blanco Lighthouse.  This is another lighthouse that you can walk around and explore many possible compositions.  It also has a great view looking North that makes a good panoramic.  You can shoot the front and the back of the lighthouse.  One thing to know is that it is always very windy, so be prepared.

Cape Blanco Lighthouse

If you do not have a lot of time and just want to “bag” shots, the Oregon Coast is pretty easy to do that.  Most of the time, you can park on the side of the road in the numerous turnouts and/or in the state and federal parks along the coast and get your shot.  Mary and I were really impressed with the infrastructure of the coastal road, facilities, and state parks.

For further information, we really liked Photographing Oregon by Greg Vaughn, Bob Hitchman’s Photograph America Newsletter about the Oregon Coast, and you can also go to Jack Graham’s website to see his workshops.  More Oregon photos to come in the next blog.  To see our “best of” Oregon photographs, go to


  1. Anonymous

    Nice images of the lighthouses, and you had some nice clouds to boot. I’ll be in that area in July, maybe just checking it out if weather permits. Thanks again for the info, I enjoy your blog, keep it nice and fresh.
    Always ……… Jesus

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