10-17-19: Cape Disappointment did not


The forecast has come down a little: swells at 16′ early, then down to 15′ at high tide, but that is somewhat higher than I have ever seen, and with the wind as high as it is, the waves should be great! Just praying for amazing and unique waves.
The hard part will be deciding when to stop and hit the road: I have to be in Wenatchee for an 8:30am service appointment tomorrow for the truck (20K svc). I don’t think I’ll try to drive the whole way today (5:45 hours), but don’t know how far I’ll go – maybe to Tacoma, then drive the remainder early Fri morning.

Out the door @ 8:10, 53°, appears to be clearing. Forecast 90% chance of rain. Turns out it rained off and on at the beach. Arrived Cape Disappointment at 8:30 – got a decent parking spot: only three available; all others filled. Low tide scheduled for 9:00, the best action happens in the two hours before high tide. So I don’t expect any good wave action for awhile, but once it starts the only parking will be almost 300 yards away.

Here’s a video clip from March, 2013, taken by Meg McDonald: (I have not met her, but have been inspired by her work.)

To put it in perspective, the base of the lighthouse is 200′ above sea level. With a bit of trigonometry I calculated that the wave in the photo above is approx 35′ tall. If a wave in that position (relative distance from the viewing area) appears to reach as high as the base of the lighthouse it is approximately 76′ tall.

I had noticed yesterday some different wave dynamics than I had seen before: the wind was very strong and out of a different direction (more out of the west, than just south). This time I could see when a large swell was coming in. When they came in pairs (as they often did), the outgoing wave would collide with the incoming and produce several different results, including a tornado-type wave:

The retired pro photographer I met yesterday (did not get his name) said that I should have returned yesterday afternoon: the rain stopped, sky cleared, and tide peaked, and he got some really good shots. It was forecast to be only 13′, but with the right conditions it could have been amazing. I deeply regret not having gone back. Lesson learned: when at a location like Cape Disappointment (where the right conditions are so rare), do not miss any opportunity to be there. I was counting on the waves being much bigger and better today: they were bigger, and I am so glad I could be here for the 15′ swells, but they were not as pretty as yesterday because of the rain and low light there was very little color showing in the water (it was a beautiful green yesterday).

It got very warm as the sun came out, then much cooler as it clouded over and started raining again. A number of people noticed my setup and commented: I was almost completely protected from the elements while everyone else was having to cover up (or run to their cars) every time the rain came back.

It started raining as I finished setting up the inside of my truck camper. When it started blowing in I closed the back window to 3/4 up and could still shoot, but could not see the incoming waves very well.

At one point a man in a blue jacket stepped right up into my field of view (and middle of the frame) where I could not shoot over or around him. I called out “blue jacket” until the man next to him pointed out the problem to the guy. He moved and apologized. But I felt bad for hogging so much of the space (not that there was any shortage): everyone else could be shoulder to shoulder (they were not quite that close), but I needed a 8′ wide spot because I was set back so much further.
When it happened again later (turned out to be the older retired photographer I had met yesterday), I declined to say anything, but climbed out of the truck and quickly set up on the logs: the action had been getting good and heavy and I did not want to miss anything. That circumstance turned out to be a real blessing. I had been enjoying my privileged perch, but knew I was missing the comraderie the others enjoyed. Met and talked at length with the man on my right: Rainy Beck: a retired man that is now a (casual – he does not need the money) pro photographer with images for sale in several galleries. I asked how he got in the galleries because that’s what I really want to do.

The waves died down at high-tide (approx 2:45), and I stopped at 3:00, on the road at 3:35

I realized later that when I moved out of the truck I turned the speed-dial on my camera and shot the remainder of the time at 2-1/3 stops under exposed! A very big mistake, but not as bad as over-exposed would have been. These appear to be recoverable, but not great. The light was poor anyway, so I don’t think it made that much difference.

Drove the 140 miles to Tacoma. Got gas at Costco, then checked into the Comfort Inn. It was raining and the hotel awning was not adequate, so I got very wet, and some rain got into the back of the truck.
Was anxious to find out what I had captured today, and it looks like I got some good ones! It was tempting to stop and view some images on the camera while on the beach, but every time I tried another wave came in, and I did not want to miss anything. The lyrics from the Kenny Rogers song came to mind: (The Gambler) “you never count your money when you’re sitting at the table, there’l be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done.” Between yesterday and today I shot over 25,000 images!

To view more photos and in-depth information on how to find and shoot the waves, please check out my How-to Blog: http://www.buddyhawkins-photography.com/category/how-to/

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