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Is Heceta Head Lighthouse Worth The Stop?

YEAP, absolutely!

Heceta Head Lighthouse is located on Oregon's Central Coast in the city of Florence. It is one of Oregon's most photographed lighthouses and it's most definitely worth the stop if you're touring US 101. Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of those places where I felt like I was transported to another realm, a fairy-tale land of lush forests and mythical legends.

Even the parking lot offers photogenic opportunities. This tree was beautiful under atmospheric conditions and the fog helped to add depth and curiosity.

Spending only a few hours on a foggy June morning, I questioned whether it was worth writing about. I should mention we couldn't see the Lighthouse from the bridge on the way in due to heavy fog - a photograph both, my friend Mark Camp and I were looking forward to making but would not get the opportunity. After reaching the parking lot, we still weren't able to see the light, or the rocky shoreline.

Yet, there we were, excited to explore the foggy seascape before heading up the trailhead to the light. There was a sense of place that revealed beauty beyond visual clarity. Silhouetted sea cliffs, a turbulent tide, and mysterious atmospheric conditions with a lovely arch bridge spanning Cape Creek.

A photography trip touring Highway 101 can be difficult when passing through beautiful areas like this. You have but one chance to capture the moments and beauty before moving on. From the parking lot, it's about a 1/2 mile hike to reach the light. Photographing at the base of the light can be challenging because there's not much room to include the light along with the landscape and sky.

Heceta Head Lighthouse, OR
Morning God Rays at Heceta Lighthouse

If that's a shot you plan to make, you'll need an ultra-wide lens (14mm full-frame / 11mm for crop sensors).

You can frame the lighthouse at 14mm, but you may not be able to correct for distortion in post. I intentionally composed for distortion and exaggerated the lines to ensure there were no misconceptions.

There's a very popular shot on social channels which requires a very narrow and steep climb up and around the left side of the light. You'll have to hop the fence and I'm not sure if this allowed. This view will correct for distortion, but more importantly, give you a South/South West view of the gorgeous rocky cliffs and shoreline which we unfortunately couldn't see due to the fog. I had considered this vantage point but with the dense fog and time constraints, I didn't believe it was worthwhile.

I did, however, follow the trail up, and behind the Lighthouse and it turned out to be my favorite image of the morning. At one of the switchbacks, there's an opening in the forest to view the lighthouse - quite a lovely view I might add. Here's where the fog added mystery and enhanced the Lighthouse.

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Florence, Oregon
1/125, f/9, ISO100, 14mm

The supporting elements for this composition

can be used as a frame as I did here. Although If I were to critique this image, I might feel there's too much weight on the lower third of the frame. I might have moved in closer, giving the Lighthouse more space in the frame while still using the supporting elements without as much distractions. I also used my ultra-wide lens here but surprisingly, I didn't have to focus stack.

Here's the same image cropped to a 1:1 ratio that in this case, corrects my own constructive feedback. Notice how the 1:1 crop reduces distractions? I've omitted the left-most tree, removed much of the dirt in the bottom frame, but kept the tree's canopy effect while enlarging the lighthouse in the frame.

I like both of these compositions to be honest. In the first one, I actually left the women walking her dog (click image to enlarge) and waited for just the right moment for here to walk out from behind the tree.

It also reveals some of the coastal waves and more of the path. So perhaps, more story elements in the first image, but more mystery and simplicity in the 1:1 crop.

If you plan to photograph Heceta Light, be sure to study the beacon as it rotates and be ready to capture its illumination at just the right time.

If you have more time to spend, or if you're lodging on site at the Bed & Breakfast, the trail continues north and is part of a 7 mile network of trails which also lead to Washburne Campground. All Trails has more info on these trails. It would have been nice to photograph this lighthouse with the Pacific Coast as its background, but I have to admit, getting lucky with the fog made for some unique shots.

To learn more about Heceta Head, and to get a "Sense of Place", check out Ep. 6 Exploring Oregon. Its the first stop in the video. I include the road shots leading to the entrance and parking lot, and show some of the trailhead leading up to, and beyond the Lighthouse.

Ep. 6 Exploring Oregon's Central Coast. Video Release Date: 01.25.2024


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