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Seaside On A Winter's Night, An Ethereal N. Oregon Coast Drama

Published 07/25/020 at 5:54 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Seaside On A Winter's Night, An Ethereal N. Oregon Coast Drama

(Seaside, Oregon) – Exploring and photographing the Oregon coast sometimes means doing so in times of the day or moments that would be considered unusual, even counter-intuitive. Yet it’s then when you can get some of the most engaging glimpses of the coast.

Such as one late fall evening near the end of November on the north coast. By now, things do indeed start churning offshore, and this felt more like the dead of winter.

Seaside, roughly ten p.m.: the rain takes a break. A sizable squall is on its way according to weather reports, and it’s supposed to downright drench things. Here, in the “cove” section of Seaside, it’s actually kind of a magical moment, that archetypal calm before the storm. This extreme southern end of town, with its sudden sideways turn of the shore, is getting battered harder and harder by waves. They’re a constant stream of portents of what’s to come: those waves are formed far out at sea by heavy winds. They pummel the large stones of Seaside’s Cove area, and they frequently make a ruckus with a big clacking noise as they’re bounced around the tide.

It actually startles you at times and makes you switch on your flashlight to make sure no sneaker wave is headed your direction. That’s one major thing about this coastline at night: it’s a thriller, sometimes in a horror movie way or like a wild ride at the fair.

To do this night photography thing, you have to have a decent pro camera, a tripod and a shutter release chord so you don’t bump the rig as it’s taking a long, long exposure. At this time of night and this place, with just a tiny hint left of moonlight in the sky, it requires a good two to four minutes to capture anything. The sky manages to get an eerie post-daylight look to it, and the sea is so fuzzy from the shutter being open so long it becomes a surreal mist, more like some primordial soup. In fact, in real life, it’s raging like crazy. Meanwhile, the lights of the street paint the rocks and ocean an incandescent orange.

Within a minute of this photograph the rain starts to smack the lens.

Flashback to earlier in the day, around 5:30. Dusk has come to the Prom and the Seaside Aquarium as it’s closing up, but people are still milling about. The final, faint remaining rays of light are filtered through thick clouds and it turns everything a weird blue. The Turnaround is already lit up and casts a warm glow on the surrounding beach, as Tillamook Head keeps a watchful eye in the distance. It’s freezing out here at this moment in late November, but there’s still something about this visage that’s like visual comfort food – somehow warming just to look at no matter how chilly it really was.


Straight out to sea, the clouds have this fascinating, bluish squiggle running throughout them. This is balanced by that strange orange glow the city lights put out, cast onto the beach in an interesting manner and even hitting the waves a tad. Then there’s that lone playground set out there: frozen metal in the cold, bare of any swing set seats. It's waiting for winter storms to stop so the swings can return, but now they're gone so they don't get torn off in a big gust or two. Its shape juts up out of this minimalist shot with odd colors, all of which makes it reminiscent of those grand ECM label album covers from the ‘70s, like those from former Oregonian Ralph Towner or Terje Rypdal.

If there was a soundtrack to these scenes, Ralph's ethereal strumming and piano would be perfect right about now.


Going back in time yet again, to the day before, the Promenade had been hit by a rainsquall earlier, and it’s left the pavement with a moody look. Meanwhile, pinks and blues still hovered in the sky during the remnants of twilight.

That’s the thing about the Oregon coast you learn pretty quickly, it never looks the same day to day - much less during night to night.

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