Deception Pass


Lavender Deception. Muted pinks and purples color the sky and sea as the sun sets at Deception Pass, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 185mm, 1/8 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

One night during the Whidbey Island photography workshop, the informal plan was for us to go to Deception Pass to photograph the sunset. Fortunately, one of the attendees had a local photographer friend who knew exactly where to go, or I don’t think I would have ended up in the right spot. If you look up “Deception Pass Sunset” online, you will find a lot of photographs of the big draw: during the spring and fall, the sun sets directly under the bridge. I didn’t know about this iconic view ahead of time, but others did and there were enough clouds low on the horizon to elicit some disappointment within the group. So, Deception Pass lived up to its moniker.

Double Reflections. The reflections of the setting sun and the sky on a footbridge reflect off the water in turn near Deception Pass, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S at 14mm, 1/45 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

We parked at the Deception Pass Marina and, while waiting for everyone to gather, I photographed this aluminum footbridge in the late-afternoon light. I like both views, above and below, but they each have different strengths. In the image above I like the coppery color of light on the bridge and the way this reflects in turn off the water. It is also a nice complementary color pairing with the blue sky. In the view below, the highly graphic symmetry is nice, but the way different faces of the trusswork reflect either the orange sunset off to the left or the blue sky behind the camera is what makes this image special. This image, in particular, benefits from its limited complementary color palette. I am glad that this was an aluminum structure that does not require painting—even white paint would have likely eliminated these colorful reflections.

Bridge to Blue Hour. The aluminum trusses of a footbridge reflect both the sunset and the coming twilight near Deception Pass, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S at 17mm, 1/60 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

I wish now that I had taken a few minutes to walk across the bridge and look around over by the boats, but if I had I might have lost the group, so perhaps it is best that I didn’t. There is a service road that follows the edge of the water northeast away from the marina, and after a long walk down this road you reach some places where you can see the bridge over the straight. The road is about twenty feet higher than the water level and there are a lot of trees on the slope between the road and the water:

Silhouette of Deception. Dense foliage masks the setting sun beyond Deception Pass, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 89mm, 1/30 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

This image is probably 80% silhouette by area and, even as someone who likes silhouettes, it is pretty extreme. But as is often the case, it turned out well enough that I wish I had taken more like it.

Unfortunately, about ten minutes into our long walk down the road I realized that I had committed a rookie mistake and left my tripod behind in the car. It was too late to run back and retrieve it and I had wanted to be able to do some long exposures. Fortunately, I had my Moman mini-tripod stashed in a side pocket of my backpack. Most mini-tripods are toys meant for GoPros and the like, but this one is a beast. I keep a Really Right Stuff BH-25 on this little tripod and it works great. It is, obviously, short, so you have to find something convenient to set it on. Also, it is usually best to line the lens up with one of the legs so it won’t tip over forward, but this is not an indictment against its solidity. I took a number of images using this arrangement, including this two-minute exposure that turned the water surface into milk:

Deceptive Pastels. A long exposure renders the waters of Deception Pass a milky orange tint, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 39mm, 120 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64 with Breakthrough Photography 6-stop X4 Dark Circular Polarizer and 6-stop X4 Neutral Density Filter, stacked.

Even though in the end the sun disappeared behind low cloud cover, we did get some glimpses of it during the prelude. I took a number of images as it fell through the bridge structure itself, moving diagonally down and to the right as it went. I like this image with the truck silhouetted against the sun:

Special Delivery. A truck is silhouetted against the sun itself as it begins its transit of the Deception Pass bridge, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 120mm, 1/30 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

The last views of the sunset were the more subtly-colored ones in the image at the top of this post. Even though it was not the iconic view everyone had hoped for, I think it is a quiet, peaceful, and beautiful image with a soothing color palette. Whether the location deceived me or not, I would like to go back.

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2 responses to “Deception Pass”

  1. Lovely to see – your story proves the fact that you have to work with what you’ve got in the moment!

    • Thank you, Nicola! Yes, that is part of the fun…working with what you have! Thank you for leaving a comment!