Behind the Shots: Cannon Beach Sunset

Day's End in Cannon Beach
Day’s End in Cannon Beach

Over the years, as I became more interested in landscape photography, I would look at other photographers’ work for locations I wanted to photograph myself. One of the places that stood out to me fairly early was Cannon Beach, Oregon.  Dominated by Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach is a flat, sandy beach with lots of driftwood, seaweed, and water that seems to go on forever.  Visitors start small campfires and spend the cool Pacific Northwest summer evenings watching the sunset by the fire.  When I first saw photos of Haystack Rock reflected in wet sand, I knew I had to add Cannon Beach to my list.

My first visit was in 2013. Then, in June 2015, I had an opportunity to visit again briefly while traveling on business. I made it a point to get there when I found two open days in my schedule. The first of the open days I traveled south to Cape Kiwanda, and spent sunset there.  But I knew the next day was reserved for Cannon Beach.

Sunset at Haystack Rock
Sunset at Haystack Rock

I had spent most of the day just exploring, waiting for better light. But I had an early dinner and headed to Cannon Beach in plenty of time for sunset.  Walking along the flat sandy beach brought back memories of my 2013 trip as I took in the view and tried to plan where I wanted to be.  I knew that from a certain angle, the sun would be setting almost directly behind Haystack Rock, so I knew as I made my way across the beach that when the sun finally kissed the horizon, I would want to be in a spot that lined up the sun with the giant seastack.

For the images you see here, I used a Vü Filters 3-stop soft edge ND filter to hold the sky exposure back and better match it to the foreground. I also knew I’d want a somewhat slower shutter speed to allow the water to blur slightly as the waves lapped at the shoreline. Once I found the settings I wanted to use and had my exposure right, I set about finding compositions that were interesting to me, trying not to copy what I’d done three years earlier.

Sunset on Cannon Beach
Sunset on Cannon Beach

On this day, Mother Nature did not disappoint. A soft, cool mist formed in the distance, creating an air of mystery on the beach, while the sun glowed a warm orange, and the sky remained a deep shade of indigo. Clouds moved in just enough to catch the color and add texture to the sky. Now all there was to do was to click my shutter and enjoy the sounds of the Pacific as I took in the amazing show.

One of the coolest things about photography for me is the way it has enabled me to make new friends. On this night, there were several others out photographing as well, and I struck up a conversation with a woman about my age named Heather. We each went about our business of finding images to capture and in between, traded some stories and small details about ourselves. It was a great way to spend the evening.  We ended up becoming Facebook friends, and while we don’t talk much directly, we share similar political views and will “like” and comment on the goings on in each other’s life. One of the many benefits photography has brought into my life.

So as the night moved in and we packed it in, I walked back to my car and found myself stuck in traffic heading back to Portland for my business event the next day. After completing the event I flew back to NY, and went about my business. But this sunset in Cannon Beach sticks with me. I can’t wait to get back there.


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