Yesterday my friend Matt Kloskowski was in town and wanted to have a BIG northwest photo adventure. So Matt, the intrepid Rick Lepage and I started the morning off in wetsuits exploring waterfalls and slot canyons in the Columbia Gorge (stay tuned for that story). After a quick lunch, we grabbed our good friend Brian Matiash and headed southwest to Cape Perpetua on the Central Oregon coast for sunset and high tide at Thor's Well. All four of us have long been excited to photograph this powerful, tide-driven, salt-water fountain.
As Matt sped us over the coast range, the valley sunshine gave way to a fairly steady overcast. Undeterred by this development we arrived at Cape Perpetua about an hour before sunset, parked at the WRONG location and began looking for Thor's Well. We spent a great deal of time scrambling over rocks and driftwood, jumping over chasms that sounded primed to explode with rumbling tidal action and bushwhacking up steep vegetated hillsides. Carrying heavy camera bags and tripods didn't help. Unfortunately in the process Matt sprained his ankle pretty severely.
A hint for those following in our footsteps... DON'T! Park instead by the north side of the bridge and explore the tidepools below till you find Thor's well.
By multiple routes all four of us arrived at Thor's Well just as the high tide put on an amazing display of force. Each new set of waves created huge jets of water which would blast up out of the chasm and then wash back down into the rock. A few photographers and onlookers shared the drama with us. We quickly set up our tripods and began capturing the action. The key for a dramatic shot of the well is to time your image for the moment when a fresh blast of water is draining back out of the chasm.
While the sunset wasn't exactly what our group had hoped for, we all made the best of it and kept creating images until we got some nice blue tones in the clouds after sunset. It was a rough trip back to the car for Matt's ankle. As we made the long drive home to Portland, we had a blast reviewing our images on the camera backs and reliving the days adventures. Good times!
If you plan to visit Thor's Well: please take great care. Photographing in a location like this is quite dangerous. A large wave could sweep an unwary photographer and their equipment out to sea, or worse yet... into the well itself. While all four of us did get close in on this adventure, we did it cautiously. We spent a good amount of time photographing from a safe distance while observing the wave and spout patterns, then we took turns photographing close to the well while watching as a group for extra large waves coming in. Matt actually stayed at a safer distance than some of us because his injured ankle would slow an emergency retreat.
Another consideration for visiting Thor's Well is bringing the proper gear with you. When conditions are right, Thor's Well is a very wet location. I was glad that I wore quick drying pants and top layers as well as scuba booties for this adventure. If your camera is not weather sealed, you should also consider using a splash guard while shooting in these conditions. Nothing wreaks havoc on complex electronics and optics like salt water.