Out of the Fog

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Looking South Towards Salt Point State Park Small abandoned Outbuilding near Salt Point State Park Looking North towards Stewart's Point

The area south of Sea Ranch between Stewarts Point and Salt Point State Park is privately owned and mostly used as rangeland for cattle or sheep.  I took the 15-minute drive down there a few days ago as fog was settling in along the coast.  I managed to photograph a few of these spots just as the fog was lifting and the sun was breaking through.   These images show the wide open nature of this area as well as some of the old remnant outbuildings that still remain as part of the history of this area.  Before it’s development in the 1960’s, Sea Ranch probably looked very similar to this area, as it was primarily used for sheep grazing.  It’s nice to see that this land still reflects the old historic uses prevalent in this area many decades ago.

Equipment: Nikon D810;  Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8lens; Oben Tripod

Posted in Coastal meadows, History, Landscapes, Old Buildings, Sonoma County | Tagged , | 2 Comments

From Sandstone to Conglomerates: Sea Ranch’s Diverse Geology

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I recently spent an afternoon at a place my wife and I call “The Precipice” here on Sea Ranch.   It lies just north of Smuggler’s Cove and south of the Marine Preserve.  It lies within a geologic zone known as the Gualala Formation, as described in Ted Konigsmark’s book “Geologic Trips: Sea Ranch.”   Unlike the more northern parts of Sea Ranch’s coastal areas where sandstone is more prevalent, this area (and south to Bihler Point and Black Point) is composed of “Conglomerates.”    This formation is like sandstone, only it also contains large round cobbles about the size of oranges, and some quite a bit larger; even some boulder size rocks.   The cobbles are composed of many different types of rocks, as seen in the images I provided.

There is a reason that you find conglomerates forming points (e.g. Black Point, Bihler Point, “The Precipice”) in this region of Sea Ranch.  Conglomerates are very, very hard and resistant to wave and wind erosion.   The cobbles in the conglomerates were derived from the rocks that formed in the hills of the Gualala Basin some 80 million years ago.  These cobbles were carried from the hills to the sea in a dense stream of sandy sediment (called a turbidity current) where they accumulated in shallow water.  There are also sandstone layers within these deposits, and you can see some of these layers in connection with conglomerate layers in several of the images.

I suggest you take a look at Konigmark’s book if you want more information about the geology and geologic processes that formed this area.  Suffice it to say that it’s definitely worth the time to visit one of these areas here along our coast.  It’s an otherworldly experience to walk among the different formations here and try to understand how it all got here.   I hope I at least gave you a basic feel for the processes and the time involved in forming this unique coastal area.  But trust me, there is no substitution for getting out and hiking around these conglomerates to capture the full experience of such a special part of Sea Ranch and the Sonoma Coast.


Equipment: Nikon D810: Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens; Monopod

Posted in Beach, Geologic Formations, Landscapes, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes | Tagged , | 2 Comments

More Sandstone Weathering

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Weathered but square sandstone boulder Weathered Sandstone and Pillow Formations

Finishing off the sandstone weathering theme, here are my final two images from my afternoon crawling over the rocks at Del Mar Point.  The first image was rather striking to me in how the large square boulder looks like someone just placed it where it has probably lied for millennia.  It just seems to fit perfectly in that spot.  The final shot shows the pitted sandstone and in the distance you can also see the more “pillow-like” formations out in the ocean. So I hope you enjoyed my afternoon amongst the sandstone rock formations of Del Mar Point.  I certainly encourage anyone who enjoys rock-hopping to spend an afternoon or two out here.  You can reach this area by taking Helm off of Leeward Road on Sea Ranch. It’s a short walk to the rocks from the end of Helm.

Equipment: Nikon D810; Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens; Oben Tripod

Posted in Beach, Black and White, Geologic Formations, History, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Sandstone Weathering over the Milenia

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Sandstone Weathered over time...a very long time!

I took this image at Del Mar Point several days ago.  I love this area of Sea Ranch because the sandstone formations are incredible.   This image captures the full spectrum of geologic oddities peculiar to this area of the coast, and in particular, Sea Ranch.  As I said earlier, this area is comprised of mostly sandstone, which we often think of as soft and easily erodible.  Well, most of the sandstone formations here were created millions of years ago under tremendous pressure from being covered by 30,000 feet of sediment.  The sheer pressure of this overlying sediment caused this sandstone to cement together through various geological and geochemical processes.

Ultimately, these once deep sedimentary layers were uplifted and exposed to the surface.  Once exposed to the elements of wind and surf and rain, this cement-hardened sandstone layer began to erode leaving behind the hardest components within the sandstone layer.  Hence the honey-combed and pitted surfaces, eroded by wave wash and wind over time.   The Ball-like structures protruding from the walls of these sandstone layers are the most strongly cemented portions within the layer.  The end result of all these physical and chemical processes is the weird and somewhat bazaar formations we see today.

I hope you enjoyed my little journey through time…eons of time.


Equipment: Nikon D810: Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens; Oben tripod.

Further Reading:  If you’d like to read more about this, I suggest you consult Ted Konigsmark’s book “Geological Trips: Sea Ranch” (1994)

Posted in Beach, Black and White, Geologic Formations, Landscapes, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Pelican Day at Sea Ranch

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Pelicans almost in Formation Pelican...comin' at you Pelican soaring on the breeze Pelican in full pose

I was out at Del Mar Point here at Sea Ranch a week or so ago and I made a mental note of all the pelicans I had seen that afternoon.   Although I had my camera with me, I didn’t have a long lens so I decided to come back yesterday with my 70-200mm lens.   There were plenty of pelicans and cormorants sitting on the small rocky islands just off shore but I was really looking for something more interesting than birds on a rock.  So I found a nice comfy spot on a rock outcrop and waited for these prehistoric looking creatures to just fly by.  And they did!

I’m told by one of my birding friends, Nancy Carroll, that the first image shows a female leading a small group of juveniles.  The last image is also a juvenile based on the lack of color on its head.  Based on that, I think the third image is also a juvenile as I’m pretty sure it was the same bird as in the fourth image.  Thanks again Nancy for the info.

I shot all these images at 200mm and cropped the images to further magnify the birds.   A 200mm lens isn’t often long enough to do justice to birds flying overhead unless they’re really close.  These birds didn’t get that close, but the lens combined with the cropping ability inherent in the 36MP sensor in my camera allowed for some nice close-ups of these magnificent birds.  I don’t know exactly how large these particular pelicans are, but I do know this…” Pelican, Pelican…his beak can hold more than his belly can.”   Enjoy!!!

Equipment:  Nikon 810; Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens; Monopod.

Addendum:  My smart and lovely wife Barbara informed me after reading my post that my little quote regarding a pelican’s belly is from a poem by Dixon Lanier Merritt,  which reads as follows:

“A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for a week!
But I’ll be darned if I know how the hellican?”


Posted in Beach, Birds, Marine life, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Where have I just Landed?

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Sea Ranch Marine Preserve at high tide Sea Ranch Marine Preserve: long exposure Sea Ranch Marine Preserve...is anybody out there? Sea Ranch Marine Preserve at high tide-30 second exposure

Sometimes an image, or group of images can transform a familiar place to a very unfamiliar place, maybe even a place other-worldly in appearance.  It was a cloudy day with intermittent fog along the coast and I wanted to see what kind of mood I could create given the landscape, the weather, and the high tide over a long, flat rocky tidal shelf.  The resulting images remind me of some old 1950’s sci-fi movie of some distant and uninhabited planet.   Is there life out there?  What do you think?

Equipment: Nikon D810; Nikkor 17-35mm f2.8 lens; B&W 10-stop ND filter; Oben Tripod.

Process:  For those who are interested, I shot these images at 17mm for 30 sec. at either f18 or f16 using a 10 stop ND filter.  Raw images were processed through Photoshop CC, and Tonal Mapped through Photomatix Pro 5.  Black and white conversion was done through Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.  The images were taken just north of the Sea Ranch Marine Preserve.

Posted in Beach, Black and White, Geologic Formations, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes | Tagged | 2 Comments


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We had a foggy day here at the Ranch a few days ago, so I decided to head out to one of my favorite spots that Barbara and I call “The Precipice.”   We often go there during winter storms to let the wild surf throw wave-splash at us from crashing on the rocks below.  The spot is just north of Smuggler’s Cove.  When I left home with my camera, I had already mounted my large 70-200mmm lens on the camera hoping to catch a little of the fog along the broader coastline.   By the time I arrived at the Precipice, the fog was gone and the sun was bright and the water was clear and blue.

The Precipice is also a great vantage point to observe the interaction of the incoming surf and rock crevices below.   As I peeked through the eyepiece of my camera at the surf below, I immediately saw my theme for the day…” Turbulence.”

Turbulence 1 Turbulence 2 Turbulence 3 Turbulence 4 Turbulence 5 Turbulence 6 Turbulence 7

The seven images above show the intense turbulence as the incoming surf forces its way through the narrow passages between the rock outcrops.  Also visible in the images are the ever-present sea palms (Postelsia palmaeformis, a type of kelp) as they are pummeled wave by wave, day after day while still holding fast to the rocks below.

Turbulence 8 Turbulence 9 Turbulence 10

The remaining three images also show how the incoming waves force themselves around the sea weed-laden rock outcrops.  But to me, however, these images also remind me of pictures taken from space of our blue planet.   What do you think?

In any event, it was a fun way to spend an afternoon.  Sometimes just focusing a little closer on the immediate landscape can bring to mind the beauty of our larger planet as whole.  It’s also amazing to think that it’s the turbulence as seen in these images that slowly transforms our coastline in seemingly imperceptible ways, wave by wave, day by day, year by year….


Equipment:  Nikon D810: Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8mm lens; Oben Tripod; Kirk Ball Head

Posted in Beach, Geologic Formations, Marine life, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Sometimes a Specimen Just Comes to you: The Sphynx Moth

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Sphynx Moth Sphynx Moth Front View

This rather large moth is commonly known as a White-lined Sphynx Moth (Hyles lineata), and had somehow found its way into my garage where he succumbed to some unknown malady.  His natural coloring is more in the drab olive brown range, but because it was deceased I thought I would display him more artfully in B&W.   He’s about 2.5 inches long and quite robust.

Just showing a snapshot of a dead moth in its true coloration seemed rather ordinary; just documenting its natural form and color seemed like a waste of time as anyone can just look up a picture of a Sphynx Moth in any field guide.  My interest here was in showing the essence of this large moth, in the finest detail possible.  Somehow I think the structure and function of this moth is far more evident stripped to its barest essentials.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy my expose’ of this particular moth.


Equipment: Nikon D810; Nikkor 105mm F2.8 Macro lens; Cam Ranger;  Nikon SB 800 and SB 910 Speedlights; Oben Tripod.

PROCESS:  For those of you who might be interested in how I shot this specimen, I first mounted the moth to a black surface.  I used a 105mm f2.8 macro lens and a Cam Ranger synched to my Nikon D810 camera.  I then took upwards of 10 separate images at different focal lengths (a process called Focal Stacking) in order to keep the entirety of the moth in sharp focal detail, front to back or top to bottom.  The images were then merged in Photoshop to produce a single image in full focal detail from front to back.  The final images were then converted to B&W using Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro.

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An Afternoon South of Sea Ranch

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Rocky Outcrop South of Stewart's Point Small Cove between Salt Point and Stewart's Point Somewhere between Stewart's Point and Salt Point

The coast between Stewart’s Point and Salt Point is mostly private land and isn’t really accessible, at least not without trespassing.  I’m always intrigued by this stretch of coast just south of Sea Ranch as we drive past it on our many trips “over the hill.”  It seems more desolate, more isolated than most.  So I spent a little time a few weeks ago during a rather overcast afternoon to try and capture the “mood” of this piece of coastline.  It was a perfect day to reveal the quiet solitude of this area as I saw it in my mind’s eye.  The subtle colors, muted by the overcast sky felt right to me.  Even the profuse monkey flower shrub in the second image couldn’t quite break the overall mood of the day.  But a day, any day, along this coast is a beautiful day, at least it is to me.

P.S.  I shot these images from the road’s shoulder, and didn’t trespass:  not a big fan of the trespass.  Neither are the local ranchers.

Equipment:  Nikon D810; Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens; Oben Tripod: B&W 10 stop filter; Kirk Ball Head

Posted in Beach, Coastal meadows, Landscapes, Seascapes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Arch Rock Cove

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Arch Rock Cove

A couple of weeks ago I spent a little time along the bluff at Arch Rock Cove here on Sea Ranch.  These rock towers, once a part of the coastline here in the distant past, have always captivated me.  I shot this image from a fairly direct front-on angle which presents these towers essentially stacked up one behind the other.  Even though this is a long exposure (15 sec) you can still make out several cormorants on the outer rock towers.   I’m blessed to live within walking distance to this scenic spot.   These sentinels are massive, and have stood the test of time, remaining as a small remnant of the land mass that once extended out from the present-day coastline.   It’s also a reminder that nothing remains static along the coast; the forces of nature are constantly at work shaping and reshaping our coastline over time.

Equipment: Nikon D810: Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens; B&W 10-stop ND filter; Oben Tripod


Posted in Black and White, Geologic Formations, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Pebble Beach: the Yin and the Yang

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Pebble Beach at Sea Ranch Pebble Beach "Fireworks"

Yesterday I went down to Pebble Beach here at Sea Ranch to try and capture some long-exposures with my ultra-wide angle lens.  I was using some new gear that allowed me to attach some Black Glass to this lens, which is a favorite of mine because of its tack-sharpness.  Some experiments go well, as this one did, while others not so well (you never hear about those.)

I called this the “Yin and Yang” because taken together, these two images capture the full range of the ocean’s energy, from its serene quite beauty to its full explosive power.

The first image is a long exposure (13 seconds) and reflects a more subdued mood.  The second image (1/2 sec) on the other hand is all about the explosive power of the ocean; kind of an “Oooh, aah” moment like that from a 4th of July fireworks show.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these little snippets from Pebble Beach on a quiet afternoon with some rather unexpected “fireworks”.


Equipment: Nikon D810; Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens; Lee “Big Stopper” 10 stop ND Filter; Oben Tripod



Posted in Beach, Black and White, Sea Ranch, Seascapes, Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

Walk On Beach on a Sunny Afternoon

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North End of Walk On Beach Barnacles at Walk On Beach Low Tide at Walk On Beach Surf on the outer reef at Walk On Beach

It’s been a little while since I hiked along the sands of Walk-On Beach here at Sea Ranch.   The tide was low enough that I could approach some of the intertidal rock formations and include them, and their many residents, in my images.   I also haven’t used my ultra-wide angle lens in a while and I like the perspective it gives in bringing in the foreground into the broader scene.  Getting the camera and tripod setup close enough to the foreground rocks is always a little tricky without getting wet from incoming waves.  As usual, I was unsuccessful at staying dry, but I did manage to keep the camera dry.

Prevalent in the foreground rock outcrops are the ever-present barnacle clusters and many small sea anemones.  It was late in the afternoon and the day was perfect for walk along the beach.  I chose B&W because, well I like it as an art form, but also because the day was gray enough where the colors were bit too muted for my liking.   So thanks for sharing my stroll along Walk-On Beach.  I hope you enjoyed this peak into an ordinary day at the beach here along the Sonoma Coast.


Equipment: Nikon D810: Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens; Oben Tripod; Kirk ball head.

Posted in Beach, Black and White, Geologic Formations, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments