Photographing Shi Shi Beach
My short affair in 2011 with Shi Shi beach was an amazing experience that was not only extremely rewarding but left me wanting more. The overnight trip was the start of a 10-day photographic journey around the Pacific Northwest with locations including Olympic National Park, the Columbia River Gorge and Palouse Falls. But Shi Shi left an impression.
My friends and fellow photographers arrived with me in Seattle late on a Tuesday morning from Denver and we promptly headed out to grab our rental cars. After a quick stop at the grocery and REI we made our way to the Port Angeles Wilderness Information Center and arrived just before closing. With a permit and bear canister in hand we set out for the Makah Indian Reservation and found the pay private parking lots required for trail-head access.
As we geared up and loaded our packs with camera equipment and supplies for the night my friends decided to start the trail without me to catch sunset. I was taking longer as I decided to put on my gaiters after being forewarned about the muddy trail and knew I could catch up. The 2-mile trail to the beach started out nice enough and I easily regained my friends. One friend however, intent on catching the ocean sunset, had blazed ahead on his own.
As I didn’t want him hiking alone I decided to go after him thinking he couldn’t be more than 15 minutes of fast hiking in front of me. I soon hit the knee deep mud and was thankful for the application of gaiters beforehand. Despite being slowed down I was still making a quick pace in the beautiful coastal rainforest. I continued on and finally made it to the beach, surprised I hadn’t caught him. I asked a group of campers right at the start of the beach if they had seen anyone come by but no luck. Worried that he might have taken one of the small off-shoot trails earlier I languished over what to do. Guessing he was probably just farther ahead I left a message with the campers and started down the beach.
The scene before me was incredible; it was my first trip to the Pacific Northwest and I had never been on a beach of such rugged and stunning beauty. As I continued my fast trek down the beach and the sun inched closer to the waves I was enthralled with the scene around me. As I gazed at the distant sea stacks I caught a glimpse of what looked like a figure ahead hiking on the beach. Confident it was my friend and he was headed for those sea stacks I picked up the pace in pursuit. I was amazed as he must of been a half mile ahead of me and I’m not used to being left so far behind (with my trail running background). I finally caught him two miles down the beach on the other side of the sea stacks just in time for sunset. We were rewarded with a short but sweet burst of color and just enough time to find a couple compositions. After sunset we then had to figure out how we were going to meet up with the others. Figuring they would be close to catching us by now we went back down the beach towards some campsites we had passed earlier. We picked a beautiful spot right in the edge of the forest overlooking the beach and near a stream for fresh water. At this point we hadn’t seen any headlamps and were beginning to wonder.
After some searching we found the other three members of our group and headed to the campsite. Dinner was comprised of some quick freeze dried meals before hitting the sack at midnight, exhausted from a long day. We awoke the next morning at 5 a.m. for sunrise minus the friend who was too tired from his speed trek the day before. As we walked the beach and looked for compositions color started to seep into the sky above. I found interesting foreground rocks near the stream and composed an image with the sea stacks in the background. As stunning blues, pinks and purples lit up the sky above me and beach below me the distant moon peaked through the clouds one last time before setting. This rewarded me with me favorite image of the trip and something that truly encompassed the beauty of Shi Shi Beach. We continued photographing the color and light around us before returning to our campsites. With plans to photograph a waterfall later that day we quickly packed up and headed down the beach for the trail, ending my brief and amazing stay. While definitely a mountain man, I still find myself on this beach in my dreams and hope to make another trip to Shi Shi soon.