Last month I had the chance to go out to Portland, Oregon for work and decided to round up a few friends to go shoot Thor’s Well in Cape Perpetua, OR. This wasn’t my first time there. A couple years ago, Brian Matiash and I tried to shoot it, but it was low tide at sunset and Thor’s Well was basically just an empty hole in the ground.

But this time, I did my research and found that on the one day I could get out there, it was going to be high tide right around sunset. Perfect. So I called my buddies Rick, Brian and Hudson (the same ones I went to Oneonta Gorge with) and we headed south for a 3 hour (yes, each way) road trip.


As I mentioned earlier, the biggest part about research was trying to time being there at high tide when there’s good light (it’s a sunset spot). There’s a lot of websites that show you tide charts, but I looked it up on Willyweather.com and found out that the day I could go was perfect. High tide right at sunset.

The Trip

The trip is pretty easy. About half of it is on the interstate and the other half cuts through the state in some beautiful areas. Then you have about 15-20 minutes of driving along the coast. And when you’re with 4 friends catching up, it flies by 🙂 We stopped and shot at one location along the way, but we were all pretty anxious to get to Thor’s Well so we didn’t stop much.

Enter, the “Kloskowski Layer”

Along the way we joked about how the weather always turns ugly when I’m in town. I talked about how I always make fun of people on the west coast for calling the “Marine Layer” the Marine Layer because the rest of us call it what it is – Fog! Then, after we realized that the almost seemingly perfect sunset was turning bad, my buddies decided to coin a new term – the “Kloskowski Layer”.

Now, the Kloskowski Layer takes on many forms. Sometimes, when there’s beautiful puffy clouds out, the Kloskowski Layer takes on the form of a bald clear blue sky to take away all those clouds. On other days, when it’s beautiful and sunny, the Kloskowski Layer takes on the form of blah gray clouds. Interesting that Kloskowski Layer is, isn’t it? 🙂

Arriving At Thor’s Well

The last time we were at Thor’s Well, Brian and I parked in the wrong spot. We ended up having a horrible time finding it because it was low tide. Especially when we didn’t know what we were looking for. This time, we (thought) we were parking in the right spot. We grabbed our gear and headed down to the rocks. It was at that point, when we saw a small cluster of 3-4 photographers gathered about 500-600 yards away, we realized we were in the wrong spot yet again. At this point, some one said, “Well, maybe we should just go back up to the car and drive down more so we don’t have to climb over all these rocks”. I’m not sure who that some one was, but I can tell you I sure wish I had listened to him :-/

The Fall That Could Have Been Really Bad

As I just mentioned, we decided not to go back to the car, but to keep moving along the rocks. Well, at one point we got to a place where you had to jump over this small chasm of sorts. Now, it wasn’t a huge jump but I have to tell ya – when you stood in front of it, you weren’t exactly happy of the thought of jumping over it. That’s because if you didn’t make it, falling in was going to be bad. Not only where the rocks dangerous, but the tide was in and you’d be in rising water with no way to get out.

Enter stupid move #1: The Jump – Yep, I decided to go for it and I made it across. One of my other buddies did it too, but Brian (the smart one) stayed back. Then, with our luck, we walked around the corner and realized we couldn’t go any further. So we had to turn back and make the jump again. This time, because of the angle of the jump, it was much harder. You really couldn’t run and jump so you had to stand and leap.

Enter stupid move #2: The Jump Back – Well, I jumped alright. I made across, but was so concerned with getting across that I never bothered to think about what I was going to land on. Turns out, there was a raised pointy rock waiting for me on the other end that my foot landed on. Because all of my weight was on my forward foot, my landing caused my ankle to immediately roll to the side and I fell right to the ground. Having played plenty of basketball in the past, and having rolled my ankle before, I knew exactly what happened.

The ankle throbbed for a few minutes and was initially really painful. I actually wasn’t sure at that point if I sprained it, or broke it – neither of which are good. But after a few minutes I was able to get up and put some weight on it. That miserable part about it was that we were still a good 10 minute rocky walk back up to the car so that was fun.

Not Letting A Stupid Sprained Ankle Stop Me!

We got back to the car and the rest of the guys were wondering if we should bother to shoot. Hudson, had already made it down to Thor’s Well so we at least had to go that way to pick him up. At that point, I wasn’t letting my ankle hold me back from the shot that I drove 6 hours for, so I grabbed my gear and we went back down to the rocks.

The ankle was already swelling up pretty bad and I could feel my hiking boot getting really tight. But I took my time along the rocks (it wasn’t as bad as it sounds) and hobbled my way out there.

Shooting the Thor’s Well

The good news in all this is that we timed Thor’s Well perfectly. Seriously, I don’t think it could have been any more perfect. The water was high enough that it was shooting out of the well and making a perfect waterfall back in, but not so high that you couldn’t stand around it.

The real key to getting the shot was to time it so that you were shooting after the big water explosion. You didn’t really want to catch the water in the air, but more catch the water (with a 1-2 second exposure) as it was flowing back in the rocks. Here’s one of my favorites from the shoot:

[tw-divider]Click on the photo to see it larger[/tw-divider]

Thor's Well Photography

[tw-divider]Photo Details[/tw-divider]
Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
Lens: Canon 16-35mm
Aperture: f/8
Shutter Speed: 0.8 sec
ISO: 100
Tripod: Really Right Stuff TVC-33 w/ BH-55 Ballhead

Speaking of standing around Thor’s Well, here’s a link to a video of my buddy Hudson getting pretty close. I really wanted to get closer than I did, but because I couldn’t really move on my ankle, I knew that if I wave did come in I wouldn’t be able to get out of there, so I stayed back.

And here’s a really cool picture that Hudson grabbed of Brian in front of some exploding water.

Photographer Risks Wave


Good Times with Good Friends

At the end of the day, ankle sprain aside I had a great time with some really good friends. My day started at 3:30am when I couldn’t sleep, so I went shooting. Then I waded in to Oneonta Gorge at noon. Then drove 3 hours to Thor’s Well, sprained an ankle, drove back 3 hours (well, Rick drove but don’t tell the rental car company that) and got back to my room at 1:30am. Just in time to wake up at 4:30 am for my flight home the next day. But I had a blast and would do it all over again (less the ankle if possible)

Ankle Update

I did get my ankle x-ray’d and no fractures. But anyone who’s sprained an ankle badly enough knows that’s not exactly great news because ankle sprains still suck. Right now it’s been about 5 weeks and it’s still swollen a bit. It doesn’t hurt. I don’t have full flexibility back yet, but I’m back to working out on it and I just take it easy when I run or do anything that puts a lot of twisting on the ankle. I sprained an ankle back in my 20’s and I could still feel pain in it almost a year later, so at least this time I was prepared for it.

But man do I wish I could go back to that moment where some one suggested going back to the car and driving down further rather than walking it. The morale to this story – don’t be stupid 🙂

Thanks for stopping by. Have a good one!


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