Apr 23, 2015

Shooting for Pleasure – Photo Trip Along the Oregon Coast with Improve Photography

If you know me at all, you know that I have two great passions in life:  photography and travel.  When the opportunity to combine these two passions arises, there’s not much that can stop me from jumping on that opportunity.  I’m so fortunate to have found and subsequently joined the Improve Photography travel workshop in Oregon.  This workshop, which is completely FREE for photographers (you only have to pay for travel, lodging, and food), took us from Portland to the California Redwoods to the southern coast of Washington and along the entire Oregon coast in between.  It was FANTASTIC, both photographically and mentally, providing me with not only beautiful and different “subjects” to photograph, but also with a bit of a respite from the day-to-day obligations and mental exhaustion of business ownership.  It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time…..now I’m home, refreshed, rejuventated, and ready to rock out the 2015 wedding season!

In the meantime, here’s the story of my trip, with both cell phone camera and big girl camera, from airport to airport (plus, a little bit of exciting news at the end!!)….

Columbus Wedding Photographer

I left Columbus bright and early, just in time to catch the sunrise over the snowy Ohio landscape from my window seat.  Although I was exhausted from a sleepless night (that’s typical for me before a trip – excitement, fear of forgetting something, fear of not waking up on time, etc.), I couldn’t sleep on the plane (again – excitement), so I occupied myself with Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ (which I never finished, btw) and Delta’s delicious cookies (I may or may not have snagged a few extra packages to snack on during the trip…).

After a long flight (and a FREEZING connection in Minneapolis), I finally made it to Portland, where I was greeted by this GORGEOUS view of Mt. Hood before landing.  If that isn’t an indication of great things to come, I don’t know what is…

Upon arriving in Portland, I got situated at the hotel, then hopped on the train to head into the city.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love trains?  Dang….I wish Columbus had one.

Columbus Wedding Photographer

Portland is AMAZING!  In just a few short hours, I had so many amazing experiences.  I started with a Voodoo donut from the Voodoo truck, which I ate while sitting in the city center and watching the Tin Man entertain lunchers.  Then, I walked to the food cart area and along the way saved a starving artist, got serenaded, got asked on a date, then got lost in the food cart maze.  While in that maze, I enjoyed a delicious banana bubble tea and the most incredible “whole bowl” I’ve ever had.

After satisfying my taste buds, I spent the next several hours walking around the city, exploring alleyways, shopping, shooting, and laying in the sun in random parks (all of which ended up being “homeless” parks) until meeting up with Melanie, a local Portlander who joined me on the Improve Photography workshop.

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I’m SO glad that Melanie and I connected on FB and decided to meet up in Portland before meeting up with the rest of the I.P. workshoppers.  Not only did I make a new friend (yay!), but she also so graciously took me to some of Portland’s best spots, including Salt & Straw (an ice cream shop that very closely resembled Columbus’ own Jeni’s Ice Cream) and the rose garden.  We ended the day by watching the sunset over Portland and Mt. Hood, then enjoying some delicious sushi at a delicious little restaurant that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of 😉

Columbus Wedding Photographer

Columbus Wedding Photographer

The next day, which was the first official day of the workshop, required an early start.  Alyce (pronounced Elyse, another new friend from South Carolina) and I departed Portland bright and early and drove down the coast to Thor’s Well where we met up with a few other I.P. workshoppers who were also making their way down to the I.P. workshop.

Thor’s Well is a very famous and very dangerous spot along the Oregon coast.  People come from all over the world to photograph this spot, which is only photo worthy during high-tide.  We were lucky that our stars aligned perfectly and high tide just so happened to be at the time we wanted to stop there.

As mentioned, Thor’s Well is notoriously dangerous.  This spot is kind of a natural well in the ocean (as indicated by the name) and as the water rushes in at high tide, it gets sucked down into this natural well area.  The dangerous part is that, in order to photograph the well, you have to stand out on a set of rocks that get hit by large waves during high tide.  It was a huge risk (and a few fellow photographers got hit by said huge waves, cameras and all), but we all survived and got the shots to prove it.

(My mom is probably having a heart attack while reading this….love you, Mom!!)

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Shoutout to whoever took this action shot of me being a daredevil at Thor's Well!!

Shoutout to whoever took this action shot of me being a daredevil at Thor’s Well!!

After surviving Thor’s Well, we continued south to meet up with the rest of the workshoppers at Jot’s Resort in Gold Beach.  After settling into our room, doing a little meet and greet with the rest of the workshoppers, and enjoying a delicious dinner at a local pizza place, we headed out for our first group sunset shoot at Samuel H. Boardman State Park.

This was one of my favorite shoots of the trip.  It was a nice little hike to the edge of the cliff, where I sat for two hours overlooking the beach, watching the sun go down, and chatting with Jim Harmer (founder of I.P.) and a few other workshoppers who set themselves up near me.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that I produced my favorite image from the trip here (the last image in this section….the one with the cotton candy sky that looks like something out of Lord of the Rings or any fairy tale I read as a kid).

Thanks for this behind the scenes shot, Jeana!! ^^

Thanks for this behind the scenes shot, Jeana!! ^^

^^ There it is - my favorite shot of the trip.

^^ There it is – my favorite shot of the trip.

The next day, Alyce, Melanie, and I headed out early to catch the end of sunrise at Meyer’s Beach.  This STUNNING area was just completely full of monoliths, which provided the most gorgeous background for a beautiful sunrise.  I literally could’ve stayed there all day.

Columbus Wedding Photographer

As many of you know, I LOVE LOVE LOVE macro photography, so I, of course, had to bust out my 100m macro lens, too 🙂  No detail could be left undocumented!  (And, yes, that is a dead seal…poor, poor thing.)

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After sunrise, we spent the majority of the day taking classes and listening to presenters.  We all learned so much and are so thankful for the knowledge we gained FOR FREE!  How cool is that?!

That evening, a group of us headed back down to Samuel H. Boardman State Park for another epic sunset.  After trying (and failing) to find a rather ambitious path down to a beach with natural arches, we settled on an overlook that provided us with gorgeous views of the spectacular, rocky coast on the left and Secret Beach and the setting sun toward the right.

Columbus Wedding Photographer

That night was the infamous I.P. Portrait Challenge.  We were split up into groups and given 60 minutes to create a portrait (design, style, shoot, and edit).  My team (which happened to be the “Masters” team), created a dreamy, pirate-inspired portrait with our gorgeous model.  After dropping (and breaking) a phone, lighting equipment falling into mud, and battling through 6 inches of mud in the pitch black darkness, we finally pulled it off.  And, guess what?!  We won the challenge!!

Posing & shooting:  yours truly

Concept and main lighting:  Nick Page

Lighting, Assisting, and Editing:  Tony Hicks

Backlighting and Editing:  Robb Harper

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The next day was the BEST day.  Both sunrise and sunset were at Secret Beach and both were EPIC.  It’s no wonder it’s called Secret Beach – it’s very difficult to find, even more difficult to access (we had to scale a rock wall), and so secluded that we didn’t see a single person outside of our group.  But, it was completely worth the hassle, because it was literally the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen.  That’s another place I could’ve stayed all day.

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In fact, it was so stellar that we decided to come back for sunset.  Alyce, Melanie, Nick, Zach, Alan, and I made the trek once again and spent a few hours shooting the most gorgeous sunset.  We also made it a point to do some exploring, some cartwheeling, some barefoot frollicking (see image below of Melanie and me frollicking barefoot across the beach), and some beer drinking underneath the sea of stars that greeted us after the sun went down.  It was absolutely the best part of the trip and something I’ll remember forever.  I’m so glad I got to share that with these 5 awesome people.

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The final day of the workshop (which was the 2nd to last day of my trip) was a Bucket List day for me.  I have ALWAYS wanted to visit the California Redwoods and I’ve been kicking myself for years for not doing it when I lived in California.  So, when I found out that we’d be visiting them on this workshop, I literally squealed like a child!  This is the day I had been waiting for for so long!  Needless to say, I was completely in love and took every opportunity I could to hug, climb, and sit inside any and every welcoming Redwood tree.

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(see below) All of us workshoppers, loving on some Redwoods.  That’s me in the red jacket at the very tippy top of the tree.  Special shoutout to Jim Harmer for being my hero and not letting me fall to my death while climbing and descending that beast!

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After leaving the Redwoods, Melanie, Alyce, and I made our way slowly back up the coast, stopping at a couple of coastal parks and beaches for a few photo opps.  (Thanks for this awesome pano, Melanie!!)

Columbus Wedding Photographer

After dropping Melanie off at her car so that she could head back home to Portland, Alyce and I ended the day by visiting some dinosaurs, watching the sunset over the beautiful sand dunes, drinking delicious local craft beer, and gorging ourselves on fresh seafood.  It was quite the day 😉

Our last day was another adventurous day, and began bright and early with the sun rising over the elk refuge just outside of Reedsport.  It was so awesome being so close to the wild animals, watching them graze, play, and lay in the sun.  Afterwards, we visited a carnivorous plants park, and then went to Sea Lion Caves, which is home to about 300 sea lions.  Did you know that sea lions kind of sound like cows?  It’s weird.

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After our animal adventures, we spent most of the rest of the afternoon driving up the central/northern coast (which isn’t nearly as beautiful as the southern coast, if I may say so myself).  Eventually we made it to the northernmost point of the coast and decided to take the 4 mile bridge across the river to Washington.  At this point, we had driven every inch of the Oregon Coast.

Columbus Wedding Photographer

After snapping a few pics in Washington, we headed back into Oregon to the Peter Iredale shipwreck, where we witnessed the most beautiful sunset of the trip.  The setting sun shone just perfectly through the rusted out holes of the ship.  It was gorgeous.

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Finally, it was time to head to the airport 🙁  A few delays and a red eye flight later, I made it back to Columbus with a full heart, rejuvenated spirit, and sleepy eyes.

I have so much thanks to give to:

Alyce – thank you for driving, organizing, scheduling, and being a great travel partner

Melanie – thank you for showing me around Portland and providing me with so many laughs throughout the trip

Jim – thank you for organizing these amazing trips and for being so kind, gracious, and willing to share your knowledge with us all

Nick, Zach, and Alan – thank you for being so awesome, helping us climb down rock walls, watching out for us at Thor’s Well, sharing your beer with us, and making wonderful memories with us

Oh, and that exciting news I mentioned at the beginning of this never-ending post?!  Upon returning home, I was offered (and accepted) two positions with Improve Photography.  I will be co-hosting their new weekly podcast called Portrait Session (look for us on iTunes and in the Podcast app!) and I will be one of their online portfolio reviewers.  These are HUGE opportunities for me and I’m so excited to join a team and a company that I’ve been so fond of and learned so much from over the years.  Dreams do come true, kids!!



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