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 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]
Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
Lens: Canon 16-35mm
Shutter Speed: 0.8 sec
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.
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)
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!
This is a great article! is it a good idea to visit here at the end of October?
I am heading down the Oregon coast over New Years and Thor’s Well is a location I’d like to shoot a few frames.
Can you provide a little more insight on getting “down” to the right location? Is winter a good time to shoot because of sun location at sunset?
Any help you provide would be greatly appreciated.
… a huge fan and user of On1 almost since the beginning!
I know the feeling about doing stupid things with mother nature…for me it was at Cannon Beach, OR in 2010 where I didn’t abide by the tide warnings and walked out to take photos. The tide came in with such force it knocked me over and also ended up ruining my camera. Ankle was broken luckily it was the last day of our trip.
Sorry you had a hurt ankle but at least you got some great photos out of it!
I love when you come to Oregon or the NW because your experiences show what a wonderful bounty of places I can visit right here at home. My advice is to always be aware of what and where you are walking at the beach. Even the smaller rocks can set you on your butt if they decide to roll. I fell in April at boiler bay, watching the waves instead of the ground, and my knee probably isn’t ever going to forgive me. I did, however, keep the camera from hitting the ground.
Sometimes you suggest going back to some place by yourself, like perhaps the gorge. If you should think of a solo trip I hope you remember the ankle. Think, could you get back out if injured? A tweet will find someone to go along. I’d rather see your photos than have to read about you….
Great post and one awesome photo! Sorry to here about your angle … believe me I know how they hurt! I have to admit I’ve never heard of Thor’s Well … my bad. Again, thanks for the camera info … will you be doing a post processing segment? I like those and learn a lot from them!
Matt, did you also check out The Devil’s Churn and/or The Sprouting Horn at at Cook’s Chasm? Both are in the same area as Thor’s Well.
I didn’t yet. But I plan too 🙂 Sadly I live on the other end of the country so it’s hard to get out there often 🙂
If anyone needs the correct parking area, look for the large parking lot for the Spouting Horn (which by the way is awesome if the tide and waves are working in your favor). Take that path down to Thor’s Well.
If I recall, that isn’t the place. That’s where I parked the first time I went there and it’s a LONG walk to Thor’s Well – and sometimes un-walkable if the tide is high as it was in our case. There’s a visitors center area (I believe the parking lot you’re talking about). This time we went to the next turnout/parking area after that and it was still too far away. So when we got back in the car, we went to the next one and that was it. Basically two turnouts/parking/dirt areas past the one you’re talking about if we’re talking about the same area.
We’re talking about the same place. Technically it is Cook’s Chasm turnout. If a person is there at the right conditions there is a feature in the chasm called the spouting horn. In the right conditions a puff of air and water blows skyward through a blowhole. We were there during rough seas and the spout was at least 20 feet tall. In one stop you’ve got Cook’s Chasm, Thor’s Well and the Spouting Horn.
Good job. I was at Thor’s well just 7 days ago. At high tide with 10 foot waves out at sea the waves coming in were intense. I could not get near Thor and his well. Next day was better because I went out two hours before high tide and the big waves were really pushing a lot of water up. Good job on braving the need to stand at the edge. Sneaker waves at Cape Perpetua are infamous so I tried not to stay too long.
Yeah, it’s definitely dangerous in high tides and if you get too close. Glad you made it on the next day 🙂
I think your layer has spread and got me! LOL
“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?”
I sooo hate it when that happens!
Glad to hear your ankle is doing better…that is not fun regardless of the age bracket you “fall” in…
This is my favorite Tide app BTW:
Love the photo…and I might end up buying it from you, than go there myself…LOL Not because of the “ankle breaking opportunities”, but more so because I hate flying! hahahaha
Great story & shot Matt. I just came back from a week in Newport Oregon a week ago (probably a week or two after you were in Oregon). I also researched the tide schedules with corresponding sunset times before heading off to get a shot of Thor’s well (which is only about 25-30 miles from Newport but more like 40 minutes because of the speed changes on 101). I made the 40 min. (each way) trip to Thor’s Well 4 times before I finally got the light right for my shot (you sure you weren’t still in Oregon cursing the coast with the “Kloskowski Layer”?).
Lol! 🙂 Post your shot. I’d love to see it.
Here’s my version of Thor’s Well. http://500px.com/photo/74268793/thor's-well-by-michael-ash?from=user_library
Awesome! Love it!
Thanks Matt. That honestly means a TON coming from you. Your videos are what led me to Kelby Training (of which I’ve been a member for several years now). I’m one of many who really appreciates what you do & have learned so much from the things you have shared.
Awesome shot of Thor’s Well, Matt! Hope to get there once…
Sorry to hear about your ankle, though.
I do love the morale of the story: don’t be stupid.
I’ve got the same one after I had made a similar stupid mistake 🙂
We were in Vancouver recently and I wanted to make a photograph of the Vancouver skyline, seen from Stanley Park. It was low tide, so the rocks would make a nice foreground element. I thought I could jump of the Seawall since it wasn’t too high (I thought wrong). Without thinking, I jumped of (with a heavy backpack) and when I landed, I twisted my knee so bad … had to take all the pics in pain and getting back up was hell 🙂
Fortunately, we had a long 2 day drive to the Rockies, so by the time we got there, I was able to make the easy hikes we planned .. My knee does still hurts sometimes (not bad, but I feel it) .. So .. I completely agree with your moral 🙂
Here the image from the Vancouver Skyline: http://500px.com/photo/72515271/vancouver-skyline-by-paul-van-der-heyde
Happy that I got down there, just wish I didn’t jump so stupidly 🙂
Ouch! Great shot though. I’ll definitely be stealing your location if I ever make it to Vancouver 🙂
Yeah, I think we get stupid forgetting we have gear on our backs. Things we can do easily become just a little bit harder. Either way, none of us should be jumping around on rocks 🙂
The photo of Thor’s Well is awesome. Did Brian get drenched by the exploding water?
I know it looks like he did, but the water goes straight up, so he stayed dry.
Fun story, Matt. You’ll have to come over to central Oregon sometime. The Painted Hills, Proxy Falls, Fort Rock, Smith Rock, Sparks Lake, Crater Lake,… Opportunities abound in every direction. 🙂 http://bit.ly/1pK6f9L
Great Story and wonderful pictures. I would love to go on some photography trips with my friends but they all have “jobs”.
Gotta hate those damn jobs 🙂
Bummer about the ankle, but at least you got a pretty killer shot that hopefully somewhat made it worthwhile!
It was. I’d have rather not sprained the ankle, but now that time has passed it’s all good and I got a great photo.
The photo is really nice. I just wish you had gotten to shoot Thor’s Hammer instead of his well. With your skill set I’m sure you could take some truly stunning photos of Mjölnir.
🙂 Thanks Scott!
I learned of Thor’s Well a couple of years ago and it’s been on my list to shoot one day. Thanks for the tips on shooting with the right tide and sunset, not to mention the rocks. I really love your shot and will just have to make time to get my own.
Sorry to hear the ankle is still not right yet. Let’s hope it subsides soon.
Thanks man. It was a very cool place to see at the right tide. Very underwhelming during the wrong tide, but if you time it right, it’s a lot of fun.