You are at a great location, you have your camera setup and a perfect composition through the view finder. What will turn a good image into a great one? Light…. it is why landscape photographers get up before the sun rises and make long treks early in the morning. It is why they spend hours at mid-day scouting for locations to use for morning or evening. It is why they walk back from an evening location for hours with a headlamp on.

You can use light to highlight elements within a scene such as this.


You can use light to light up the clouds in the evening.


On an overcast day you can use light in a scene so everything is lit more evenly.

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But it is all about light. Next time you go out looking for that great shot, think about how light will affect it. Think about shadows, highlights, reflections… use it to your advantage. Most of all, be patient. Light changes, you need to be there when it does.

Central Oregon Coast

_1007176-800During the month of September I spent some time on the Central Oregon Coast. The first trip was to do a little exploring since I have not been there before…. My bad! I went a second time to explore some more and capture a few shots. For me, to get decent photographs, I have to visit a location more than once. I go at first to find the area and get a feel for what type of photography I can expect. If I happen to get lucky, I might even get a nice shot. In the case of the coast, I want to get a feel for tides and how the sun looks against the coast. Knowing how a location looks at high tide and low tide tells me when the best time to be there is. Some areas look better at high tide, some at low, others have photographic opportunities at both. Some other questions I get answered are “how does this location look in the morning? How about in the evening?”

All these questions and exploring help plan your time wisely. Four things I always look at before heading out; Tide tables for the areas and weather, sunrise and sunset as well as moon rise and set. All four of those are important and can help decide if a trip was a success or a bust. And if the weather looks bad, that can mean photography is good. Nothing is more boring than a cloudless blue sky.


A word of caution, if you like keeping your camera gear pristine, shooting at the ocean is probably not a good idea. My gear can get wet, and I spend time keeping the salt film wiped from my camera and filters. I wear glasses, which get coated too, though they help keep me aware of when it is time to wipe the lens. I usually try and keep my polarizer on the lens, since my Singh-Ray circular polarizer wipes clean easier than the front element does. After shooting, my equipment is fine, but if you get nervous about that type of thing you might be better off shooting something else.

The photograph at the top is a good example of wiping the lens to keep it as clean as possible. I also had to keep an eye out for large waves as I was standing very exposed to incoming waves. Though the spray and the mist made for a nice extra glow around the water.

The next shot is Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock. I used a 3 stop Graduated Neutral Density Filter and a wide angle lens. What first attracted me to this location was the fingers of water pointing at the rock, but when I got there the ripples in the sand looked like they would catch the sun so I included them in the composition.




This third shot was screaming black and white to me. I converted it in Photoshop and did a little dodging and burning as well as contrast enhancement. This was another occasion where I had to keep the filter wiped constantly, though it was a 3 stop Soft Graduated Neutral Density one and no polarizer. I kept the lens cap on between shots.







This last one was taken right before sunrise, so the slow exposure gave the water a mist like look. I also used a Circular Polarizer so the tiny bit of reflection from some of the wet rocks and water weren't so obvious and to help slow the shutter speed a bit more.