Gearhart: Photo Essay

Driving north on Gearhart's beach. | Don Frank

Road Journals Blog—"Honey, he's shooting for Via. We love that magazine."

Welcome to my world. My assignments for Via send me to out-of-the-way places that have a lot of story to tell. My job is to search out images that give small glimpses into the life of a town or place. Our world is full of beautiful vistas and landscapes, but nothing tells a story like a real live person.

My goal when I wandered into Gearhart was to find a variety of characters willing to participate in the city’s tale. At Pacific Way Cafe and Bakery, a couple of young surfers sat behind a retired couple that has lived in the sleepy Oregon Coast town for more than 40 years. I chatted them all up, listening to their different opinions about what makes this place special.

Eric Guth prepares to dig in at the Pacific Way Cafe and Bakery. | Don Frank

As I started firing off shots nervous smiles appeared, but they quickly went away as we continued our conversation. Talking helps folks relax. Seriousness is replaced by antics, and clowning begins. Extra-frothy mustaches from the lattes, or giant bites of oversized peach tarts lightened the mood of the room.

Everyone seems happy and I have my shot.

When I arrived at John Cook Studios, I was lucky enough to witness the master glassblower and his crew hard at work. Seconds are critical in their profession, and they work fast. I try my best to stay out of the way as Cook wielded his blow pipe; still he narrowly misses knocking my camera out of my hand.

Photographically my mantra is the closer the better. In the glass studio, spacing is essential—as it is in a dance. Cook and I met somewhere in the middle as I kept pushing the boundaries and setting my camera as close to the hot glass as I—or he—could stand. The photos capture facial expressions, gesture, and even the sweat that goes into the hour-long process to make a single fragile piece of art.

For laughs and exercise a group headed over to Gearhart Golf Links for a little officially-sanctioned night putting tournament. Gearhart Golf Links is arguably the oldest golf course this side of the Mississippi River, and is known for its thick rough and tiny greens.

Glassblower John Cook plies his trade. | Don Frank

On that night we had a full moon. A group of 20 golfers teed off just after sunset. With glow-in-the-dark balls and glowsticks tied to the flags, we watched our drives arc and bend like shooting stars. On the green I set my camera on the short grass and shot some long exposures as balls rolled toward the hole. No one seemed to mind the snap of the shutter.

So if you find yourself at one of your favorite watering holes or walking through a gallery and see me with my camera and tripod, feel free to stop by and say hello. I want to hear your story. And you could just find yourself in Via

Don Frank photographed Gearhart for the March/April 2011 Oregon edition of Via.

This blog post was first published in April 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

Michael McClure flexes his putter during a round of night golf at Gearhart Golf Links. | Don Frank

The dining room at Pacific Way Cafe | Don Frank

Gearhart farmers' market | Don Frank

Pat Merrill, owner of the Gearhart Junction Cafe, serves up a strawberry milkshake. | Don Frank

Bruce Smith and the Barcodes rock the house at McMenamins Sand Trap. | Don Frank


Dining at the golf course: McMenamins Sand Trap at Gearhart Golf Links | David Frank