An Angry Ocean

June 12, 2022  |  Cape Disappointment, Washington

Last Saturday, I flew into Portland, Oregon, a couple of days in advance of my Landscapes & Seascapes of Coastal Oregon photo workshop. It was pouring rain all day, but I needed to visit the locations I had planned for the week and ensure that there were no surprises like impassable trails, limited access, and other obstacles like that. But before I did that, I had wanted to visit Cape Disappointment State Park, just north of our base in Seaside, Oregon. I had originally wanted to do one of the hikes there, visiting Deadman's Cove. But the heavy rain put that idea aside. However, I knew the tide would be coming in, and I also know that the waves that sometimes pound the coastline at Cape Disappointment have the potential to be pretty epic. I figured between the high tide and the storm, there might be a chance to see something special.

A storm drives waves from the Pacific Ocean into the rocks at Cape Disappointment, Washington.

Siren's Song III

A storm drives waves from the Pacific Ocean into the rocks at Cape Disappointment, Washington.

When I pulled up to Waikiki Beach, the rain was coming down hard. But man, the waves were exploding! Not only do the waves explode against the rocks, but because of the shape of the headland, waves will crash on the headland, and bounce back, creating incredible splashes of water as two waves smack into each other. I watched through my windshield as I sat parked there, hoping the rain would abate a little and allow me a window to photograph.

The Pacific Ocean pounds the rocky coastline on a stormy day at Cape Disappointment, Washington.

Siren's Song IV

The Pacific Ocean pounds the rocky coastline on a stormy day at Cape Disappointment, Washington.

Sure enough, the rain did let up briefly. I quickly stepped out of my car and began photographing the waves. There was still a light rain falling, but it wasn't too bad. I stood there, picking out promising-looking waves, tracking them as they came in, and hoping each one would create one of those wondrous enormous splashes that Cape Disappointment is known for.

A wave explodes near Waikiki Beach at Cape Disappointment State Park near Ilwaco, Washington.

Siren's Song

A wave explodes near Waikiki Beach at Cape Disappointment State Park near Ilwaco, Washington.

Every so often, the rain would pick up and I would retreat to the car again and see if it would stop. In all I was forced back 4 times, but the rain always eased back up again and I would go out and grab a few more frames. Eventually, I felt like I'd seen a good number of giant wave splashes, so I decided it was time to wrap things up, and head back to Seaside, Oregon. It was getting dark and the rain wasn't letting up.

Waves crash in spectacular fashion at Cape Disappointment, Washington.

Siren's Song II

Waves crash in spectacular fashion at Cape Disappointment, Washington.

When all was said and done, I had a ton of wave images to go through, but the four presented here in my "Siren's Song" series are the best. I did return to Cape Disappointment twice more. I returned Sunday when the rain had passed and I finally did get that hike down to Deadman's Cove. I visited Waikiki Beach again also, and was surprised to find it as calm as a bath tub! Not a wave in sight.

The sky looks ominous and waves pound the headlands as a spring storm moves in off Cape Disappointment, Washington.

Spring Storm at Cape Disappointment

The sky looks ominous and waves pound the headlands as a spring storm moves in off Cape Disappointment, Washington.

Finally, on Thursday, I brought my group to Cape Disappointment to show them the lighthouses (Cape Disappointment lighthouse, above, and North Head lighthouse, below), and possibly see some waves as another storm was moving in. While we didn't get the wave show I saw on Saturday, we did manage to stay mostly dry, and photograph some pretty decent waves.

North Head Light stands watch over the Pacific at the mouth of the Columbia River in Cape Disappointment State Park near Ilwaco, Washington.

North Head Lighthouse

North Head Light stands watch over the Pacific at the mouth of the Columbia River in Cape Disappointment State Park near Ilwaco, Washington.

All in all, while the weather didn't make it easy by any stretch, it was a successful workshop. The people in my group were great- friendly, eager to learn, and fun to be around. One of the reasons I love photography is the people it's brought me in contact with.