Tips for Photographing the Oregon Coast

Who doesn’t love rocky seaside cliffs, colorful sunsets, sea caves, mountain views, starfish and of course breaching whales? Visitors can see all this and more along the Oregon Coast, making it one of the most photographed areas in the United States. Travelers and photographers alike travel from near and far to capture the elusive Oregon Coast landscape. Read here for our tips on photographing the Oregon Coast during your stay at the Whale Cove Inn.


When to go

Really anytime is a great time to visit the Oregon Coast and capture its beautiful landscape but there are certain times of the year that offer dramatic backdrops and lively action that make for a photo-worthy shot. Winter is the best time to visit as this is when the Oregon Coast comes to life with wild thunderstorms that roll in off the coast, bringing with it dramatic skies and giant waves crashing into the cliffs, all creating the perfect storm for a beautiful photograph.

Where to go

While there really isn’t a bad spot along the Oregon Coast to photograph, there are a few notable Oregon Coast photography locations that can offer dramatic and vibrant images.

Depoe Bay

image of spouting horn in Depoe Bay Oregon
Sea Gulls sitting on rocks with surf behind them, Depoe Bay, Oregon

You don’t have to travel far from Depoe Bay to capture some of the best scenes along the Oregon Coast. Take Otter Crest Loop for sweeping views of Cape Foulweather, a beautiful vantage point for a coastal landscape shot. Also, be sure to visit the Devil’s Punchbowl. During winter storms, water from the ocean slams into this hollow rock formation shaped like a large punch bowl. A mesmerizing scene that will make for a great photograph.

And as one of Depoe Bay’s most dramatic scenes, the Spouting Horn is another perfect opportunity to photograph the dramatic scenes of the coast. Known to have sprayed across HWY 101, this natural formation fires water into the air, up to 30-feet high! So, make sure you have the right rain gear for you and your camera for this shot.

Depoe Bay is also known as the whale watching capital of Oregon, so snap on that telephoto lens and see what you can capture. Our suites at Whale Cove Inn are all oceanfront with spacious balconies, creating the perfect viewing spot for the annual whale migration every winter and spring. So, you don’t even have to leave your room to get a great shot of our coastal wildlife.

Cannon Beach at Ecola State Park

image of Cannon Beach Ecola State Park
Cannon Beach as viewed from Ecola Viewpoint in Ecola State Park, Oregon.

Heading north for a little over two hours you will find Cannon Beach, home of the famous Haystack Rock. As one of Oregon’s most recognizable landmarks, Haystack Rock is a great place to start photographing the Oregon Coast. Also enjoy the beautiful scenery of Ecola State Park, with hiking trails that lead to stunning viewpoints, tidepools (at low tide), and hidden caves that all await you in this picturesque spot.


image of sunset in Manzanita Oregon
Manzanita, Oregon

Roughly two hours from Depoe Bay lies the quiet town of Manzanita. The area offers miles and miles of beaches that are perfect for a long walk with your camera in hand. This is a beautiful calm spot, perfect for night photography.

Cape Perpetua

image of Thors Well at Cape Perpetua
Water recedes back down into Thor’s Well.

About an hour south of Depoe Bay is the mountainous area of Cape Perpetua, where sheer cliffs descend into the ocean for one of the best coastal scenes you will find in Oregon. A notable spot, perfect for practicing your long exposures, is at Thor’s Well. The rushing waves move in and out of the giant bowl carved into the rock, offering an unforgettable scene you’ll want to photograph.

What to bring

The right protection

Most likely you will be out in the middle of a storm so protection for yourself and your camera equipment is a must. Depending on your level of commitment to wade through the storm you might consider a full rain suit, both a jacket and pants along with rain boots. But at the very least bring a rain jacket to help stay dry. For your camera, use some sort of protective rain cover that keeps your lens and camera dry.

Sturdy tripod

You most likely will be outdoors in stormy conditions with blowing wind and rain, so you want to make sure your camera is safe and secure when mounted on your tripod. A flimsy tripod just won’t do with these adverse conditions.

Camera and lenses

Of course, bring your camera and a lens. Depending on what you want to shoot, it is always a good idea to use a wide-angle lens when capturing the Oregon Coast. This type of lens is the best way to photograph expansive landscapes. A telephoto lens is also good to have to capture more intimate images or wildlife out at sea. But it is always good to have options available to you as you just don’t know what you might come across.

Additional things you will need:

  • Remote release or cable release for those long exposures
  • Spare batteries
  • Extra memory cards
  • Polarizing and ND filters to enhance color and for creative effects

Where to stay

image of premier suite at Whale Cove Inn
Premier Suite at Whale Cove Inn

Nestled along the Oregon Coast, near Depoe Bay, the Whale Cove Inn is a premium choice for a luxurious boutique hotel experience you won’t find anywhere else. Browse our oceanfront suites, grab your camera and start planning your Oregon Coast getaway today!


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