Highway 101 runs 363 miles along the Oregon Coast. From Astoria in the north to Brookings in the south, the photo opportunities along the rugged and varied coast are nearly limitless. Due to the ground-breaking Oregon Beach Law, all 363 miles are free and open to uninterrupted use by the public.
Whether you’re looking for family snapshots, selfies to wow your followers on Instagram, timeless dramatic sunsets or photographs of frolicking creatures, there are several things you should keep in mind.
Safety firstThe mighty Pacific Ocean is unpredictable and needs your full attention. There are many ways to die, or be injured. Let’s name a few: sneaker waves, slips and falls, rip tides, hypothermia, heavy debris and rolling logs, falling rocks and eroding cliffs.
A good rule of thumb is to never turn your back on the ocean. They call them sneaker waves for a reason.
Property safety is also an issue on the coast. During the height of tourist season the turnouts and parking areas along the coast are crawling with smash and grab thieves. Keep the car locked and valuables out of sight.
Know the tides and follow the weatherGetting trapped on a rock or cliff by a rapidly incoming tide is life threatening and could ruin your whole day. You may get the selfie of a lifetime as the Coast Guard helicopter lifts you to safety, but it’s not worth it.
Knowing the time of high and low tide goes beyond safety. Most tide pools are only accessible during low tides. The best time for crashing waves is at high tide. Some tides are higher or lower and will affect access to the beaches and rocky areas along the coast.
The days near the full moon tend to have the most dramatic shifts. A few times per year King Tides affect the coast with extreme high and low tides. Flooding and erosion at high tides and dramatic low tide reveals are common. The Oregon tides are posted at tide-forecast.com.
The weather on the coast is often dramatically different than inland. A hot 98 degree day in Roseburg can bring a cool 70 degree day at Winchester Bay. On a stifling summer day, watching the car’s thermometer drop while approaching the coast is a satisfying experience. The National Weather Service website offers great information with a clickable map by location.
Location, location, location (and time)Pick a spot and head for it. Maybe you’re looking for photos of the historic Umpqua Lighthouse or the Bandon Pillars? Nothing’s better than a snapshot of a happy kid poking a starfish in the tide pools at Neptune Beach or a dramatic panorama of the sun setting at Sunset Bay State Park.
While on your photo quest be sure to stop and explore some the less know pullouts and secret beaches on your route. You never know what you’ll find.
A few spots worth checking out within an easy few hour’s drive from Roseburg: Winchester Bay, Umpqua Lighthouse, Florence, Hecata Head, Cape Perpetual, Shore Acres State Park, Cape Arago and Bandon.
The golden hours before and just after sunset are arguably the best times for photography. The West is best when it comes to many things, especially ocean sunsets. The East Coast has us beat on sunrises, but who wants to wake up that early anyway?
GearUse the camera you’re comfortable with. Modern cell phones can take surprisingly high quality photos. On the other hand, a quality digital single-lens reflex camera with interchangeable lens will still outshine a cell phone in the hands of a dedicated photographer. Macro lenses for closeups, wide angle for landscapes, and telephoto for wildlife.
Caution: Salt water and sand are the mortal enemies of camera gear. Keep your gear covered and bring a clean cloth for clearing the lens. Never change the lens in a sandy or wet environment.
LastlyChill on the drive. Highway 101 can be a busy and slow route in the the summer. Roll down the window, crank the tunes (or podcast) and enjoy the ride.