Last night it dropped to the low 40s, cold for mid-September in Point Reyes. When I saw the sunrise glowing through the condensation on the window in our dining nook, I grabbed my Sony and made several shots. Here’s one that I like from this morning.
This is the entrance to the Giacomini Wetlands. My dog, Lily, and I walk there in the morning. Sometimes the light is so amazing, we stop and stare before entering the trail.
I’ve recently started carrying my digital cameras with me on walks and in my car when running errands. This is a new habit for me, having come from a long career of lugging large format equipment and tripods around. In those “good old days” I only carried a camera with me when I was “on assignment.” It felt like way too much work to load and carry such heavy gear unless a large block of time was set aside, dedicated to photography. But these days, it’s pretty simple and exhilarating to gather my very light, mirrorless Panasonic or Sony cameras and pull them out when the light is right. I’m creating more images and they more often capture the beauty in found moments.
I shot this bend in the road in Nicasio, California a few weeks ago with my IR-converted Panasonic G1. A favorite milestone, this corner is on the main road I use to travel between Point Reyes and central Marin county.
The other day my wife, Jean, and I took a ride up Mount Vision Road to look for the view I had recorded over 20 years ago in my photograph, Point Reyes Sunset. But I’m getting ahead of myself….
I’ve been smitten with grand overviews since I was a little boy. I’m sure I got this fascination from my dad, who took our family to various overlooks to share the views that impressed him. Near our home in Connecticut, we observed the splendors visible from East Rock, a mile-long trap-rock ridge overlooking New Haven and the waters of Long Island Sound. Then, on a family trip to his brother’s place in El Paso, our whole family marveled at the magnificent view Dad showed us from the top of Scenic Drive. We were easily 10 times higher than the East Rock viewing spot.
Years later, when I first came to Point Reyes, I began exploring, searching for the most splendid views near my new home. When I discovered the main overlook of Drakes Estero and the Point on Mount Vision Road, I was bowled over. It quickly became one of my favorite vistas. I was amazed to see in one sweeping view, the magnificent land mass from the Limantour Estero to the south, across the rugged headlands of Point Reyes to Abbotts Lagoon in the north. The Park Service had cleared a little parking area and erected a sign to make it easy to find. I would bring my out-of-town guests there to share the beauty of Point Reyes from this expansive overview.
In the late 1980s I began photographing the view there. I drove to this outlook scores of times with my camera, seeking the best light to express the majesty there. I discovered that late afternoons were best. And so it was on a winter afternoon in January 1991, that everything came together. A storm front was moving out of the area, leaving broken skies and cloud remnants to the west. I walked to my favorite location and set my camera on the tripod. The sun was hidden behind a long ropy cloud. I felt hopeful that I would get my photograph as the sun dropped lower and emerged into the clear sky near the horizon. But before it did, I was surprised to witness god rays bursting in all directions from behind the cloud! I made several exposures and after developing the film, I found one negative that captured the moment perfectly. I titled that photograph, simply, Point Reyes Sunset, which has become a favorite among collectors of my work.
Now, some 20 years later, I wanted to show Jean where I had set the camera when I made Point Reyes Sunset. As we drove to the top, I also wondered if things had changed much since the Inverness Ridge Fire of 1995. We drove the switch-backed road up to the parking location. The park service sign was gone. Coyote bush had spread more than man tall everywhere. New-growth pines and a thicket of brush blocked the full panorama. I eventually found where I had stood to make this photograph. I felt grateful that I had recorded Point Reyes Sunset before the fire. Only fragments of my original view remain.
Here’s what it looks like now:
After yesterday’s rain, I walked down to the Green Bridge, which overlooks the widest area of Lagunitas Creek. The afternoon’s warmth attracted a couple of folks who came to cool off and play fetch with their golden retriever. Recorded with IR-converted Panasonic G1.
It had been a while since I had taken my IR-converted Panasonic G1 out to explore the local scenery. So last Saturday, after closing the gallery, I loaded a freshly charged battery in the Panny and headed out for a stroll.
Only a hundred yards from my front door is the entrance to the Giacomini Wetlands, a natural area with trails and steam-side access of the Lagunitas Creek. I was there in less than a minute and began wandering in the riparian area. I slowed down to look at the dream-like light and shapes that projected on my camera’s viewing screen. I love the way that sunlit foliage turns a radiant white, while the blue of water and sky goes dark.
I left any expectation behind as I wandered along the trails. I’ve found this “no expectation” way of photographing not only therapeutic, but also very creative as the subconscious comes into play and sometimes leads me into a naturally creative space. An area beside the trail was back-lit by the late afternoon sun. It caught my eye.