Capturing the beauty of Washington’s Olympic Coast


Story and Photography by Andy Porter

Washington boasts some of the most pristine and untouched coastline anywhere in the lower 48. I normally associate wilderness with the mountains or desert southwest, but here, in Olympic National Park, the beaches are sublime.

Wide sand beaches separated by jagged headlands that cutoff small sections, sea stacks jutting out of the ocean just off shore, forests of driftwood thrown up like matchsticks along the beach, there all make for a fantastic place to hike and camp.

My favorite stretch of Washington coastline is called Point of the Arches. Here you can camp along the water’s edge, and soak in all the air and surf you like. I plan my trips here based on the weather forecast. I have spent many nights here in the cold rain and now have become more of a fair weather visitor. Last week was one of those golden windows, a three day forecast for warmer temps and sun…and in February!

I made my way out to the Olympic Peninsula and finally down to my favorite spot, right in front of the sea stacks and tide pools. Capturing images seaside demands a good amount of luck. The light mid-day is harsh and unforgiving. For this reason I almost never do any day hiking, but rather make the trek in with all that I need to spend a night or 3 and bask in all the glory of wilderness and sea.

I was lucky again. The afternoon shadows lengthened and the light came alive. The glow of the fading sun lit up the rocks and sand.

As the golden hour progressed the colors became more magical. Things could not be better! Late night brought stars and the glow of ships and nearby settlements.

The following morning the sunrise crept up, and then pounced on the shore. The soft colors, like a pastel artist’s image, are so smooth… Luckily I was ready and able to capture a few images before the sun crested the horizon.  

Most of my images were captured with a 14mm lens. I also carry a 24-105mm lens, but love the detail and depth of field from the wide angle lens. Make sure to bring a few memory cards, you’ll need them!

Andy is a nature photographer lured to Washington State by the glorious vistas. He lives along the North Cascades Highway, where he teaches photography and leads photo tours. You can see more of his work at:

Did you know? In the late 1970s, Portland heiress and sculptor Marie Louise Feldenheimer wrote a $500,000 check to enable The Nature Conservancy to buy Point of Arches, on the Olympic Coast. When the Conservancy sold the property to the Olympic National Park, the proceeds helped to establish the Land Preservation Fund, a Conservancy revolving fund for acquisitions around the world.