Capturing a shipwreck (The Peter Iredale, Oregon)
“May God bless you and may your bones bleach in these sands.” The Peter Iredale Shipwreck
With his men safely ashore the captain, H. Lawrence gazed at the Peter Iredale, stuck and abandoned in the shallows. The captain then turned to his men, a bottle of whisky in his hand, the captain with his bottle raise, turned to the shipwreck and said “Boys, have a drink. May God bless you and may your bones bleach in these sands.” This amazing place, and wonderful quote, seems to belong into an adventure novel or some epic pirate movie, perhaps even one about searching for One Eyed Willy’s treasure. The Peter Iredale was a four mast, 275 foot long, steel sailing vessel. In September 1906 the Peter Iredale sailed from Salina Cruz, Mexico bound for Portland, Oregon with 1,000 tons of ballast, a crew of 27, and two stowaways. The uneventful voyage abruptly ended on October 25, when the captain tried to enter the mouth of the Columbia River through the thick fog and rising tide. Ultimately the strong winds and heavy northwest rain squalls grounded the Peter Iredale on Clatsop Spit. Captain Lawrence ordered that the ship be abandoned, and distress signals were launched. The lifesaving station at Point Adams promptly responded, sending a team of men to rescue the crew. They managed to bring all twenty-seven crewmen, including the stowaways, safely to shore. For over 100 years the wreck has rested on Clatsop Spit near Fort Stevens in Warrenton, just south of mouth of the Columbia River. The wreckage is the most popular and accessible shipwreck of the Graveyard of the Pacific. During low tide one can walk right up to it and into it. The shipwreck with its coastal backdrop provide many different aspects and elements to create visual images; with many contrasts in color and texture between the rough rusted steel and the soft blue ocean. The most important time here is the hour before and after sunset. If you can plan to be there during an outgoing tide you will be rewarded with reflections of the sun and the shipwreck in the wet sands and tidal pools. I usually come several hours prior to sunset, walk along the beach and plan my evening shots. A tripod is necessary and graduated filters can allow for versatility for longer exposures.
what to bring
The drive to Fort Stevens
If traveling north on Highway 101
Approximately 15 miles north of Seaside Oregon turn left on Harbor Drive and follow to Highway 101. Then follow the signs to Fort Stevens State Park. Drive approximately 4.5 miles west then proceed straight through the 4-way stop into the Historic Area.
If traveling south on Highway 101
Heading west from Astoria cross the Youngs Bay bridge, turn right at the stop light onto Highway 101 and follow the signs to the park. Once inside the park turn on NW Ridge Rd, then take a left onto Peter Iredale Rd and proceed 1 mile.
Walk to the Peter Iredale shipwreck
The ocean and shipwreck are very close to the trail head at the parking lot, you can, however, enjoy another three miles of hiking heading north along the Pacific coast with dunes to your right and the crashing waves to your left. It is a wonderful summer walk with cool pacific breezes.
canon 5d mark IIITaken on the dune about 100 yards away and 50 feet above the beach (and the ship). This was high enough to see the mist along the beach reducing the ship contrast in the sharp sun. The man in the foreground watching his son fly a colorful kite. The man was above the mist so his shape was not affected. The difference in contrast and the low color due to the bright sun made for a “dream like” appearance to the image.
75mm (EF24-105mm f4L IS USM))
canon 5d mark III
50mm ((EF24-105mm f4L IS USM))
The shipwreck’ s rusty weathered hull has fantastic colours. Even more so when you pair them with the silvery ocean or the blue sky. Wait till late afternoon when the sun deeply saturates the reds and oranges. I did not bring with me a macro lens so a just used a standard zoom. Next time I will take the macro.
canon 5d mark IIIAs the sun set the iron took on a deep crimson hue, I felt I was photographing a carcass of a giant sea creature perhaps. The shape reminded me of a whale skeleton one might see at an aquarium. So with that in mind I took several shots of the “bones”. This image was the “rib cage”; the single “rib” was the vertical image above.
55mm ((EF24-105mm f4L IS USM))
canon 5d mark IIII wanted to capture the ship’s shadows in the sand while retaining some detail and color in the ocean background. I waited till the sun had gone past the ship to provide the shadows but not low enough to be directly in the frame.
24mm (EF24-105mm f4L IS USM)
canon 5d mark III
88mm (EF24-105mm f4L IS USM))
2 stop ND filter
On this evening there was an uninteresting clear sky so I focused on the colour just above the horizon and the reflections in the tidal pool below. I slowed down the shutter speed enough to soften the water but to retain some definition in the waves.