This happy photo - Hidden Valley

by Jon Sullivan - 2019-09-23 - Photography

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For me photos should be an intersection of technique, subject, composition and story. Here's the story behind this photo.

The Oregon coast is one of my favorite places to photograph. Mostly because it's just objectively fantastic for photography. But also partly since my tour guide there is so wonderful. I suppose also partly since my photography hero shoots there a lot.

If you include Portland, and why wouldn't you, there are endless possibilities. Waterfalls, surging waves, deep greens, beer, great food. Historically it seems like careful plans there never work out, but I still come home with great photos.

On my last 2019 trip there the plan was to get some bucket list waves photos. Particularly this one. I made a whole custom Google map with locations of potential wave photos. All the way from Coos Bay to Cannon Beach. It was ambitious, and so packed with options we were certain to get a great wave photo.

So, of course, I came back with no great wave photo.

Thankfully I got treasured photos like this one instead.

The place we're staying is in a little fishing village, sort of hidden behind an oyster processing company and a pot dispensary. We leave before dawn to try and catch the sunrise. We're too far from the coast location we're photographing that day to be there by sun-up, but hopefully we'll find something along the way. It's raining, but the storm surge we wanted isn't happening. Still, we're in high spirits. It's the Oregon coast. If you can't find great photos, you're doing it wrong.

After a bit we realize the GPS maps navigation has picked a scenic route rather than the fastest way. It's still pitch black out, so...... yeah, wonderful to be on the "scenic route". Oh well. We're talking about how wonderful the ireland trip was. Talking about the Belgium trip we didn't know if we'd ever get to take. Talking about hopes and dreams.

As the first light of the morning starts glowing through the clouds we come around a corner and see an endless series of forrest ridges and valleys, with wispy fog blowing through the trees. "Should I pull over?" YES!!! Pull over now!!! We park at a little turn out and I grab all the gear so we can walk out a ways.

Complete calm and silence, then the shutters clicking. Good times.

Like all sunrise sessions you only have a few minutes to get the shot. The special light you want is constantly changing and you'll get often 2-3 captures before it's gone. This one is just right. Somehow the light through the clouds illuminating just the foggy valley that happens to be in just the right place and somehow we're just in the right spot to see it at just the right time. Just right.

My first Lightroom pass on this photo I added a bunch of film grain and pulled back all the sharpening to give it a 1940s werewolf movie feel. I like this version better. Also oddly, even though we were only there for about 20 minutes that cops stopped by twice to check us out. No idea.

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