Shi Shi Beach Backcountry
Shi Shi Beach is a remote photographer’s paradise, reachable by six miles of round-trip hiking, plus a little more to reach nearby Point of the Arches. We will hike first to Second Beach for a warm-up night of camping and photography, then to Shi Shi for a two-night, three-day, adventure among the stars and the starfish, the sand and the sea stacks. We will photograph ebbing and flowing ocean waters, tidal pools, Pacific sunsets, and of course the Milky Way and the beautiful Olympic night skies.
August 5-10, 2019
This is a 5-night, 6-day workshop and backpacking experience. Your adventure begins at 10 a.m. on August 5 and ends after a final slideshow on the afternoon of August 10.
$2,500 + applicable taxes. Register below.
Intermediate. Attendees should have a comfortable understanding of the basic techniques and principles of night photography. Backpacking experience is not required, but reliable health and fitness are.
9, with 3 instructors — 3:1 ratio
- Deposit of $500 is required to reserve your spot at the workshop.
- Balance of $2,000 due on May 7, 2019.
- You may choose the “Pay in Full” ticket if you desire to pay all at once.
- Last day for a cancellation request is May 6 (see cancellation and refund policy).
- The workshop fee does not include transportation to and from the park, lodging or food while in civilaition, or the park admission fee.
The Workshop Experience
Are you ready to join National Parks at Night for our first backcountry hiking and camping workshop? This experience will involve night photography, backpacking and camping in the wilderness!
Shi Shi Beach is the jewel among the coastal options available to those that explore the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. To be clear, there are many wonderful options, but Shi Shi has it all—easy access, magnificent sandy beach, a phenomenal collection of accessible sea stacks, a sense of solitude, intertidal pools. …
On the first day, we will meet as a group to cover everything attendees need to know before heading out into nature. That evening we will make the relatively short hike to Second Beach, where we will set up camp, shoot the stars, sleep, and then hike back out in morning.
The second day will include more in-class discussion about night photography and backpacking, followed by a shoot at one of Olympic National Park’s more accessible shorelines. We will then retire to a soft hotel bed and our last showers for a few days.
On the third day, we’ll venture to Cape Flattery, where we will have a group lunch, then head out onto the three-mile trail to Shi Shi Beach. We’ll set up camp, eat dinner, then shoot the stars.
The fourth day will be all wilderness, including day hikes and photography along the Shi Shi coast, including south to the incredible Point of the Arches. We will cook and eat breakfast and dinner as a group, and enjoy a light lunch in the field. Followed by, of course, amazing night photography!
After breakfast on the fifth morning, we’ll break camp and hike back to civilization, where we’ll eat, rest, shower and discuss our adventure. (Not necessarily in that order. Showers might come first.) Then on the last morning we’ll work on processing our images, and building and viewing our final slide show.
You can expect an amazing backcountry adventure, photographs of some of the most pristine night skies in the country over some of the most beautiful coastline of our national parks, and probably some satisfactorily sore muscles. (Also maybe a little sand in your shoes.)
We’ve Got Your Back(Country)
Working the backcountry is a lot of fun, but from a safety perspective, it’s not to be taken lightly. To that end, we’ve partnered with experienced backpacker and photographer Sherry Pincus.
Sherry has been backpacking independently and organizing for small groups for over 35 years. She has backpacked and photographed extensively in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in the Olympics, Mount Rainier (including the Wonderland Trail) and North Cascades. She also has backpacked and photographed:
- the Grand Tetons and the Wind River Range in Wyoming
- the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho
- Lake O’Hara, Banff, Jasper and Mount Robson in Canada
- Torres del Paine and El Chalten in Patagonia
- Milford Trek and The Routeburn in New Zealand
- and the Tour Du Mont Blanc in Europe
In addition to her photography and backcountry acumen, Sherry is a certified Wilderness First Responder, and is ready to keep us safe on the shores of Shi Shi.
What You Should KNow
Participants must have at least basic photo skills, know their cameras well, and be comfortable shooting RAW in manual mode with a DSLR or high-end mirrorless camera. Intermediate or higher experience is best because we won’t have as much class time as usual.
If you would like to attend this workshop but are unsure whether you have adequate night photography skills, we can offer pre-workshop tutoring to get you ready for your adventure with us. Alternatively or additionally, a few of us have written books that may be productive pre-workshop reads.
What You WILL Learn
This workshop experience will be dual-track: We’ll be teaching night photography and how to backpack for a wilderness photo trip.
The night photography instruction will include a couple of classroom sessions to go over topics pertinent to working in backcountry conditions, as well as student-guided discussion and image reviews. We will also teach in the field.
Topics covered will include:
- scouting and planning with PhotoPills
- light painting
- composing night scenes
- dark- and starry-sky exposure
- backpacking, with cameras!
- wilderness food prep and water purification
- wilderness safety
- and more …
Sherry will include instruction about how to backpack as a photographer, to reach locations with the ideal balance of gear required for safety, health and an excellent artistic experience. Some of this consultation will occur on-site—both at our in-town meeting space and in the field—as well as with pre-trip packing lists and advice, and during a pre-workshop conference call for all attendees to ask questions.
Being that a large part of our experience will be camping-based, participants can stay out shooting as long as they want, and then roll into the tent when done. While in the field, the instructors will demonstrate their own techniques, and work with participants one-on-one to make sure everyone gets the most out of the workshop.
Our locations have generous room to explore, so everyone will be able to spread out and not get in one another’s way. Each participant will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with Chris and Lance in the field.
Night Conditions & Opportunities
On this workshop you can expect the following night-sky conditions and nocturnal photography opportunities:
- crescent to quarter moon
- dark sky / stars
- Milky Way
- light painting
You are responsible for your own airfare and car rental. (There is no need for four-wheel-drive or high-clearance vehicles in Olympic; renting a sedan will serve you well.) If you are interested in sharing a car rental, let us know and we will try to connect you with someone like-minded in the group.
- Seattle (SEA) — 3.5 hours to Forks, Washington
- Portland (PDX) — 4.5 hours
- Victoria (YYJ) — 4 hours
- Port Angeles (CLM) — 1 hour
Chris' tip: I fly to SeaTac and like to take the ferry across Puget Sound, then drive to Forks from the dock. It's a beautiful trip, and you might even see orcas!
Food & Lodging
When we’re in civilization, you are responsible for arranging and paying for your own meals and accommodations. Group hotels will be announced after registration. If you are interested in sharing a room with another participant, let us know and we will try to connect you with someone like-minded in the group.
When we’re camping, we will bring food with us. For the two nights we hike out to camping locations, you will pack a sandwich (or other) for that evening’s dinner. For our camping experience at Shi Shi Beach, we will provide food for two breakfasts, a light lunch, and dinner. All leaders and attendees will all have a role in preparing these meals, as well as purifying drinking water.
Camping and backpacking supplies will be required, including tent, sleeping bag, backpack, etc. Sherry will consult with all attendees on exactly what to bring. For attendees who do not own the required items and who do not wish to buy them, we have arranged for rentals from REI in Seattle.
The weather in Olympic is so varied that if you ask a ranger what today will be like, they’ll just say, “Where?” Fortunately, we’ll just be on the coast. Unfortunately, that same doubt exists there too. Expect 70s in the daytime, and as low as 40s at night. Clear skies are possible, as is fog—flip a coin.
Recommended attire: We won’t be walking back to the car for a warmer jacket, so we’ll need to hike prepared. We will have more communication about specific needs months prior to the workshop, but briefly: Lightweight shorts or hiking pants for daytime, the latter for night. Lightweight short- and long-sleeve shirts, a medium-weight jacket, light rainwear, a warm base layer and a warm hat. 100 percent cotton is your enemy.
And, as always, quality trail shoes or hiking boots. We’ll be on the coast, so watertight is a prudent option.
Note: To ensure the safety of individuals and the group, National Parks at Night reserves the right for workshop leaders to use their discretion to limit an attendee from engaging in a rigorous activity on-site should that person's physical health or ability be in question. If you are unsure about your ability to meet the physical demands of this workshop, we will be happy to discuss your concerns one-on-one before you register.
Please read our FAQs section for more information about skill and gear requirements, and other information that pertains to all our workshops.
If you have questions, please contact us—we're happy to talk it over with you.
Discovering Shi Shi ...
I first discovered Shi Shi in the 1980s when I began backpacking with my husband. The experience was so special that I returned later to share it with my children when they were just old enough to walk out there. This year I couldn’t wait to return again to preview it for sharing with others on a workshop.
Shi Shi is located on the northernmost stretch of virgin beach in the U.S., just past Neah Bay. The hike begins going through a second-generation rainforest. The huge ferns, moss-covered branches and examples of trees that grew on “nurse” logs are everywhere. The trail easily winds its way through the forest, engulfing you in its special peace and quiet. As the trail approaches the drop down onto the beach, the sound of the surf gives you hints of the wonders to come. A newly engineered section of the trail brings you easily from the forest down onto the beach. And what a beach!
You arrive onto Shi Shi greeted by a large sea stack that marks the beach’s northern border. Looking south you can easily see a huge collection of sea stacks that link together to form the famed Point of the Arches. Three miles of magnificent sandy beach stretches in between, bordered by forest and piles of driftwood. Camping options are limitless, either tucked into the trees or above the high-tide line by the driftwood.
Nature’s show here is endless. The magic of the morning and evening light on the sea stacks is beyond memorable. The light of the moon on the stacks evokes moods you forgot possible. The star show (no light pollution here) is breathtaking.
Then there is the magic of the tides. As the tide recedes it reveals different pools and patches of water that reflect the Point of the Arches. At lowest tide, intertidal pools are revealed with anemones and sometimes starfish. There is also a section of rocks uncovered that just happen to parallel perfectly to serve as leading lines to the sea stacks.
And did I mention that each time I have been out to Shi Shi, there has been bioluminescence in the waves?
This is indeed a special place to photograph, but also to just relax and recharge … to wash your spirit clean.
A Coastal Memory ...
The image will be forever in my memory.
In 2011, I walked through rainforest on a damp, dark-soil trail, and I emerged into warm, late-day light glowing on the surreal beauty of the shore. It was my first look ever at the Olympic coast.
I wanted to set up my camera and start photographing right away. But there was contemplation to be done. The scene was too wondrous to just start working. I stood on the sand, watching a couple of children play, listening to seagulls crying in the breeze, feeling the wind on my skin, sensing the tide slowly slipping back toward the horizon.
Finally I started shooting, enjoying every moment of this artistic adventure. Sea stacks. Waves. Fluffy clouds. A sun setting behind a natural arch. Twilight skies. Stars and Milky Way. Then a long, peaceful walk back along a dark trail in the woods.