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The Devil’s Punchbowl

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On a recent trip out to Oregon, after spending a couple of hours touring and drinking at the Rogue Brewery, my wife and I were anxious to get out to the Oregon coast for some sunset views. We’d heard of a place called The Devil’s Punchbowl, so we decided to go looking for it. It was very easy to find, as it turned out. The Devil’s Punch Bowl is located about 5 miles south of Depoe Bay, and about 8 miles north of Newport, Oregon (where Rogue are headquartered). All we had to do was hop on Route 101 and look for the signs. Once we found the sign saying “turn here”, it was just a matter of driving 1⁄4 mile down a road, which literally ended at The Devil’s Punchbowl. This was on Halloween night, ironically enough. The sun was rapidly setting, so I knew I needed to work fast in order to get some nice blue hour shots. The problem though was that I didn’t bring a tripod on this trip! Time to improvise…

The Devil’s Punchbowl (from this vantage point) fortunately has a wooden fence to prevent anyone from falling, so I knew I could use that as an improvisational tripod. I actually put my tiny Sony A7R (with a 16mm pancake lens) on one of the wooden fence posts, then I used the rear articulating LCD screen as additional support. This allowed me to get a nice, long exposure shot (3.2 seconds). I was pretty happy with the results, but I also wanted a portrait shot. The only way I was able to get the portrait photo was to unfortunately crank up the ISO to 1600, but this was a good opportunity to see whether or not this camera lived up to its claim of clean photos at high ISO ranges. I was happy with the results. I would have preferred a long exposure shot, but without a tripod this was as good as it was going to get. Here are the photos, starting with the portrait shot:

ISO 1600, 16mm, f/2.8, 1/125 sec.

ISO 1600, 16mm, f/2.8, 1/125 sec.

ISO 50, 16mm, f/13, 3.2 sec.

ISO 50, 16mm, f/13, 3.2 sec.

ISO 800, 16mm, f/18, 15 sec.

ISO 800, 16mm, f/18, 15 sec.

I thought I was done taking photos, but just as we were leaving I noticed one more photo opportunity. There was a lone, bare tree silhouetted against the rapidly darkening sky. I quickly set up and used the same method as before, using a fence post and the camera’s LCD for support. I was happy with the resulting photos, they had the starkness of the bare tree combined with the late fall sunset. It was actually almost pitch black to the naked eye by this point, but the camera was able to pull out a lot more color than I realized was actually there. Props to the dynamic range of the Sony A7R. Here are the photos:

ISO 640, 16mm, f/18, 15 sec.

ISO 640, 16mm, f/18, 15 sec.

ISO 800, 16mm, f/18, 25 sec.

ISO 800, 16mm, f/18, 25 sec.

One thing I learned about my Sony A7R on this trip (I’d only had the camera for a month at this point) is that you should invest in the fastest SD card money can buy. There’s a definite bottleneck issue with slower cards. If you use a slower card, you’ll quickly discover that not only is the camera slow when writing the files to the card each time you take a shot, but if you have the “Long Exposure Noise Reduction” setting turned on when taking long exposure shots, it seems like the camera sits for an extremely long time before making an odd “pop” noise and showing you your photo. I’m not sure what the pop noise is, but the amount of processing time is excessive. A faster card would help with that issue, and the fastest card I’ve found to date is one by Sandisk. They have a 32 GB card that writes at up to 280 MB/s! You can find it on amazon.com right here.

The Devil’s Punchbowl is a great place to visit if you get the chance. It’s easy to find and fun to shoot! The “bowl” (in case you are wondering) is thought to have been created when two caves carved by the ocean collapsed.

All photos edited in Lightroom and Perfect Photo Suite 8.

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