Not for the faint of heart. Extremely slippery. Don’t fall in. Watch for sneaker waves. Keep your camera gear covered. All great advice for most people. But for a photographer, they are but a small concern. When there is an image to be captured, we live by the credo, no risk means no reward. Then reality sets in and we are back to who we are, a bit timid and a bit soft.
Thor’s Well is a geological oddity on the tip of Cape Perpetua of central Oregon where water plunges through a hole in the roof of an underground cave. When photographed correctly, an epic image can be produced. Landscape photographers make capturing Thor’s Well a destination spot. Getting an epic image is my goal.
When we decided to vacation on the Oregon coast, I made a visit to Thor’s Well a primary stop. This is an image I have wanted for years. Anyone can hike out to Thor’s Well and have a look. The water flowing in and out is reasonably interesting. But I want more. I want the perfect shot where the water rushes in and out at the perfect height. And to top this off, let’s add a beautiful sky for the background with the orange glow reflecting off the water. Wanting something and getting it are two different things.
First, it requires planning. After much research, I determined that high tide needs to be an hour prior to sunset. Furthermore, the tide should be about six feet for optimal water flow. I had to match up the projected tide for the area with the projected sunset time to get the best date, May 9, 2022. “Kathryn, I know when we will vacation on the Oregon Coast!”
Second, it requires luck. The weather, cloud cover and tide height all must align to produce an epic Thor’s Well photo. However, the coast of Oregon produces many cloud-covered rainy days making this an unlikely outcome.
We decided to visit Thor’s Well on May 8 to scout the area. It’s a good thing we did. The tides were at a good height albeit a little high, and it wasn’t raining. The only other people there were six nuns, all tall and thin and strangely dressed in all black, standing around Thor’s Well. I didn’t dare go near fearing I might be thrown into the well for past sins. When the nuns left, Kathryn and I made our way over a terrain of rocks with barnacles just ready to rip our clothes and skin. We quickly took our shots as the waves became much higher than expected.
Kathryn quit first fearing for her life. Within a minutes I receded, both of us glad to be out of harm’s way, alive and well.
I’m satisfied with the results, though it would be great to have a nicer sky. We still have one more shot at it.
We arrived at Thor’s Well 90 minutes prior to sunset. The sky looked nice; my plan was coming to fruition. Then there were troubled waters. The tide, which was supposed to be about six feet, was closer to nine. Water was washing over the rocks where I was standing the day before. I was downcast, all that planning for naught. I decided I wanted to try anyway. But Kathryn, the voice of reason, said “I want to celebrate our 20thanniversary in a couple of days. So, no, don’t go.” I stood there for 45 minutes watching the sky get nicer and the waves get higher. There was another photographer trying to make a go of it. I watched him with anticipation. If he makes it, certainly I can.
Finally, he reached the well’s edge, taking many pictures, getting soaked. Then, the unbelievable happened. The waves started to subside. Was I imaging it? Most probably. But the mind is a powerfool tool. I looked at Kathryn. She shrugged. The shrug must mean I can go (OK, I have stupid man disease). So, I did. I got as far as I could but couldn’t make it all the way. I needed my knee-high waterproof boots which were in the car. What to do now? I looked up at Kathryn who was way up the hill, far away from the water. An idea hit me – I waved at her and pointed at my feet. Believe it or not, she figured it out. She hiked back to the car and fetched them. Gold star for her, that is if I survive.
With my boots, I made it easily to the spot I shot from the day before. I took about 30 pictures and got out of there, dry, camera gear intact, alive, and most importantly, still married.
What is the moral of this story? All’s well at Thor’s Well.