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  • Writer's pictureRichard Duerksen

The Blue Hour

The sky above Portland promised rain. Oodles and goblets of rain! But the weather app on my phone said there would be thunderstorms and blue sky at Cannon Beach, so off I went to photograph lightning, big white clouds, and reflective beaches.

At 3:00PM, when I parked at Cannon Beach, the sky was clear. Only a few puffy white clouds far off in the distance. It was all so open that I chose to leave my rain jacket in the car.

Take the tripod, two Canon camera bodies, (5D MKIV and mirrorless R), four lenses (70-200mm, 24-70mm, 8-15mm, and 24-105mm), an iPhone, and two Septuagint knees. Begin the long walk toward Cannon’s version of Haystack Rock. Hundreds of people were playing on the beach.

Puffins, terns, and gulls were flying hither and thither as if on schedules. The sand was the most solid on the water line, so I left footprints in a quickly-vanishing ragged line.

During the next six hours I was fried by hot sunshine, frozen by frigid winds, drenched by passing squalls, and exhausted. The promised thunderstorms blew in from Hawaii, targeting me with tons of grape-sized raindrops, each of which seemed aimed at the lenses of my cameras. I spent as much time cleaning as shooting!

Sundown finally came, but was grey and unspectacular, reminding me why sometimes it’s best to stay home. I began the mile plus stumble back up the beach, past Haystack toward Ecola Creek. The tide was sliding out, leaving me to find a solid track across acres of soggy sand. My legs felt like icicles, unbending, but too cold to care.

The “Blue Hour” arrived on schedule as I neared the creek, transforming my muddled grey world into a satiny-cobalt castle whose floors were mirrors and whose ceilings glowed turquoise and white. It was a fleeting version of a photographer’s heaven.

I ran, legs powered by possibilities, across the beach’s mirrored ballroom toward the slushing surf, stabbed the tripod into sand that jiggled like fresh Jello, set the MKIV and the 24-70 on the ball head, and pointed the contraption south.

Haystack Rock was billowing thunderclouds like a power plant chimney, and the sea had left a perfect mirror beneath my feet. I shot a dozen frames, vertical, horizontal, wide, and not so wide. Then, just as the cobalt light shifted to a deep indigo, three people ran into the picture, dancing on the glass and taking selfies in the dark. My final photo was a six-second exposure showing our mutual happiness.

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