Stock landscape and outdoor adventure photos from Oregon, Washington, and the Pacific Northwest

Oregon Coast Photos: Oceanside Escape

The Oregon coast is an absolutely extraordinary place, especially if you happen to enjoy taking pictures.  With a tide table and a little bit of luck, a photographer can find endless opportunities to capture that perfect shot.  I recently had one such opportunity while visiting the quaint little town of Oceanside, Oregon.  

Oceanside, which is located along the Three Capes Scenic Loop just west of Tillamook, has one of the most unique beaches on the coast.  While it may seem relatively ordinary from the main parking area, a short walk reveals a rock tunnel that cuts through the huge headwall at the northern end of the beach.  On the other side of the tunnel, photographers are greeted with gorgeous views of the Three Arches Rocks and another big collection of sea stacks that are part of the Oregon Islands.  If the tide is low enough, you can also climb around the northern-most part of the Islands to another hidden beach that is normally blocked by the tide line.


Seastacks in Oceanside, Oregon

Seastacks in Oceanside, Oregon



I’ve been to Oceanside many times in the past, and although I’ve made it to the hidden beach a few times before, I’ve never had the timing that I needed to really get the photo that I was wanting—until recently.  On my last trip to the coast, I checked the tide tables and noticed that there was going to be a negative tide (-2 feet) occurring in Oceanside around the time that the sun would be setting.  If everything worked out well, I knew that I should be able to get around to the hidden beach and shoot the sea stacks as they were silhouetted against the setting sun.


My mother happened to be out visiting from St Louis, Missouri and since she had never been to Oceanside before, I thought it would be a nice place to take her.  She and I packed up my two older kids and we made the short trek from our beach house in Pacific City up to Oceanside.  As we arrived, I noticed that the clouds had started to form out at sea and I became very optimistic that I was finally going to get the photo that I had wanted since the first time that I set foot on this beach a few years earlier. 


There was about an hour remaining before sunset, so I spent a little bit of time playing with the kids and taking pictures of them as they splashed around the tide pools  . . .



My 6 year old daughter, Ella helping me scout for pictures.

My 6 year old daughter, Ella helping me scout for pictures.





My 4 year old son Jacob, having fun on the beach

My 4 year old son Jacob, having fun on the beach



 . . . and then I put on my “serious photographer” hat and went to work.  I grabbed the tripod, and in a very organized fashion, I began methodically moving my way up the beach looking for interesting ways to frame the ocean and the various rock formations. 


As the sun got lower and lower, I got farther and farther up the beach until I had finally reached a spot where all of the sea stacks lined up in a way that gave me a nice balanced composition.  I positioned my tripod in the sinking sand and tried to steady it as best as I could for what I knew was going to be a very long exposure.  I clicked the shutter button and waited patiently until the image was finally revealed on my camera’s LCD panel. I looked at the image and then let out a big smile and a sigh of relief, satisfied that I had finally captured my long-awaited image. 


Sunset on the Oregon Islands in Oceanside

Sunset on the Oregon Islands in Oceanside



Not long after looking at the image above, a wave came up and tickled my toes.  It kind of caught me by surprise and when I looked back along the shoreline, I noticed that the tide had started coming back in.  My previously wide open beach was getting progressively narrower and narrower and I realized that if I didn’t start making my way back toward the tunnel, I was going to get trapped on this side of the rocks.  But as I hustled back down the beach, the sunset was getting more and more dramatic, and I just couldn’t resist the temptation to take a few more photographs.  At one point, I climbed up on a rock with the intent of using it as foreground material when a sneaker wave rushed in and completely surrounded me with water.  I was now standing on a rock, thirty feet out into the ocean, with thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment and a rising tide.  Slightly panicked, I stood my ground and watched as several more waves rushed in and swirled around my little island of a rock.  The waves would come in, crash up against the shoreline, and then just as one wave was about to subside, another would come in to take its place.  I was trapped.



Caption: Picture of Oceanside Sea Stacks that I took while being stranded on my “island.”

Picture of Oceanside Sea Stacks that I took while being stranded on my “island.”


Eventually, I began to recognize the timing of the wave pattern.  I waited for the right moment, and with a big breath, I leaped out into the receding water and then high-stepped it back to dry land while holding my camera and tripod over my head.  That little episode was enough of a wake-up call for me, and without any further ado, I packed up my camera and jogged around the rock wall and back through the pitch-black tunnel. 


The sun was completely under water by the time that I made it back to the parking area, and as I approached the Jeep, I could see my mother waiting there and two tiny shadows racing toward me on the beach yelling “Daddy, Daddy!”  My children have started doing this every time that they see me returning from a photo expedition, and it always brings a huge smile to my face and reminds me of just how lucky I am. As happy as I was to have gotten some beautiful photos on that night–and to have escaped the rock incident without soaking any of my camera gear–neither of those compared to the joy that I felt when I saw my children running up with excitement as I returned. Without a doubt, that was the most rewarding part of the entire experience, and the one that I will remember long after the photo files have faded.


Posted by Troy McMullin

NOTE: If you want to see additional pictures from Oceanside, you can browse our Pacific Coast gallery on the Pacific Crest Stock photography site or search the site for “Oceanside.”

3 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. J

    What beautiful kids! And your photographs of the sunset are amazing too! XOXO

    Jan 28, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

  2. Troy

    Thanks for compliments, J. I can’t really take all of the credit though. My kids get most of their good looks from my beautiful wife.


    Jan 29, 2009 @ 7:43 am

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