Old Vines

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Old Vines at Annapolis Winery

A couple of weeks ago I headed east up Annapolis Road to see if I could find some fall color.  It was a little early in the season for much in the way of fall color, but I did manage to find something just as interesting, at least from a photographic standpoint.  As I was driving I noticed an interesting field of dead grape vines in the front of the Annapolis Winery property.  I have seen many fields of old dead vines throughout the wine country before, but they never looked quite like this where there was one central vine and it was curled over with the tip pointing into the ground.   I think what caught my attention was not any one vine in particular, but the fact that the whole field looked this way.   The symmetry was too much to pass up.

I first processed this image in color, but I like how the B&W enhances the contrast between the vines and the surrounding land.  This was certainly not the splash of fall color that I hoped for, but an interesting discovery nonetheless.  Perhaps it’s a fitting homage to these old vines which no doubt yielded many barrels of fine wine, and are now captured in their final bow to mother earth.

Equipment: Nikon D810; Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens; monopod.

Posted in Black and White, Fall, Landscapes, Sonoma County | Tagged , | 7 Comments

A Driftwood Study

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I’m often pleasantly surprised by what the ocean deposits on the beach.  A few days ago I visited Tide Pool Beach here at Sea Ranch and came across a single large piece of driftwood.  The colorful swirls of grain lines highlighted by fungus (the black areas) and other decay reflected the tortured history of this twisted log.

Doonesbury Driftwood

In the first image, though, I was surprised after I processed it to see a shadow that looked like it came out of a Doonesbury cartoon.  I totally missed it while I was shooting as I was more focused on the broader composition of the image.  I guess it shows that you just can’t take it all in while you’re looking through the eyepiece.

Driftwood Swirls

Black Mold on Driftwood

Tortured Driftwood

The other three images were also taken from the same log and show very different aspects of this log.  I would have loved to have had this log in our garden, but it was too big to haul off the beach (which is frowned upon here anyway).

This was a fun find and is one of the things that keeps me regularly returning to the beaches here.  It’s an ever-changing landscape and an old Long Island beach comber like me can always find something to capture my interest.  I hope I captured yours.

Equipment:  Nikon D810; Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens; monopod


Posted in Beach, Landscapes, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Big Sky over Black Point!

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Big Sky over Black Point

We had some wind the other day, which for here, is no big news event.  In fact, when we first moved here in 2004, people told us that…”the wind is the weather here”.   But occasionally the wind conspires with the atmosphere to create some dramatic cloud formations.  According to my Cloud Collector’s Handbook by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, this cloud formation is called a Cumulus radiatus, or “cloud streets”.  Parallel lines of clouds form along the direction of the wind and appear, as in this image, to converge toward the horizon due to the effects of perspective.  Anyway, for me it was my first chance to use my new book on cloud types (which gives me 35 points for spotting any radiatus-type cloud formation).  Yee-ha!

I almost missed this ­­­opportunity and only caught site of it as I was getting ready for dinner and noticed it out of one the back windows.  So it was off to Black Point to find a proper angle to capture the scene.   I shot it from several different angles along the bluff and finally settled on this one.  I hope you enjoy my “Big Sky” image…and, no, you can’t claim the 35 points unless you actually spot one first hand.  Sorry, there are rules.


Equipment: Nikon D810; Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens; Oben Tripod

Posted in Beach, Landscapes, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Into the Fog

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Fog enveloping the rocks in Arch Rock Cove Arch Rock in the Fog House on Galleon's Point Hikers enjoying Arch Rock Cove

We had a short heat wave hit the north coast a couple of days ago.  It also thickened the marine layer resulting in some dense fog along our coast here at Sea Ranch.  I went down to Arch Rock Cove just down the road from our house, and the fog had nicely enveloped the huge rock formations within the cove.  The fog was dense but the marine layer that brought it in was probably less than 200 – 300 feet thick, so the sun shone through and brightened the images pretty strongly.

The first two images show the main rock formations in this cove, including the large Arch Rock formation in the second image.  And yes, these are all color images, but as you can see, the fog mutes the color quite a bit.

The third image is a home on the tip Galleons Point.  I’ve shot this home from many vantage points over the years and on this day I thought it made for an interesting study in contrast and lines.  The last image shows the cove again but by this time the fog was starting to break up a little bit, and a couple of hikers were also enjoying the view.

The fog is a great mood creator, and I also like to think of it as the cheapest filter a photographer can use.


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

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

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 , | 4 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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