Known for its idyllic settings, Cannon Beach, Ore., is a photographer’s paradise. Located along the northern Oregon coast, this charming town is situated between the Pacific Ocean and the coastal mountains. Cannon Beach is nine miles of open beach, in close proximity to the city of Portland. Known for its grand, offshore haystacks, the most notable feature of this beach is Haystack Rock, which stands at 235 feet and greets visitors upon arrival as the very first landmark. There also are several scenic parks within the area that offer many different scenarios to photography.
In terms of weather, anytime is great to visit Cannon Beach. As with most places, the better months to visit if you’re looking for warmer temperatures are July, August and September. Throughout the year, temperature is consistent, though Cannon Beach has been known for its unstable weather, and visitors should prepare for any kind of conditions. Most people visit during the summer months when the daylight is longer. For this reason, I recommend visiting the location in the early fall, as the temperatures are still warm, but the beach is empty.
It’s important to be aware of tide changes as headlands only can be passed during low tides. Tides also can fluctuate during the day, so be mindful of potential dangers when taking long walks. I often visit this beach when the weather systems move in or out. The change in weather can provide great atmosphere to the scene and dramatic impact to your photos.
I visit this beach several hours prior to shooting to scout for as many possible perspectives as I can. Often, my main subject is Haystack Rock, and the creative part is finding ways to include different foregrounds that will complement the subject. The unique shape and flatness of the beach offers possibilities for including waves in the foreground, while waves at high tide stretch from one end of the beach to the next, and capturing this on camera through longer exposures is an art of its own.
When visiting the beach, make sure to bring a wide-angle lens to capture the grandeur of the off-shore haystack rocks. I use a Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo filter to bring out the colors in the sky while reducing the glare in the water. I also bring a Singh-Ray Mor-Slo 5-stop ND filter to provide a long enough exposure to streak water. Additionally, it’s important to carry a tripod and cable remote to ensure as much sharpness in the image as possible, as photographing here during sunsets will require longer exposures.
The best times of the year to visit Cannon Beach depend on one’s preferences. The summer months provide sunnier days with warmer temperatures, but seem to lack the inclusion of clouds. Summer months are met with many days of marine layers that hug the horizon and make less-dramatic sunsets. Photographers prefer the fall season when the crowds are less and the change in weather provides the necessary elements needed for striking pictures. Consequently, chances of sunsets are less, but when they do happen they’re fantastic and provide the best opportunities to capture stunning seascapes and silhouetted haystacks. The real magic happens after sunset, however, when the colors on the horizon really come alive.
Contact: Cannon Beach Chamber & Information Center, (503) 436-2623, www.cannonbeach.org.
A backpack camera bag, like the Tamrac Expedition Series, offers a comfortable system for carrying and organizing lots of equipment on long treks. Dividers and pockets keep camera bodies, lenses and smaller extras separated and easily accessible, while outer zippers provide water-resistant sealing from the elements. Contact: Tamrac, (800) 662-0717, www.tamrac.com.