Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon, USA by Steve Giardini

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Picture Story

Heceta Head Lighthouse is 13 miles (21 km) north of Florence, Oregon. 56 foot tall, the lighthouse was built in 1894. Its first-order Fresnel lens is the brightest on the Oregon Coast sending a beam 21 miles to sea.

My goal was to capture the lighthouse and out buildings at sunrise. We drove to the overlook a couple of miles south of the lighthouse.

It was dark. The roadside turnout was high above the ocean but only just above the level of the lighthouse. I went through my usual setup routine. I could hear a group of dogs barking in the distance.

Long lens mounted and composition decided, I began exposure testing. I knew as the beam circled it won’t be visible in the frame until it struck the forest surrounding the lighthouse. It would take several circles for the beam to be bright against the trees. A 15 to 20 second exposure was about perfect.

It was a bit tricking creating an exposure that captured both sunlight hitting the rock cliffs and the lighthouse beam against the trees. I took exposures at 30 second intervals from the first hint of sunrise through the golden hour.

As I waited for the sun the chorus of barking seemed to grow louder. I happened to look down between exposures. There was just enough light to see the rocky shoreline. A bark, another, another another ,…. mystery solved. 25-30 sea lions jostling for position on the narrow rock shoreline.

Satisfied I had capture the lighthouse as envisioned, I took a breath and stood back from the tripod. There not far away was a sign, Sea Lion Cave!

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