Tag Archives: black and white

Mt. Vision Moon & Pacific Sunset

Twenty-five years ago this month I stood behind my tripod-mounted camera on a rock outcropping near Mount Vision on the Inverness Ridge. As I gazed to the east, a spectacular full moon rose above the knuckle-like creases of Black Mountain.  In the valley, a thick luminous fog rose, gradually swallowing the mountain’s sensual folds.

This was the second consecutive evening that I had ventured to that high ridge in search of a magical moonrise photograph. On the first evening my timing was wrong, but I ended up witnessing and photographing a spectacular sunset before leaving the mountain. My return to Mt. Vision the next evening almost didn’t happen, but somehow I managed to make it to the top. It turned out to be one of the most memorable of many photographic adventures I’ve had in the Point Reyes National Seashore. I commemorated these two evenings in my book, Point Reyes 20 Years. Here are the essays I wrote about the making of Pacific Sunset and Mount Vision Moonrise. These two photographs are forever connected and etched in my heart and mind.

Pacific Sunset, September 1989
From atop the Inverness Ridge on Mount Vision, you can look into two worlds—westward to the calm esteros that spill past rocky headlands to the Pacific Ocean, or to the east where you’ll see the fat knuckles of Black Mountain protecting the Olema Valley.

On a late November day in 1989, I went to Mount Vision to photograph the full moon. I hiked the trail north to the overlook from where I’d photographed Snow on Black Mountain. The sun had not yet set as I scanned the eastern horizon for the predicted location of the moonrise. As my eyes adjusted to the still bright sky, I saw that the moon was already up; its ghostly form was disappointingly high above Black Mountain. By the time the sky darkened enough for a good photograph, the moon would be hopelessly out of my composition. My shoulders slumped. I sighed audibly and then packed my equipment to trek back up the trail. I loaded everything into the van, and slowly drove out from the trailhead parking area.
To the west, a fiery sun was poised above a bank of Pacific fog, illuminating it and the icy cirrus clouds above it. I pulled over abruptly, as there were only minutPacific Sunsetes left before the sun would plunge into the sea. Abandoning my custom of measuring the light with my spotmeter, I made a wild guess at exposure and took several frames of this remarkable scene. The result is Pacific Sunset from Mount Vision.

As I left the mountain that evening, I knew that I’d return the next night to try to shoot the moon again, but I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams what an incredible sight the next moonrise would be.

Mount Vision Moonrise, September 1989
As I loaded my car the next evening, I felt discouraged about my chances of making a worthwhile moon photograph. A heavy wet fog had settled into the valley where I lived. Pulling onto the highway, I had to switch on my windshield wipers in order to see, and the fog thickened rapidly as I drove up the mountain road. Halfway to the summit, I considered turning the van around and returning to the warmth of my cabin. But something kept me going up the mountain—the fog so dense now I had to put the wipers on high.Mount Vision Moonrise

I was nearly to the top of the ridge with about 100 feet of elevation to go, when it happened. I drove right out of the fog. The darkening sky was clear, and a radiant full moon rose directly above Black Mountain. My heart quickened. And although I didn’t think about this until later, the very fog that had seemed my enemy became a generous partner. The moon shone brightly and magically. Below the mountain, a blanket of luminous fog filled the valley.

 

Olema Hill Triptych

TOMALES BAY & BLACK MOUNTAIN click for enlarged version

TOMALES BAY & BLACK MOUNTAIN
click for enlarged version

In the 1990s my wife and I lived in the village of Olema. A half mile from our home, on Olema Hill, is the northern terminus of the Bolinas Ridge Trail. The trail rises steeply past beautiful northern overlooks of the valley below. I’ve spent many happy afternoons hiking there with my camera. When I think of a view that says “summer hills and Marin County,” I think of a photograph I made there on a June afternoon in 1998.

One day, around the summer solstice in 1998, the evening light beckoned me. I gathered my photo gear and drove up Olema Hill to the trailhead. A short hike up to my favorite spot, a rocky out-cropping, provided the panoramic view I sought. Spread out before my camera’s lens was the valley, bordered by Tomales Bay and the Inverness Ridge to the west and the lush knuckle-like folds of Black Mountain to the east. The light was gorgeous and I was in my favorite spot! As the sun dropped lower it back-lit the undulating hills, adding drama and dimension to the scene before me. I made several exposures with my view camera. Later after proofing the film in my darkroom, I identified negative #17 as the most evocative of these exposures. This piece of film was beautiful. It captured many of the feelings I have about the splendor of these rolling hills we live among. I titled my new image Tomales Bay and Black Mountain.

Making a print that expressed the beauty of this moment turned out to be daunting. Over the years, I’ve worked hard in my darkroom, laboring to express the beauty I saw that day.  I made several good ones, which collectors acquired, but many more went into the recycle bin. After a while I gave up trying to make that print and stopped showing it in my gallery.

OLEMA HILL TRIPTYCH click for larger version

OLEMA HILL TRIPTYCH
click for larger version

Flash forward to 2012. That year I re-tooled, changing my printing methods from the wet darkroom to digital pigment prints made in a fully lit room. I began scanning my original film negatives. As I became more experienced with the new technology I discovered that these new scans were yielding much more expressive prints than were possible in the darkroom. My spirits were buoyed when I revisited the scan of Tomales Bay and Black Mountain. The scan revealed subtleties in the film never before visible. Finally I was able to make the print I always wanted, true to the lighting I saw and the feelings I had on that summer evening in 1998.

Recently, one of my clients requested a large triptych for her new home. The design required we work from one of my existing singular images and divide it into three large vertical panels that would be framed separately. In searching through possible candidates, we settled on Tomales Bay & Black Mountain. There was no question that it was the strongest option. It worked fabulously as each panel has a strong element of interest, yet together it flowed as one piece of art. Her version hangs proudly in her Manhattan home. This week, I made the first version for display in my gallery. This one is in a single large 30×40″ frame, with a triple window cut in the mat. I call the triptych Olema Hill Triptych, but it’s also known as Tomales Bay & Black Mountain Triptych.

Although the single image version is still one of my favorites, personally, I prefer the triptych view – – it makes it feel more expansive and draws me to look at each panel in detail while still retaining a sense of the overall image. As always, I welcome your comments. Please let me know which of these versions is your favorite and why.

 

 

Shell Beach Trail Photos

This last Monday afternoon I found my mind wandering as I worked on a catalog of my photographs. I became drowsy and decided It was time to either take a nap, or go for a walk. I remembered the trail to Shell Beach and gathered my camera gear to head out for a stroll.

Just north of the village of Inverness is a beautiful forested trail. It winds down a hill to Shell Beach, an intimate and sheltered cove favored by the natives. Sunlight filters through the dense canopy, spot-lighting fern stands and other foliage in this rain/fog forest. In May, I had photographed the beach on a couple of early mornings, re-discovering its charms after a decade’s absence. Now I’d returned for a quiet walk, this time, in the afternoon. I brought my camera along in case the forest light was enticing.  It was. Here are a few photographs I made with my IR-converted Panasonic camera as I walked up and down the trail to Shell Beach. Click on the images to access the larger versions.

Shell Beach Trail View 607

Shell Beach Trail View 605

 

Shell Beach Trail View 618

 

Trees, Shell Beach Two

 

Forest Canopy, Shell Beach Trail 603

Abbotts Lagoon at Daybreak

I had the good fortune to greet the sunrise at Abbotts Lagoon this last Saturday morning. I was coaching two photographers on a field photography workshop. We arrived before daybreak and began walking west toward the Pacific. We had planned our walk to coincide with the changing light from the rising sun. As we started, a few stars were still visible in the darkened western sky.

Of all the places in the Point Reyes Seashore, none rivals Abbotts Lagoon for its quiet beauty, especially on an early spring morning. On our day, wisps of fog lifted from the ground as the sun began to warm us. We walked the one-mile trail from the parking lot to the sand dunes that line the lagoon and separate it from the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, there were moments of light and space so sweet that I dared only whisper to my friends. I feared that my full voice would shatter the peace that held us in this holy place. Here are a few photos I made during our walk.

Abbotts Lagoon 31514 825 AM

Abbotts Lagoon 31514 806 rAMGreat Blue at Abbotts Lagoon 2

Wild Sky Over Point Reyes

Jean and I were surprised to hear a knock on our front door last Friday, Valentine’s Day. I had just gotten back from the gallery and was putting away my laptop in my studio at the front of the house. As I walked back to see who our visitor was, I heard a familiar voice, “Well, just tell Marty about this. He should take a look.” It was Tom, our next-door neighbor. When he saw me he repeated what he told Jean. “There’s an incredible sky, never seen anything quite like it. You should take a look, maybe photograph it.”

I thanked him for the tip and abruptly went back to grab my infrared camera. In seconds I was out the door and heading out to find an unobstructed view of the sky. It was a half hour before sunset and the display above me was remarkable. I walked across the street to the Wetlands, and for about 10 minutes pointed my lens up. Tom was right. There’s no way to describe this with words. Here’s a few of the photographs. More photos of this wild sky are posted in my Zenfolio catalog: Skyscapes

wetlands Sky 14.25

wetlands Sky 14.39 Wetlands Sky 14.41 Wetlands Sky 14.24

Death Valley October 2013

I’m just back from a week of photography in Death Valley and the Alabama Hills. Met up with my friends, fellow photographers Hadley and Marty. I shot everything with my infrared  Panasonic G1. We spent most of our time in the Eureka Flat Dunes, where we found thousands of footsteps the first day. Later we were blessed with a pristine landscape after a day of ferocious winds swept the dunes clean. I’ll post some of my best compositions from the trip here. For those of you who’d like to see a larger group of my selected photographs, check out the Death Valley 2013 Gallery posted on my Zenfolio site.

I’m working on my annual winter holiday exhibition and I’ve decided to include several of these new Death Valley photos. The New Works 2013 Holiday Show – Radiant Light: Infrared Landscapes will be at my gallery on the main street in Point Reyes Station.

Here’s a link to the downloadable exhibition announcement: radiant-light-card

Opens Thanksgiving weekend Friday, November 29 and runs through Sunday, January 5.
*Artist Reception is Saturday, November 30th, 3-5pm.

Click any of these images to bring up the larger versions:

Mesquite Dunes 13.683

Mesquite Dunes 13.733Mesquite Dunes 13.741Mesquite Dunes 13.763

Going Deeper by Slowing Down

MUSINGS ON THE CREATIVE PROCESS
Finding Your Photograph:
Going Deeper by Slowing Down

Snow & Ranch Fence

I believe that the creation of an expressive photograph is born from a dance between the rational and the intuitive. Each faculty is fundamental to and inseparable from the creative effort. Both the heart and the mind must participate if the photograph is to have enduring value…  to express something deeper than the mere surface of things.

I know from first-hand experience that making an expressive photograph through sheer will-power alone is not easy. I’ve learned that my ability to discover and express what I see and feel works best when I let go of my willfulness and preconceived ideas. I set aside a specific time for creative connections to occur.  I try to slow down to connect more deeply with what I see. It may be difficult to let go during this time, but I know that if I do, the creative rewards can be richly fulfilling.

To create, I need time to wander, with no pressing family or work obligations. I’ll set off slowly, exploring my back yard, or perhaps I’ll walk around the neighborhood, or amble around at a nearby natural location. This is not a time for multi-tasking, so I don’t try to do any cardio-vascular working out at this time! I empty my mind, forgetting any ideas of what I might or should photograph. Sometimes I’ll leave my camera behind, and “photograph” with my eyes, making a mental note to return with camera if something beckons. This working without my camera can open up new ideas. I see things I never noticed when I had my camera glued to my forehead. When I do carry my camera, I keep it tucked away in the bag, and resist making any photographs, unless something calls out —  strongly. When that happens it’s a little like falling in love… creative juices begin to flow. My response comes more from my heart than my brain.

Everything slows down. I approach the object of my interest with care and respect. I become fascinated, drawn. I become involved, sensing that my participation is being requested. I offer my undivided attention. I approach slowly, moving up for a closer look. Still no camera, I simply use my eyes, moving my body into various positions checking the changing shapes, perspectives and relationships of things to each other as I move side to side, close and away. It is during this time that I will decide whether I will make a photograph.

I rarely make a photograph based on the very first way I see something. There’s something about spending the time, delighting in seeing the various aspects, a prelude to deciding on a composition. This is where I really get to see! Something of me, my connection to this scene, has a chance to arise as I explore in this way. And this is where art has a chance to occur– A collaboration of the scene and my reaction to it that I hope will become embedded and expressed in my photograph. When the process works, these feelings and thoughts will also come across to the viewer of the image.

Now it’s time to take out the camera