Photographing Oregon’s Yaquina Head Lighthouse is a must for any lighthouse loving photographer. In addition to being a very photogenic lighthouse, the location and surrounding areas are so beautiful that they could easily be destinations themselves. The composition options are endless with it’s rocky cliffs, seal and sea lion covered rocks, and tidal pools. Now let’s take a look at the lighthouse and surrounding grounds.
About the Lighthouse
The Yaquina Head Lighthouse is less than a 10 minute drive north of Newport, Oregon. With it’s 93 foot tower, it is the tallest lighthouse along the Oregon Coast. From a photographer’s perspective, the Lighthouse’s location is perfection perched on a beautiful basalt peninsula that juts into the Pacific Ocean. One could hardly ask for a more picturesque location.
The lighthouse was originally named Cape Foulweather Light before becoming Yaquina Head. I personally think the first name suited it best as I was only able to photograph it on 2 out of 5 trips due to weather. Strong winds off the ocean made it difficult to even stand still much less hold a camera!
Today, the Bureau of Land Management currently manages the Lighthouse and the surrounding natural areas. If I am not mistaken, I think the combined natural area encompasses close to 100 acres. There is a small fee to enter the Lighthouse area and access is limited to specific hours making sunrise and sunset images currently impossible from the grounds. Someone told me that they had to gate the road in and restrict hours due to vandalism but I did not confirm this with the lighthouse staff so it I can’t verify it’s accuracy. All I know is that is a bummer for us photographers.
Different Photo Perspectives
1. Up Close and Personal
This image can be captured from both the east and west sides of the Lighthouse. In the mornings, stand east of the Lighthouse and in the evenings, stand west of the Lighthouse. Both views are good with totally different backgrounds. I wished I owned a tilt shift lens to photograph this lighthouse with but instead had to photograph it a little father back.
2. Heading to the Lighthouse
The path from the parking lot to the lighthouse provides a number of interesting compositions so be sure to take time to capture several different compositions along the way. Also depending on the time of year, the grounds could be covered with blooming flowers and plants which provide a great foreground interest for the lighthouse. When I first arrived at the Lighthouse the grounds were covered with flowers but ferocious winds and heavy fog prohibited most photo attempts. Only a couple weeks later, winds had diminished but so had the flowers. It was still beautiful though as you can see below:
3. View from the Cliffside Boardwalk
The photographic compositions along the boardwalk are numerous. Take time to really work the hillsides with the lighthouse in the background both vertically and horizontally.
Taken one afternoon with everything in bloom
Taken a couple weeks later, what a change!
4. Views of Road to Lighthouse and Cliffs
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Tips for Photographing the Lighthouse
1. Expect to encounter fog and wind based on the Lighthouse’s location and think of creative ways to photograph under these conditions. Also be prepared that some days will just be too windy so plan enough time for several visits.
2. Allow plenty of time to photograph the Lighthouse from all it’s various viewpoints and if possible, photograph the Lighthouse both in the morning and afternoon hours. I spent all my time photographing outside from various viewpoints and waiting for the clouds to break and never did the Lighthouse tour.
3. Dress is layers and waterproof shoes as there are a couple places to head down to the water.
4. Have easy access to all your camera equipment as I ended up using 5 different lens and several filters.
5. Accept that you will most likely have people in your images. I was the first one in the gate several times but encountered such heavy fog that I could not photograph until later. By then, the crowds had arrived.
Parking Tip-For those that plan to visit later in the day, the parking lot directly in front of the Lighthouse will likely be full. When that occurs, the staff will close the road to the Lighthouse at the visitor center. From the visitor center, you will have to walk to the Lighthouse. I don’t care for this option as a photographer since it is a bit of a walk and does not allow easy access back to the car. So this is what I recommend. Turn into the visitor center as required but do not park. Keep driving around to the front of the visitor center and the road will reconnect with the main Lighthouse road. The road is not barricaded here and a simple right turn takes you down the hill to the Lighthouse parking lot. Once at the Lighthouse parking lot, you may have to circle the small parking lot a few times but I always found a parking spot after a couple attempts.
Food, Lodging, Gas and Groceries are plentiful in Newport which is only 10 minutes south from the Lighthouse on 101. There are too many options to list here but name brand national chains are definitely present in Newport.
Camping: There are numerous nearby state, national forest campgrounds and RV parks. Make reservations!
Thanks for joining me on another Road Trip Friday adventure and I hope to see you next week when I photograph the Yaquina Bridge in downtown Newport, Oregon.