There’s nothing like getting out in the summer when the weather is warm, the days are long and the landscapes are inviting. In this article, we’ve polled several of OP’s top contributors, asking them for their favorite summer hot spots. This brief list of locations is a collection of ideal summer shooting spots, but they certainly aren’t the only good places to go, by a long shot. Furthermore, these should be thought of as places where your quest for special imagery begins, not as an end, because nature photography is best when it’s not just about ticking a series of checkboxes.
Frederick Sound, Southern Alaska
My favorite photographic subject is humpback whales, especially during the brief summer months in Alaska. One of my favorite locations to photograph them is on Frederick Sound located in southeastern Alaska’s famous Inside Passage. Here, the whales typically congregate to feed by themselves on rich blooms of plankton and schools of herring. On a calm day, I’ve counted hundreds of whale blows from horizon to horizon. Bubble-net feeding is a unique feeding behavior where groups of up to two dozen humpback whales cooperatively work together to feed in schools of herring. Each whale plays a specialized role in the carefully choreographed hunt. The main attack involves herding the frightened fish by diving beneath them, singing an intense sound and blowing bubbles, which act as a net as they rise toward the surface. At the last moment, the whales all rise to the surface with their mouths open and swallow the fish. I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time photographing the whales from the relative comfort of my 22-foot boat and 12-foot inflatable.
Most photographers aren’t going to purchase their own boat to cruise the Inside Passage, so I recommend joining a weeklong cruise on a small yacht with only six to 12 passengers. If you search the Internet, you’ll find several companies that offer these specialized excursions. You also can join me when I return to lead my next humpback whale photography tour in August 2014.
Samuel H. Boardman Coast, Oregon
The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, north of the town of Brookings, Oregon, is one of the most rugged and scenic areas anywhere on the Pacific coast. The scenic corridor extends 12 miles north of Brookings and consists of coastal forests with steep coastline populated by arches and sea stacks, and punctuated by small sand beaches. This park was named for Samuel H. Boardman, the first Oregon Parks superintendent. He was convinced that this piece of coast should be saved for the public. Here, the photographer will find 300-year-old Sitka spruce trees, amazing Arch Rock and Natural Bridges, and 27 miles of Oregon Coast Trail that weave through coastal prairies, stunning viewpoints, hidden coves, precipitous cliffs and forested sea stacks. Many of the most intriguing beaches and vistas can’t be seen from the road, and the best photography is found by parking at the many pullouts and hiking steep trails through the forest to see where they lead. Use caution as many of the trails end at cliff tops without railings.
The park lies along Highway 101, and there’s no quick way to get there. From Interstate 5, drive west to Highway 101 from Eugene, Sutherlin or Roseburg, and then drive south past Gold Beach, or drive west from Grants Pass to Highway 101 and then north past Brookings.