One hundred and sixty miles down the Oregon Coast from Astoria and just south of Cape Perpetua you’ll find a mysterious large hole in the sea-rocks called Thor’s Well. This hole is about 14 feet across and is exposed to the surging ocean swells through a passage deep down inside the well. So when the tide rises, water is being pushed into the hole from below causing it to surge upward and out of the hole and then to drain back into it. This churning action of the water pushing out and draining back into the hole allows for amazing images, especially if you use a slow shutter speed of a quarter of a second or more.

Sony A7r with Canon 16-35 @ 16 mm, f16, 1/4 second, ISO 50

Sony A7r with Canon 16-35 @ 16 mm, f16, 1/4 second, ISO 50

Last week I made the seven-hour trek from the Seattle area to take advantage of some ideal conditions to photograph Thor’s Well. It was a 7.6 foot high tide at 9:14 pm with the sun setting at 8:30 pm.

The scene is a bit of a challenge to photograph, especially late in the day, with the bright sea and sky to the west of the well causing a very high-contrast scenario. Add to that the danger of rouge waves coming over the top of the well while you have to concentrate on the action of the sea as it drains back into the hole. This is when you want to initiate your exposure to get the silky movement effect.

Sony A7r w/ Canon 16-35 @ 16mm, f11, 1.5 seconds, ISO 200

Sony A7r w/ Canon 16-35 @ 16mm, f11, 1.5 seconds, ISO 200

To balance the high contrast of the scene I used a 3–stop hard neutral-density grad in combination with a 2-stop for a total of 5 stops. I rarely use the hard-edge grads but they work great on seascapes where the sky meets the sea on the horizon line.

Sony A7r w/ Canon 16-35 @ 23 mm, f11, 3 seconds, ISO 320

Sony A7r w/ Canon 16-35 @ 23 mm, f11, 3 seconds, ISO 320

As the sun was heading toward the horizon a big fog bank came in. This helped some as it reduced the contrast between the well in the foreground and the sky and allowed me to photograph directly into the sun. But then, as the sun set below the horizon, the fog became thicker and I was not able to get the intense after-sunset glow that I had hoped for. End of the show until next time. I will definitely be back!