Day and Night on the Central Oregon Coast

Published 08/25/2010


By Andre' Hagestedt

(Lincoln City, Oregon) – This coastline is always full of surprises, even on the most indistinct of summer days. It's August 24, Portland is baking in a heatwave, and the sun has finally returned to the coast after only a few rare appearances all summer. Tourists mill about the beaches in great numbers, although because it’s mid-week, the highway is not jammed with them.

It’s the epitome of a lovely, relaxed day at the beach. But it’s about to get surreal – very surreal.

Lincoln City, an hour two before sundown, is basking in the glow of blue skies and the brightest sun. In the Nelscott area, typified by a handful of easy beach accesses that include at least one wheelchair ramp, the cliffs and hills that take over the landscape to the north become immediately dominant to the eye, alongside the distant shapes of Cascade Head. The sea is so blue, even the wet sand is blue as it reflects the lines of the beach.


There is a sizable low-tide event happening at this hour. This beach is often characterized by a sudden slope of sand that dives towards the ocean, causing the waves to crash fast and hard, but dissipate as quickly in a never-ending show of might and bravado that gives way to shy breakers lapping at your feet. It’s a kick in the pants.

But on this day, the tide is too far out to do anything macho. It’s left uncovered a horde of interesting structures not normally seen on this basically fluffy, sandy beach. A large tract of almost pock-marked wet sand sits close to the sandy slopes, where the tide usually bounces around. It’s like a constant stream of figure eights in the sand, or crudely created infinity signs. Next to that, closer to the tide, is a vast stretch of bedrock, sometimes containing slippery stuff; others there are hints of sea life.

Periodically, you spot snails in the grooves here. Rarer still is a starfish or two stranded in the sunlight, unable to dodge the tourists who pick it up and move it around.


Down the road, past Depoe Bay, sunset begins to kick in at Cape Foulweather. This spot sits some 500 feet above the sea, and the wind here is considerably more than the chilly breeze typified in Lincoln City and Depoe just minutes earlier.

Looking down towards Otter Rock, with Newport’s Yaquina Head stretching out way in the distance, the sunset begins to paint wild shades all over the landscape. The world here has become mostly a collection of different oranges and blues – some bright, some dark, and some pastel.


Back in Depoe Bay, dusk means a purple sky and all sorts of little tricks the light plays on you. There’s the natural light from the dissipated sun. Then there’s the varied lights from the street lamps and lights on the channel and in the bay. Meanwhile, a bright full moon is given birth to by the hills just east of the town, and it begins crawling its way into the sky.

The bridge and the channel at this hour show off some amazing colors thanks to all this. In addition, there’s the streaks of light created by the traffic and the different colors of the buildings themselves. Then, blurry people wander by on the bridge during this exposure of about eight seconds or so.

The combination of colors and twinkly stuff is reminiscent of Christmas lights, as if the whole town became some sort of summer holiday tree.


Later at night - way later, like 2 a.m. – Lincoln City’s beaches beckon to be given the super model treatment. But a full moon and a bit of ocean haze create some wild surprises: these long camera exposures result in beach landscapes that look like daytime – although something is a bit off. In a particularly surreal development, the sands and the skies come out looking as if it was broad daylight in some shots. Others, it looks like just after sunset instead of murky mix black and greys that normally happen with long exposure nocturnal shots. The stars don’t really show up, although some are visible in this photograph.

Lights in the distance glow with an especially strange degree of vibrancy, in reds and yellows. A bonfire burns just below the big glows. Meanwhile, because it’s an exposure of around 15 seconds, the ocean is a weird blur, a fuzzy, indistinct mish mash of cotton-like white lines and muddled blues. The sea looks more like a fog coming in.

It all looks a bit like dusk on another world.

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