Below, is the first photograph I took of what is now one of my favorite northern Oregon landmarks. I say landmark, as far as I know, it’s not a landmark for anyone but me. It isn’t a single rock, it’s a pair. Allies rising up together on the lowest reach. Accounting for tides and surf conditions, they aren’t accessible very often. Seven years after this first encounter, in April 2013, I’m still drawn to the quirky charm of their barnacle encrusted mussel topknots. Tides permitting, I go back.


I last retuned in July 2019, with the wish of recapturing the original framing. On the beach, I discovered I had complicated the task by purchasing a new camera. Its viewfinder had different dimensions than the one I used in 2013. I also had to overcome three other other framing variables. Against a making tide, with my back turned to a mercifully small (checks notes) three-foot swell, I bobbed, swayed and weaved in search of an oh so elusive combination of body location (on the horizontal axis), head height (the vertical axis), and orientation (the angle of my camera to the rocks’ faces). The fourteenth shot came very close to the original. Back at my desk, I cropped the 2019 version to match the aspect ratio of the original. The end product is what you see below.

This tale explores the flip side of reimagining a photographic take. It illustrates that there is much to learn about an original before approaching it differently (or the same) a second time around.

Going back- second time around

11 thoughts

  1. These are both wonderful photographs. Like any portrait a number of years later the subject appears older, more tired…if that could be said for a rock. I imagine the different time of year and lighting would factor in also.

    1. You’ve got a good eye. The topknots now overtop much more of the rocks, having grown lower as starfish disappeared due to wasting syndrome, and the surfgrass has never been as lush. We’ve had periods of warm ocean water since the original. I think this has contributed the tired, washed out look. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I’ve though the same many times since 2013, when the intertidal seemed particularly vibrant.

    1. I didn’t even mention other things like how sunshine and changes in the plant and animal communities on the rocks influenced the look. And the depth of the sand changes a lot too! Thank you, M.B, for giving my post a look. I appreciate it.

  2. An extraordinarily clever and difficult self-challenge Steve. I can see why you’d be enchanted with this one. I suspect there was not much to be done about the light. Proof of its critical importance no matter the subject. Well done my friend!

    1. On Pacific shores, mornings can be a challenge if you want to turn your attention inland. Unfortunately, the best tides and great afternoon light don’t line up. So thanks, Tina, for noticing a great annoyance of mine. I have nothing to complain about, things could be a lot worse, but those washed out skies dog me.

  3. I so miss the Oregon Coast. I want to go back. Is it open for business yet? I need a beach fix! …and with regards to your photos above, I love the mysterious and misty feel to the bottom photo. Just beautiful!

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