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When Clouds Actually Assist Your Sunset Snap on Oregon Coast (and the Odd Science)

Published 08/24/22 at 6:18 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

When Clouds Actually Assist Your Sunset Snap on Oregon Coast (and the Odd Science)

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(Oregon Coast) – It's easy to curse the cloud cover when out on the beaches. They clog the sky, raining on your parade (photographically and literally), or worse yet they kick in just when there's an awesome sunset about to happen. Talk about dampening spirits. (Photo Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more)

Not all is lost on these wonders of the sky: they can also assist the sunset with colors, shades and even shapes you've never seen before.

Like the photo above of Bandon, for starters.

Taken by Manuela Durson, a frequent contributor to Oregon Coast Beach Connection, it's a wowing scene of Howling Dog Rock on the south Oregon coast with the sun peeking through a small slat in the clouds. Sometimes the marine layers work in the opposite direction: instead of clouds bunching up at the shoreline there's a break just offshore from the beach.

Spring clouds are without a doubt the most regularly spectacular throughout the whole year. Oregon Coast Beach Connection will go so far as to say it's actually the best time of year to photograph the beaches. They, along with other weather elements, create velvety or pastel colors you don't see nearly as much other times of the year.

In this case, you're looking at Arch Cape just south of Cannon Beach. It's sort of an inverted marine layer: that is to say, clouds opened up in an interesting place along the sky and in a remarkable shape. It looks like a comet screaming through the atmosphere. Hotels in Cannon Beach - Where to eat - Cannon Beach Maps and Virtual Tours

There's a whole science behind this, involving spring's humidity, the way cumulus clouds interact with light and other factors. Spring is Most Photogenic Time on Oregon Coast - Here's Why

Subtleties can abound as a sunset draws near, such as this look of Tierra Del Mar near Pacific City one summer day. Remarkable colors erupt at the edges of the clouds, as a marine layer shows off some startling shades. Yet add to that a nice, big pool of sea water that's capable of reflecting these atmospheric wonders and you double your pleasure. Hotels in Three Capes - Where to eat - Three Capes Maps and Virtual Tours

Clouds on the coast of Oregon do more than just cover up the sun. They can colorize it; bend and twist the light into some intense reconfigurations. Such was the case in Depoe Bay one summer day. The air simply abruptly exploded into these vibrant shades of orange and red.

Then, perhaps 20 minutes later, after the sun had gone down, the world suddenly became this dreamy, surreal shade of purple. In both pictures here is the mini headland of the basalt cliffs known as North Point, one of Depoe Bay's most amazing little secrets. Hotels in Depoe Bay - Where to eat - Depoe Bay Maps and Virtual Tours

Again on the south Oregon coast, this time at Port Orford, Durson (see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more) may well be the south coast's “Queen of Cloud Captures,” always finding a way to make existing clouds into something special. Here, the fluffy sky floaters are painted in beautiful, deep shades of oranges and reds, looking almost like a Maxfield Parrish piece.

Manzanita produced this extraordinary moment in 2011. A massive marine layer begins to encroach on these beaches and seems to bunch and bundle up, creating an unusual puffy look. With the right sunset colors and angles, its bubbles and shapes are transformed into something like a sand haboob – looking like those desert storms you see in Arizona or the Middle East. Hotels in Manzanita, Wheeler - Where to eat - Manzanita, Wheeler Maps and Virtual Tours

This is a sign of something rather unusual about Manzanita: it's got a habit of shooing clouds away. Here's the strange science behind that: Manzanita Is Indeed 'Banana Belt' of N. Oregon Coast

Quite possibly the most esoteric and unforgettable sunsets ever caught by Oregon Coast Beach Connection cameras happened in Seaside in 2004 – a few years before the publication existed, actually. Here, taken during that coveted Second Summer in mid-October, the dark clouds of the day opened up just enough to pinch out a weird little ray of light. When reflected in the water, these dreamlike shafts of triangular light took on a kind of Pink Floyd-like look.

Striking. Surreal. Stunning. Unbelievable, had we not been there to actually snap the pic. Hotels in Seaside - Where to eat - Seaside Maps and Virtual Tours


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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees nearly 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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