The Money Shot
When our group of 8 photographers were led to the Seal Rock State Recreation Area on the Oregon coast, I was the last one to change into fishing waders, climb down the steep wet dirt path from the wooden railing you see in the top left hand corner. There were several sea stacks of different heights and shapes on this beach. I could see a lot of sea birds perched on the sea stacks along with perhaps seals, sea lions, and other marine life whose vocalizations we could hear.
Marc Adamus had forecast a blazing sunset for this evening. Once we were on the beach, everyone got down to shooting whatever wave action pictures we had practiced the previous evening in really poor conditions and the sky completely white with the marine layer anchored in place.
At this time, I had still not decided to clamber up the rock Marc said we need to be on to capture some of the most dramatic, powerful, dynamic and violent releases of energy that takes place when the Pacific Ocean waves crash into the rocks on shore. The reason for my diffidence was because I had previously read about people losing their camera gear to the ocean when hit by rogue waves. At last count, Marc’s clients had lost 7 cameras. I did not want to be the 8th.
When I saw a gentleman in our group who is perhaps in his mid 70s climb up the rock first, I felt a tinge of shame and a spark of courage to follow suit. Once up there, this gentleman whose interpersonal skills would sometimes make a Texan exclaim “Bless your heart!”, took some shots and climbed down.
I found a little sheltered cranny in the rock that I hoped would protect me and my gear should a rogue wave hit. Meanwhile Marc kept running up and down the rock helping whoever wanted to climb up and take some pictures. The best spot was apparently a little to my right but I was not prepared to risk a direct hit. It was however the same spot Chris Moore later settled in.
Once I got situated, I stayed put on the rock for a full 90 minutes shooting 362 pictures. I used no filters except a UV filter which I use on all my lenses for protection. Given the exploding waves and ocean spray there was a lot of wipe the lens, refocus, shoot and repeat that took place. Initially the clouds broke up and we saw blue skies for the first time since we arrived in Oregon. Then the clouds started moving inland. The light gradually started to show signs of what Marc had predicted. I captured hundreds of waves crashing into the rocks and some were as high as the Sea Stacks and in front of me. The only Sea Sack that did not get covered fully was the tallest one. Perhaps that explains why the sea birds felt comfortable there.
For most of the time the main brooding and tall sea stack was in the dark. As the Sun started to go down below the clouds and closer to the horizon, Chris Moore who was shooting on my right said softly “there is our Money Shot”. Meaning the warm light from the setting Sun, coming in at a horizontal angle was going to spotlight the dark and imposing sea stack. And the next moment, it happened.
This is what the experts do, They chase light and the only the perfect version of it. I climbed down the rock knowing I had experienced something special and learned a great deal in those 90 minutes rubbing shoulders with two of the best artists.
Tidbit: What is a sea stack?
If waves erode a cliff from two sides, the erosion produced can form an open area in the cliff called an arch. If the material above the arch eventually erodes away, a piece of tall rock can remain in the water, which is called a sea stack.
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