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Nocturnal North Oregon Coast: Rockaway Beach After the Sun Goes Down
(Rockaway Beach, Oregon) – By day, like any spot on the Oregon coast, it's a mild mannered, beautiful place, filled with oceanic majesty, pristine beaches and a few fascinating treasures lurking in corners and beneath the sands. By night, however, Rockaway Beach reveals an esoteric, even alien-looking side – one that seems a bit more at home on a postcard from a space traveler than one from your pal visiting the coast who was “wishing you were here.”
Humans, after all, can't see the same things cameras do. They pick up light wavelengths from atmospheric gasses and conditions that people don't. And then there's factoring in the fact humans can only see so much in the darkness, no matter how well you adjust your eyes. Point your camera to this beach after dark, and sit patiently while it takes long exposures, and you have a recipe for some stunning revelations.
Like the famed Twin Rocks in the two photos above. The color scheme can change drastically depending on your camera settings and how you color correct the image in your computer. The stars become elongated streaks because of the more-than-ten-minutes needed to make such an exposure. This world becomes part of another universe – an alternate reality.
Another side to these nocturnal beaches can be seen if you alter that time exposure, and the stars look more normal. All of a sudden, you're visually grounded and you can soak in the beauty of Rockaway Beach at night with a little less jarring of your frame of reference.
Looking towards the beach itself, on a foggy summer's night, it's a barren, surreal landscape. The lights of the town flood the fog with a variety of odd pastel colors.
More insanely beautiful-yet-strange visions come to light if you're looking at Rockaway Beach from the vantage point of distant Neahkanie Mountain. In the foreground are the lights of what is likely Wheeler – or maybe the northernmost part of Rockaway Beach. The bluish glow just beyond is Rockaway Beach.
This exposure took about 15 minutes, and in that time the stars overhead did some major traveling and a fishing boat left a huge light trail along the horizon.
Using a very powerful zoom lens, this is Rockaway Beach as seen from the north end of Manzanita – again at night – with quite a lot of fuzziness surrounding it. Rockaway Beach is about a thirty-minute drive from Cannon Beach, and maybe 15 minutes from Manzanita.
Back on the beach itself, this is late August in Rockaway Beach, well after midnight. Again, the fog and mists create an ethereal effect. What you can't see here, however, is that it's actually very nearly pitch black. Also not viewable to the camera is the phenomenon known as “glowing sand” happening at this moment. A form of bioluminescent phytoplankton called dinoflagellates (they're like fireflies – only microscopic ocean-dwelling critters) is causing brief green/blue sparks in the sand if you walk over them in just the right way.
This distinctly odd and yet jaw-dropping kind of event happens periodically on the Oregon coast, only viewable at night and under the right conditions. It's a bit on the rare side, actually.
Twin Rocks and the beaches as seen on a cold winter's night. Fishing boats in the distance and lights from the town again light up the mist with some stunning results.
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