Photographing Bandon Beach in Oregon

Classic shot of the wizard’s hat

Bandon Beach is one of the best locations on the Oregon coast for photography (and has a world famous golf course).  We have been fortunate enough to have been there two times, almost ten years apart and experienced it much differently because we have changed significantly as photographers, and this time we had our good friend Mark McDermott with us.  Here is what you might see.1905_PSA_Oregon_136

Bandon is not easy to get to.  It’s 100 miles from Crescent City, CA along a narrow and winding stretch of highway 101 or 250 miles from Portland, OR.  When we photograph the Oregon Coast, this is our farthest south point (though we do drive to Cape Blanco for the light house) and then we turn around and drive back to Portland via Highway 5 with a stop over in the Willamette Valley for wine tasting.


We stay in the Best Western which is only a 5 minute drive to the large parking lot overlooking the beach.  Check weather and tides as the beach can look very different at various times.  We were only here for one sunset and one sunrise.  We were socked in the whole time and it rained, but we were able to get a few good ones in.


As you descend the steps, the Wizards Hat will be right in front of you.  We think the best shooting is walking north from here and after a few hundred yards, the best sea stacks and rocks run out.


Though it was pretty dark, I added a 5 stop circular neutral density filter to slow down the water and make it silky.  A tip from our teacher, Jack Graham (who we saw here with a photography workshop) is to always photograph the water as it moves out, not as it moves in.  It looks better receding.

I also chose to make most of my photos monochrome because there was just not much color out here and I think the texture of the rocks comes out better.

One of the compositional challenges here is space.  There are so many rocks that it is hard to create space in between them.  So, walk around and try to find spots where you can create that space.  I also raised and lowered my tripod to try to make space.  Finally, trying to isolate just a few of the rocks can help too.

I think a good 60-90 minutes works here and we had time because of the cloud cover.  We had the world’s largest light box, with nice even light, though it was cold and windy.

We have quite a few posts about Oregon on our blog, so use the search box if you are looking for something in particular.

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