Low tide at the beach reveals a whole world of fascinating places to explore that are kept hidden most of the time. For photography, it’s of course best if you can get these tides at sunrise and/or sunset, which happens to be right around full moon (for the lowest tides of the month). As most of you are probably aware, last weekend was the ‘super moon’ – a 14% larger than the full moon at apogee (thus 14% bigger than the smallest full moon – when it’s at its farthest distance from the Earth). That of course coincided with a very low tide along the coast at sunrise and sunset. With these special conditions I took a client out to a back country beach on the Olympic coast where I knew we could find the richest tide pools I have ever seen, along with beautiful and dramatic sea stacks that are rarely photographed. The weather gods smiled on us with an offshore low (a stationary, spiral like storm system) which spun a series small storms towards the coast over the course of our trip. One morning we saw everything including sunshine, rain, rainbows, and of course beautiful pink light.

On the first evening, long after sunset, as the tides were coming in I set up to take some long exposures of the receding waves. This is a rather popular and cliche approach to coastal photography, but with a stroke of luck I managed to accidentally instill a deeper emotional intensity into one of my shots. Near the end of my six second exposure a rogue wave came at me, threatening the camera, so I grabbed my tripod and whisked it away to safety. That brief (and unpredictable) motion created some fascinating textures in the image that for me really capture the feeling of weathering a storm out on the rugged coastline of the Olympic Peninsula.

Stormy conditions along the rugged Olympic Coast

"Poseidon’s Wrath" ~ Olympic National Park WA
Description: long exposure of the rugged coastal sea stacks along the Olympic National Park coastline
The Tech: Canon 5D2, Nikon 14-24, tripod
Exposure: iso 400, f/14, 6 sec

My primary photographic goal during this trip was to photograph a tide pool half under water with an underwater housing I had constructed for my camera and 14-24mm Nikon lens. On four consecutive occasions (with great light on demand!) I tried to get everything to come together, but failed each time for a variety of reasons. The biggest problem was fog condensing on my lens – on the back end of the lens! (If anyone knows a solution.. I’d love to hear it!) Even after using a chemical for dive masks to reduce fogging I still could not get a clear shot. On the last morning, as the sun rose above the ocean side cliffs and illuminated the tide pool with warm soft light I decided to abandon the underwater approach, and instead set up my camera precariously close to the surface to still get a rather unique look at this incredible bunch of sea anemones. To get this angle required getting wet.. and let me tell you, standing thigh deep in ocean water with an ambient temperature of around 38 degrees (for a few hours) is a trying experience! Don’t worry, I didn’t get any symptoms of hypothermia.

Click image for larger view!

Sea Anemones in a rich tide pool along the Olympic Coast

"Tidal Secrets" ~ Olympic National Park, WA
Description: A rich tide pool full of sea anemones at low tide with a view of one of the many coastal sea stacks along the Olympic National Park coastline
The Tech: Canon 5D2, Nikon 14-24, tripod
Exposure: iso 200, f/22, 1/13th sec
Notes: simple two exposure blend for dynamic range

After parting ways with my client I hiked out to another part of the beach, with a very specific image in mind. Of the five necessary conditions three were in place, but unfortunately cloud cover came in, making it impossible for things to work out. One day everything will fall into place! So I headed home to get back in time for a telemark lesson with a friend of mine the following day. Along the way back I ran into some fascinating coastal succulents that I couldn’t resist photographing.

Fire colored succulent plants along the Olympic National Park Coastline

"Succulent Flames" ~ Olympic National Park
Description: brilliant orange and red succulent plants along the coast of Olympic National Park
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 70-200mm, tripod
Exposure: iso 200, f/5.6, 1/800th


8 Comments to “Tidal Secrets: Olympic Coastline”

  1. Brilliant images Floris! Loved the second image a lot for its perspective and execution.

  2. John Wall says:

    That tidepool shot is awesome. You must have stood very still to keep from making any ripples. Such gorgeous, clear water and just the right sky. I have tried to get a shot like that without ever pulling it off anywhere near this beautifully.

  3. Pam Colander says:

    Spectacular Floris! My fav is the tidepool image. Have you had any problems with the Nikon 14-24 getting stiff and bumpy in the zoom rings? Was thinking of renting this lens and the rental site gave this warning. They think it might be because it gets jarred around in shipping.

  4. Thanks John! The hardest part was actually just finding a tide pool that was this photogenic together with a view of an interesting sea stack. Indeed, I could not have asked for better conditions this morning to make it all come together.

  5. Thanks Pam – my favorite as well! I have thus far not had any problems with the Nikon 14-24, but have only owned it since early December last year. If it’s a problem from shipping, I can see how a rental company would have issues because of all the shipping back and forth!

  6. Sue says:

    What an experience you must have had out there ,I have lived in Wa. state for 21 years now.love the beauty all around.I was born and raised in Va.most of my early years and miss the beauty sooo much.I have all so lived in the Northern Sierras in north eastern Ca.this is beautiful in its own way too,we lived at the Strawberry mine seasonally for 6 yrs now thats back country living.My best spring memories were the paint brush flowers.So if you ever make it that direction remember I said so.:)Peace be with you in your travels!!

  7. Richard Wong says:

    Hey Floris. Seems like you are acclimating well to the new surroundings. Congrats and keep up the great work!

  8. Luc L. says:

    Your work is amazing, pro. If I had the money I would buy for sure lot of your prints. I will remember your name. I love your pictures.