10 Tips for the First Time Exploring the PNW
A few weeks ago, Sean (@sean.muckle) and I (@andrew_glatt) left Chicago and headed west to explore the coast of Northern Oregon for a weekend. Neither of us had been to that part of the country, and it was number 1 on my list of places to explore and shoot. After looking back on the trip, I put together a list of takeaways from a couple PNW first-timers – things to do / not to do and things I wish I knew when planning the trip.
Haystack Rock is so much bigger in person than it seems in photos. Everyone knows the scene, whether from photos or movies like The Goonies. We landed at PDX, hopped in a car and headed straight for Cannon Beach. It was definitely the most excited I’ve been in my life to see a rock… and it didn’t disappoint. When we pulled around the corner where you get your first glimpse of it, we both had the same expression on our face: one of total shock at how big it was. If you’re heading to Cannon for the first time, be prepared for that.
Sounds simple, but be prepared for the weather and dress appropriately. RAINS waterproof jacket and backpack, as well as the Matador Camera Cover, saved the day on multiple occasions. It rained consistently and winds reached up to 65 mph. Experiencing winds that powerful was a first for both of us. We should’ve known from the high wind warnings, but coming from Chicago we thought, “Meh, how bad could it be?” No joke, it was so powerful you could stand at an angle and the wind would hold you up. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about protecting my gear as RAINS had me covered.
Plan, but not too much. Except when it comes to hiking trails. Plan hiking trails as much as possible. This was the one thing I really screwed up on this trip. I felt like Michael Scott in The Office when he trusts his GPS a little too much and drives his car into a lake. I opened Google Maps, put “Tillamook State Forest” as the end destination and thought that was that. Job well done! It ended up dropping us pretty much in the middle of nowhere: no trailhead, nothing. Not my proudest moment. We then spent a good hour trying to figure out where to go, and since neither of us had service that deep into the forest, we couldn’t find our way out easily. Now I know to do extensive research on specific trailheads to avoid wasting almost an entire afternoon of light.
Follow-up to #3: Hit up friends or family in the area for recommendations. Shout-out to Jon for the tips! I did a good amount of research beforehand (except for the hiking part), but the most helpful thing was getting Jon’s input and advice.
The tides. Be aware, and don’t be an idiot. If you’re shooting sunset like we were at Cannon Beach the first night, the tide comes in super quickly and if you aren’t careful, you and your gear will end up soaked.
Devil’s Cauldron in Oswald State Park. My favorite spot of the trip; just take my word for it and go there. I’d put it up there with the Cinque Terre as the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.
Snacks, snacks, snacks. The biggest time killer for us was sitting down for full meals. I’m not a big meal guy. I usually have a lot of small snacks throughout the day anyway, and that was a great way to save some time. Bananas, Clif Bars, trail mix to eat while you’re on the road. That’s the way to go.
If you’re traveling quite a ways and renting a car, try to get a JEEP strictly for the photos. Bonus points if you’re able to swing a red one.
Disconnect. We didn’t do it intentionally, but we spent almost the whole weekend totally disconnected from Instagram, work (if possible), etc. As with a lot of things, it’s much more enjoyable when you’re fully present in the moment.
Not to sound cliche, but try to just soak it all in. There were a few times where I made myself put the camera down for a few minutes to appreciate where we were. If you love a moment for what it is, sometimes it’s better to just stay in it. Looking back, I’m really glad that I did.