Photographing the Oregon Coastline

View North from Cape Lookout

Mary and I drove down the Oregon Coast with Jack Graham a few weeks ago.  I already blogged about the lighthouses and barns.  This edition will be about photographing the beaches and coast line.  Again, we started in Tillamook and drove down to Bandon over three days.  There are several Oregon coast iconic shots.  One of them is a synedoche for all of it – the “seastacks” that are prominent along the coast.  These are in Oceanside, OR.

Seastacks in Oceanside, OR

I would sum up the shooting opportunity themes as the following: natural abstracts with simple compositions; rugged shots of rocks and water; beach shots with waves; big landscape coast shots; and of course, sun set photos.

We had a great morning on Tillamook Bay.  Jack has a spot where you can get this boat and these old pillions.  The light was not necessarily colorful, but was quite dramatic.

Tillamook Bay
Bird in Tillamook Bay
Old Fishing Boat in Tillamook Bay

Here is one of the iconic Oregon shots from Cape Lookout down onto the beach and the Netarts Bay.

View North from Cape Lookout

The big landscape just cried out for panoramic shots.  We did several.  This one is looking North from the Cape Blanco Lighthouse.

Cape Blanco panoramic

Equipment wise, it was necessary to have graduated neutral density filters  (see my description in our camera kit) to account for the difference in the dark foregrounds and brighter sky.  Mary and I had great fun with our Singh Ray 8 Stop ND filter.  This remarkable (and expensive) filter allows you to slow down your shutter speed up to 8 stops in order to get silky smooth water in bright daylight.  Given that most of the time it was pretty dark and overcast, the “big stopper” as we call it (Jack calls his the “big bopper”), really created some interesting images where the water almost looks like fog.  Here is a sunset shot using the “big stopper.”

Oregon Sunset

My primary advice for these shots, as with most outings, is to keep looking and changing positions, compositions, f/stops, and shutter speeds.  As soon as you feel like you have worked the whole scene, try again and look harder.  I was especially reminded of this at one sunset.  As I have written before, sunset shooting can be one of the most gratifying experiences.

Jack and Mary working the scene

We saw a few good sunsets, but nothing spectacular.  However, we experienced one sun set in three stages in Bandon.  The first was with the sun in and above a bank of clouds on the horizon, which provided some interesting light.  Next the sun broke through the clouds and hung on the horizon, but was too bright to shoot directly.  Here we recomposed and just waited and enjoyed “seeing” the sunset.  Lastly, as the sun went below the horizon, we got another chance to shoot as the light bounced off of the clouds.

Bandon Sunset
Bandon Sunset II
Bandon Sunset III

Shooting conditions were pretty rough as it rained or misted on us pretty regularly and the wind was howling.  We needed rain gear and water covers for our cameras on a couple of occasions.  It also helped to have a heavy tripod and weigh it down with a backpack.  We shot directly on the beach a few times at Bandon to get some close-ups of the seastacks.

Bandon Beach
Mary on Bandon Beach
Mary on Bandon Beach II (she is the tiny figure in the lower left corner)

Once again, these are the resources we used on our trip.  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.  Next up – Oregon flowers and trees and other stuff we saw.  To see our “best of” Oregon photographs, go to


  1. Cormack

    Great pictures – will be visiting Portland in a few weeks and looking forward to seeing the coast there again (although I don’t think we’ll make it to Bandon Beach). We just found out my wife is pregnant so she is a little annoyed she can’t enjoy the wineries around Tillamook.

  2. pamphotography

    Thank you! These images were from one of our early trips to Oregon. We went back in May 2019 and revisited the same spots. It was 10 years to the week when we first got the photography bug. You have some amazing images from Arkansas on your blog. We’ve never been. After seeing your images I’m adding it to our list. Let us know if you’d like any Oregon recommendations. (and I don’t blame your wife for being annoyed – that would be really hard :)).

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