We travel to Oregon and continue the #TheGreatMilkyWayChase. Follow us as we shoot the Milky Way and visit Bandon, Thor’s Well, Cook’s Chasm, the Sprouting Horn, Heceta Head Lighthouse, and Crater Lake National Park.

PODCAST 84: Oregon Milky Way Chase | Bandon, Thor’s Well, Heceta Head, and Crater Lake

Kirk Keyes Podcast

Todays topics –

We travel to Oregon and continue the #TheGreatMilkyWayChase. Follow us as we shoot the Milky Way and visit Bandon, Thor’s Well, Cook’s Chasm, the Spouting Horn, Heceta Head Lighthouse, and Crater Lake National Park.

Today’s Guest –

Kirk Keyes – www.keyesphoto.com

Along for this Photog Adventure was Claudia Halbert and Kirk Keyes. We discuss what a great spot Bandon is for both the sunset and the Milky Way, why Thor’s Well is probably not a great place for the Milky Way, shooting lighthouses at night, and why Crater Lake National Park is one of the best places ever for night photography.

Day One: Bandon

We had lot more sleep this year than last year – a key to that is NOT staying up all night shooting “day to night to day” time lapses! If you’re flying into a location and camping, grab your self an air mattress and put it in the back of your vehicle if you can.

Bandon Sunset – windy again in the evening but like last year’s visit, it calmed after the sun set. We started shooting below Lord Bennett’s Restaurant just north of Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint and explored to the south of the point. There are many different sea stacks to photograph. As there were few clouds in the sky, think about focusing on the rocks, the waves, and the patterns in the sand. Brendon suggests using the waves as leading lines to the sea stacks.

Bandon Milky Way – Aaron and Kirk both setup time lapses, Aaron from out on the beach of the Milky Way and sea stacks and Kirk set up at the base of the cliff. Kirk experimented with a Tiffin Color Enhancing Filter which is made of didymium glass, a special glass used to reduce yellow tones from photos which has the effect of enhancing reds. In the past, this type of glass was used to make fall colors “pop”, but now it is also being used in “light pollution reduction” filters. His first impression is that the filter did remove some of the light from the yellow city lights.

The sky at Bandon was much clearer this year than last. Last year, there was a noticeable haze from low-hanging ocean mist along the shore . This haze had a beautiful effect on the city lights by adding a nice glow to the sky above the lights. This year, the sky had little haze along the horizon. It’s a trade-off not having the haze, as the stars looked great this year.

Day Two: Thor’s Well, Haceta Head Lighthouse, and the Spouting Horn

Since we had such a great night at Bandon on Day One, Claudia suggested we go to Thor’s Well. It’s a couple of hours north of Bandon by Yachats, OR. Kirk used a Graduated Neutral Density filter on his lens since we would be shooting into the sunset. Thor’s Well makes a lot of mist that kept landing on everything. Kirk found the filter helped shield the front element of the lens and made it was easy to clean with a quick wipe from a microfiber cloth. Another photographer was trying the trick of putting his hat over the lens to keep it clean, but the simplicity of wiping the filter was way easier. Brendon notice he had no mist from his shooting location. We figured the wind was blowing the mist towards Kirk and away from Brendon.

Use Caution at Thor’s Well

Thor’s Well can be a dangerous place. You need to be there about one to two hours before high tide to get the water coming up into the well. When ocean swells are high, it’s going to be a very dangerous place. Even with “good weather”, unpredictable sneaker waves can make it a recipe for disaster. A person was washed out to sea and died there in 2016. Don’t go alone and pay attention to your surroundings. And this is definitely not a place to try Milky Way photos in the dark.

Adjacent to Thor’s Well is a water feature named Cook’s Chasm and the Spouting Horn. (Note that Google Maps calls this feature “Sprouting Horn”.) The Chasm is a gap cut into the same lava bench that forms Thor’s Well. The Horn is a water fountain that sprays as waves pass through Cook’s Chasm and enter a small hole in the lava. Unlike Thor’s Well which shoots water nearly straight up, the Spouting Horn shoots the water out at about 45 degrees. To see the Horn, you need to be there about one to two hours before high tide. To get to the Horn, follow the same path that leads from the parking lot to Thor’s Well. The Horn is directly across the Chasm adjacent to the landing at the bottom of the path.

Lighting the Horn

Aaron and Brendon had the brilliant idea of shooting the Spouting Horn ALONG with the Milky Way! To light it, we used a technique called Low Level Lighting for astrophotography landscapes. We put a LED light panel at the first switch back and aimed it across the chasm at the Horn. Using full power on the light, it was enough to light up the entire area. It was difficult to get a shutter speed to capture the Horn AND the Milky Way. Try around 2 seconds if possible to get the Horn to show up as bright as possible. The colors in our shots were great – from the blue in the sky to the warm tone of the LED lit rocks, to the tungsten lit clouds above the fishing boats at sea. Way cool!

As we waited for the Milky Way to rise above the coastal headlands, we traveled to Heceta Head Lighthouse. Instead of walking up to the lighthouse like year, we walked straight out from the parking lot onto the beach at Cape Cove. Brendon noticed the bridge for Highway 101 had a beautiful concrete arch under it and a street light above it. The lighthouse beam was sweeping across the hillside adjacent to the bridge illuminating the hill. After a while, the Milky Way started rising right above the bridge. Again, all those different light sources looked awesome! Also, we learned from last November’s trip that longer shutter times blur out the beam from the lighthouse. (See Episodes 62, 63, and 64.) Kirk found 5 seconds to be good, and Aaron picked 4 seconds to “freeze” the beam.

Low-light Video

Kirk tried out the low-light video capability of his new Sony a7 Mark III – setting it to ISO 512,000 in the pitch black of the beach, the camera was shooting video at 4 frames per second! It’s grainy and jerky, but it’s video and you can see what’s going on!

Buying Gasoline in Oregon

Aaron had a rant about the situation of buying gasoline in the State of Oregon. Since you can’t pump your own gas in most of Oregon, you can only refuel during the hours that the gas station is open. On the Interstates and in larger towns, stations can be open 24 hours. But in smaller towns, they will close overnight. And once they close, the station attendant goes home and they turn off the pumps. So, plan that when you come to Oregon to keep your tank full!

Day Three: The Milky Way at Crater Lake National Park

It’s a several hour long drive to get to Crater Lake from the Mid or South Oregon Coast. It’s an unbelievable place and well worth the trip. Crater Lake is nearly 2000 ft. deep and has some of the purest water in the world. The color of the lake is an amazing shade of blue. And the skies there are some of the best for Milky Way photography.

We started shooting on the west side of the rim at the Watchman Overlook. It’s directly adjacent to Wizard Island. It’s can be a challenge getting separation between the shoreline of Wizard Island from the rim. Plan on shooting large panoramas here as the lake is so large. The Brady Bunch-style panorama, the 3 x 3 pano, is another option to get enough sky. We also stopped at the next two unnamed pullouts to the north of Watchman Overlook. At one, there’s an interesting old dead tree on the rim of the crater. That snag can make an interesting foreground subject. We also checked out Merriam Point where we spent two nights last June – see Episode 41.

Day Four: Last night at Crater Lake

The Milky Way looked huge and bright that night, my friend. Mars was also glowing bright red and it was low on the horizon. It looked amazing!

We had amazing skies for four nights in a row. We used ClearOutside.com and ClearDarkSkies.com to help us decide where to go as the clouds were passing through the area. Use weather stations that are near you and in the direction of where the Milky Way will be.

Items Discussed in this Podcast

The following are Amazon Affiliate links. Clicking on and buying these items helps us produce this show.

Sony a7III – https://amzn.to/2Kyk6xj

Tiffen Color Enhancing Filter is part of this kit – https://amzn.to/2yYmnRd