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Spring is Most Photogenic Time on Oregon Coast - Here's Why

Published 04/24/21 at 9:57 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Spring is Most Photogenic Time on Oregon Coast | Science of Why

(Oregon Coast) – A bit of photographic advice which may surprise: spring is likely the best time of year to shoot on the Oregon coast – and that includes the Washington coast.

Sure, people will tell you summer or maybe second summer (those warmer days of early fall) is the best, and those provide plenty of Kodak moments as well. But there's something more dramatic about spring's fat, puffy clouds and the way those crazy, constantly-changing weather patterns create something you can't find any other time of year.

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Primarily: pastels. Spring skies on these beaches, especially at sunset, make for a different kind of color scheme that just doesn't happen any other time. Case in point: the vibrant purple shades you see in the shot at top from Cannon Beach one April.

The key is those cumulus clouds, which you don't usually get in summer, fall or winter. The key to cumulus clouds is the unique way weather patterns interact in spring. You can get the full science behind spring's erratic weather on the Oregon coast here, including why there are more such fluffy, monstrous clouds.

One major feature of spring's cumulus clouds, photographically speaking, is how they affect the backgrounds you shoot. Those twitchy, intermittent bouts of sun mixed with the chunky clouds join together to create some ideal conditions for photographers.


With those clouds in the background and the sun coming out on your subjects, it's a brilliant scene just about guaranteed. It's almost fool proof, really, even for noob photogs. First you have the sunlight all over the beach scene, but then in the background there are those large, cumulus clouds, providing a darker, dramatic hammer of contrast. It's even better if those cumulus blobs have blacker patches in them. This means they're practically pregnant with rain, which may cause them to dump on you at one point, but the darker the more background drama.


Painting-like pastels at Rockaway Beach in spring

These kinds of photo conditions linger more in May when the weather systems start calming down, and they can stick around through June. Somewhere in that month or early July is when you start getting the summer skies of no clouds or thinner, less dramatic clouds.

In March and April you get the jumbo clouds.

Darren White, a now-rather famous photographer on these shores who hails from Colorado, specializes in deep, concentrated shades and varied textures with a remarkable eye. He's taken a lot of jaw-dropping stuff around Yachats and the southern Oregon coast that attract much attention.

He agrees.

“Spring and Fall are my favorite times because you get more clouds which produce better skies,” White told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “In the summer it seems to be either clear skies or totally cloudy.”

When it comes to sunset in spring, however, something more intense happens. There are deep pastels that explode into life in the skies above Brookings, Seaside, Port Orford, Newport or Yachats, for example.


Bandon: photo courtesy Manuela Durson

These tones get beautifully pushed through even more by taking longer exposures, over 20 seconds or maybe a few minutes.

It turns out there's a science behind all this.

Tyler Kranz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Portland admitted it's hard to quantify this completely, but there are elements of cumulus clouds that definitely affect the colors of dusk.

“Those cumulus clouds we have in spring create more scenic sunsets with more colors that are more vibrant,” Kranz said. “That's essentially because the sun's rays are interacting with those clouds. When the sun's rays penetrate a cloud, solar radiation gets deflected away from that cloud. Some of it is actually absorbed by the cloud. Light gets scattered in different directions; some of it actually absorbed.”

It's during that process you see some unique shades in the clouds as the sun descends away. This also explains why there are different gradations of colors as well, different shades in different parts of the sky around the clouds.

“If you have a sky completely clear with no clouds at all, typically you're gonna still get pretty colors but not as vibrant,” he said. “And in summer that's typically what you get: skies are either more clear or just cloudy.”

Also, according to Kranz, summer gets skies that are hazier from pollution, and in recent years more wildfires. Such conditions also deaden your chances of seeing the green flash at sunset.

For more seasonal photographic fun, look to those clear, crisp days of winter. Those, according to OMSI astronomer Jim Todd, have deeper, more intense sunset colors and a slightly longer period where the colors explode. That's because of the low angle of the sun in winter and the fact the sun lingers a little longer at the horizon. MORE SPRING PHOTOS BELOW

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