Central Oregon Coast
Thor's Well has a great allure to landscape photographers. The combination of raging sea and silky flow of the ocean into what looks like a passage to the underworld can make for great photograph. But at what cost…
The hole that is Thor’s Well is really a collapsed sea cave (about 12-15ft across) that sits near the edge of the sharp volcanic rock overlooking the Pacific Ocean. When the ocean tide is just right, the waves push up through the hole and covers the surrounding area. The waves are then swept back out these sea cave to the ocean. This can make for a great long-exposure (1/2 second is fine) photograph. To get a great shot, you have to be 8-10ft away from the hole during a time when the ocean is near high tide, which puts you in a very dicey position. This location can be extremely exciting, but can also be dangerous for both you and your equipment.
Trail Difficulty (5 out of 5)
The hike from the parking lot to Thor’s Well is a modest ¼ mile downhill, but the circumstances around the shoot ARE VERY DANGEROUS AND NOT FOR EVERYONE!
To make this shot work, you have to be standing very close to Thor’s Well when the ocean tide is rather high (about an hour before and after high tide). During this time, the waves will be crashing all around you and the jagged lava rocks you are standing on will be wet and slick—and you will be only about 10ft. from the hole. Being swept into the hole or the ocean is CERTAIN DEATH!
Again, THIS SHOT IS VERY DANGEROUS AND IS NOT FOR EVERYONE!
GPS Coordinates & Elevation
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click link above to view location in Google Earth
CLICK HERE to get driving directions the Thor's Well parking area.
From the parking lot, walk down the switchbacks to the stairs. Go down the stairs and take a right and walk along the wall for about 50 ft. From this spot, walk straight out to a raised set of rock in front of the Thor's Well.
Best Time of Day to Shoot
Most people like to shoot this at late afternoon, evening, or sunset. However, the shot is dictated by the tide and where the rising ocean is in relation to the hole. Most times of year, the best shot is is 1-2 hours before and after high tide. For most times of the year, high tide is too much water and EXTREMELY DANGEROUS!
Best Time of Year to Shoot
The ocean/beach is not greatly affected by the time of year. For this shot, the sunset is to the left in the fall/winter/spring and center right in the summer.
The above shot was taken on October 22nd
What Lens(es) Do You Need
The above shot was taken with a 24mm lens. Depending on the composition you are looking for, you can use a 16-35mm lens.
There are no permits required.
Direction of the Shot
The direction of the shoot is west at 270°.
Special Nuances of Shot
This shot is all about the tide level. If it is low, this is nothing but a hole in the basalt rock near the ocean. If the tide is too high, it’s EXTREMELY DANGERIOUS and the water is never sucked back through the hole. I have found the best time to be about an hour before and after high tide.
A shutter speed of ½ second is usually perfect for the silky flow into the hole and you normally want extended depth of field for this shot. I would setting your camera settings before moving your tripod near the hole. Keep in mind, there is a 75% chance you and your camera are going to get wet, so be prepared.
Always be on high alert for a rogue wave that can splash over the hole and on you and your camera.
Special Equipment Needed
You will need a tripod and a neutral density (ND) filter to reduce your shutter speed to ½ second or longer to create movement in the ocean around the hole. You may also consider waders/wet shoes.
The wind and the crashing sea produces a ton of ocean mist, so I would suggest you bring some kind of rain sleeve for your camera and lens cloth to wipe down your lens. Also, always be on high alert for a rogue wave that can splash over the hole and on you and your camera. This is not good!
Number of Other Photographers to Expect
Thor’s Well can be moderately busy at times with several tourists visiting during the day. At prime shooting time, there may be other photographers at the location.
The weather on the Oregon coast is mild in the spring, summer, and fall, and it rains about 75 inches a year. Winter can be cold, wet, and produce strong storms/waves.
The Oregon coastline can often be totally “socked in” from the marine layer (dense fog). Be sure to bring rain gear.
I use Verizon, and the cell service in at this location is spotty at best.
The closest town to Thor’s Well is Yachats, OR (4 miles north). The closest larger towns are Newport, OR (28 miles north) or Florence, OR (22 miles south). Each of these larger towns has an abundance of lodging. Yachats, OR, is a great little beach town with camping and lodging
For camping, I stay at the Cape Perpetua Campground, which is just half a mile north of Thor’s Well. The campsite is clean, reasonably priced, and easy to get in and out of.
Nearby camping and lodging
Camping - click on the campground below for directions
Cape Perpetua Campground (.5 miles north)
Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review
Overleaf Lodge & Spa
280 Overleaf Lodge Ln, Yachats, OR
Deane's Oceanfront Lodge
7365 US-101, Yachats, OR
71881 US-101, Yachats, OR
Yachats is one of my favorite towns on the Oregon coast. It is a small, relaxing getaway with some nice restaurants and breweries. There are several good places to eat, but my personal favorites are The Drift Inn and Ona Restaurant and Lounge. Drift Inn has good food, an extremely fast Wi-Fi, and a good selection of cold brew. Ona is more upscale with excellent food and good service. You can’t go wrong at either place.
Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review
The Drift Inn
124 US-101, Yachats, OR
Ona Restaurant and Lounge
131 US-101, Yachats, OR
Luna Sea Fish House
153 NW Hwy 101, Yachats, OR
The closest laundry mat is in Waldport, OR
215 Oregon Coast Hwy., Waldport, OR
Other Photography Opportunities Around
The closest airports are:
Eugene, Oregon (EUG) - (90 miles) is a regional airport servicing: Alaska Airlines, Delta, American Airlines, Emirates, Air France, Copa, Lufthansa and United.
Portland International airport (PDX) – (170 miles) is a full international airport with services to most of the major airlines.
Area Guides and Workshops
If you were looking for a GREAT photography guide for Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington areas) - I can highly recommend Mark Metternich. I have taken workshops with Mark in the past and he has been hosting workshops in the Pacific Northwest for many years.
Mark knows all the VERY best places to take you and just the right time to be there - to help you get the shot. He is a great photographer, an expert at photoshop, an excellent guide/instructor and a super nice guy.
The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location.