A Winter’s Day at Point Arena Lighthouse

Point Arena Lighthouse facing south

Stornetta Lands near Point Arena Lighthouse

Point Arena Lighthouse facing north

Beach north of Point Arena Lighthouse

Earlier in the week when the weather was bright and warm I planned a day to head up to Point Arena Lighthouse and the Stornetta Lands National Monument for a hike.  When Thursday finally rolled around so had winter with all its windy, cold, and grey weather.  Not to be deterred, I headed up there anyway to see if I could be inspired.

It’s always a bit windy up there but on Thursday it was howling even more than usual. The sky was heavy with storm clouds and there was a light foggy haze blowing off the ocean.  The late afternoon sky created quite a mood.  I wanted to try to capture some of that winter “Moodiness” by using some long exposures to blur the ocean into a smoky mist. For that I used a 10-stop neutral density filter which allowed me to use a 30-second exposure.

The biggest problem was that the wind made it difficult to get a good 30-sec exposure even on my trusty Oben tripod.  I had to find some spots more or less out of the wind and eventually did land on some areas a little more protected from the wind.

The first two images were taken from the Stornetta Lands just south of the lighthouse. The second two images were taken from the bluff north of the lighthouse.  It was a long cold day on these bluffs, but I’m happy with the images as they reflect the mood of the day, at least as I saw it in my mind’s eye.  It was a blustery day and not what I was expecting when I planned the outing, but such is life.  The coast gives you something different every day and you just have to be open to what it brings you.  But next time I’m definitely bringing my thermos full of hot chocolate.

Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 17-35mm, f2.8 lens; Oben Tripod

Posted in Beach, Coastal meadows, Geologic Formations, Landscapes, Lighthouse, Mendocino County, Seascapes | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Winter Along the Gualala


Late Afternoon along the Gualala River

White Alder trees near the Gualala River

Dense riparian growth along the Gualala River

Riparian growth along the Gualala River

White Alder

Along the Banks of the Gualala River

Dense growth along the Gualala River

Winter Along the Gualala River

Gualala River in the background

Dense Stands of White Alder on the Gualala River banks

The New Year brought some beautiful bright days here along the north coast and I was lucky enough to be able to get out and capture some nice warm afternoon light.  I headed east toward the Gualala River near the Twin Bridges (Between Annapolis and The Sea Ranch.)  In fact most of the images were shot from the bridge itself or near it.

The winter here is not like the winters where I grew up in Long Island. Fall tends to linger into the winter months here so some leaves remain on the trees late into the year.  Most of the trees in these images are the riparian White Alder, as identified by their whitish birch-like bark.

It was about four PM and the sun had almost ducked down behind the ridge to the west so the lighting was a little tricky.  But a light misty fog was developing which added a nice aura to some of the images.  Even in the starkness of winter some color still remains and the late afternoon light really helps to bring it out even more.

The Gualala River watershed is the life’s blood of this community and is under continued threat of upstream development.  It also is a wonderful place to just go and enjoy its beauty, even in the throes of winter.


Equipment: Nikon D3s, Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8 lens, monopod. I should also note that many of these images were shot at 6400 ISO due to the low light conditions, and none were shot below 1600 ISO. If you ever wonder why I chose this camera…this is one of the reasons.

Posted in Environmental Issues, Forest, Landscapes, Sea Ranch Photography, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A Foggy Day near Fort Ross

Yesterday Barbara had a small group of friends from her Italian group over to the house for one of their regular gatherings.  I sometimes hang around, at least long enough to act as Barista making lattes and espressos, but I decided instead to head out with my camera. The day was pretty foggy so I thought I’d head south toward Fort Ross and see what trouble I could get into.

Highway 1 near Fort Ross

Pasture Land near Fort Ross

Rolling Hills near Fort Ross

The first three images show the area along Highway 1 near Fort Ross and the greening up of the pastures after all the rain we’ve had here on the coast.  Actually this particular area can be hazardous to drive at night because this also happens to be a ‘free range’ area where the local cow population gets to roam freely, including in the middle of Highway 1 (no fences).  For some reason, only the all-black cows seem to delight in standing in the middle of the road at night.  And if you hit one, you bought it!

Fog Moving up the Canyons east of Fort Ross

Redwoods in the Fog

Looking down the foggy canyon near Fort Ross

Anyway, later in the afternoon I headed east from Fort Ross and tried to follow the fog up the coastal canyons.  The next three images show various coastal evergreens being enveloped in fog.  Actually, condensate from this fog is also a major source of water for these trees. I also thought it was a nice Christmas theme to show all these Christmas trees in their natural and preferred setting.

In the woods near Fort Ross

Very Quiet Mood

The next two images were taken along the wooded drive east from Highway 1.  I often speak of how photography is all about light, and here you can see how the fog affects the lighting to create a quiet mood.  There wasn’t a soul within miles of me, or at least that’s how it felt standing in the midst of this piece of paradise. (And, there probably wasn’t a soul within miles of me.)

Looking South down Highway 1 near Fort Ross

The final image is a look back down Highway 1 where I spent the day.  I am truly blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the world. I hope you enjoyed my little trip into the fog.


Equipment: Nikon D3s. Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens, monopod

Posted in Coastal meadows, Forest, Landscapes, Seascapes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

End of the Day

Bluff-top Trail at the end of the dayWalk-on Beach BluffBlack Point post-stormPelican's last flight of the dayBlack Point sunset

Soft light at Walk-on Beach

Last Light of the Day

First Big Storm of 2014 at Sea Ranch

Before all the really big storms hit the north coast here I spent a few late afternoons and evenings capturing some nice light.  These images were captured along several Sea Ranch beaches, including Black Point and Walk-on beaches.  There’s quite a mix of colors, depending on the time of day and the cloud conditions.

I was lucky to hit the beach at just the right time – around sunset after a minor storm. The sky was still full of energy and the setting sun danced around the remaining storm clouds. I was also lucky enough to capture a trio of brown pelicans on one last flight as the day ended.

The last image is not so much about light, but perhaps the lack of it. This shot was taken just north of Stengel Beach on Sea Ranch a day or so ago during one of our really big storms.  It was raining hard, foggy and as you can see the visibility wasn’t the best.  But the surf was really churning with huge waves driven by the storm and 30 – 40 knot winds. I found a nice somewhat protected spot under a big Monterey Cyprus on the bluff from which to shoot.  After shooting it was nice to come home to a warm fire.

So at the end of the day we have some nice soft light and very cold stormy surf. Every day is a new day and you just never know what it’s going to bring.  These were all good days…Life is good!

Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 24-70 mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8 lenses; monopod.

Posted in Beach, Birds, Landscapes, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes, Sunsets, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The Bone Yard: A Driftwood Extravaganza

There is an area of Walk On Beach here in Sea Ranch where driftwood, large and small, accumulates with each major storm. When we first visited this beach years ago we were taken by the size and expanse of the driftwood pile that seemed to have been pushed into a seasonal drainage from the adjoining meadowland.  We called it “The Bone Yard”, because that’s exactly how it struck us.  It’s a fun place to hike around as you can find all manner of rather artfully weathered driftwood logs and stumps.  So I thought I would try to capture the essence of this place in photographs in hopes of sharing the experience of just hanging out here for an afternoon.

Bone Yard Entrance from the Beach

The Pile at the Bone Yard

Walk On Beach and the Bone Yard
The first three images (above) show the whole of the place where the giant logs are strewn about and also how they seem to converge up the small drainage area of the meadow . It takes a very large storm to move these logs this far up beyond the normal high tide line.  There also must be some unique circulation patterns just off shore here that seem to concentrate and push the flotsam into this beach.  I generally didn’t see such large chunks of driftwood along the south shore of Long Island where I grew up, so it’s always a treat for me to visit this beach.

Walk On Beach DriftwoodMore Driftwood from the Bone YardBurl Stump DriftwoodBurl Stump Close-upPeek-a-booAnother Denizen of the Bone YardDriftwood as Art
The remaining images speak for themselves, and represent just a small smattering of the local denizens of the Bone Yard.  I especially like the root burls and how the weathering seems to really enhance the swirling grain patterns in the root mass. These logs move around from year to year, storm to storm, so each year brings new members to the Bone Yard. And as it does I’ll be there to add to our collection of Bone Yard inhabitants.

Equipment: Nikon D3s, Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens; monopod

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

First Storms of 2014 hit the Beach

Over the past week or so we started to get some minor but welcomed rain here on the north coast. The storms weren’t much, but they did manage to churn up the surf pretty well.  The waves weren’t huge, maybe some 10 – 12 footers, but they sure made an impact when they landed ashore.  I was lucky to have been down at Walk-on Beach before the storms actually landed and the first two images capture the slow build of the storm’s impact.  I like the moodiness of these images as the fog was kind of in and out, and you can see hints of blue sky here and there.

Walk On Beach Before the Storm

Walk On Beach reflective wave in the fog
The next two images were captured off of Fish Rock road in Sea Ranch and the bluff top home adds some scale to the scene.  By this time one storm had passed but another was on the way, so the surf was still pretty wild.  These waves were pounding day and night and we could hear them at night while going to sleep.  It’s the best sound to sleep to that I can imagine…pure white noise and it wasn’t some digital creation.

Storm Surf off Fish Rock Road, Sea Ranch

Big Splash off Sea Ranch
The last two images were captured a day or so later off Headlands Reach in Sea Ranch. There was still one more storm to come and the surf was still exploding nicely along the bluff. I was using my 24-70mm lens so I had to get a little closer to the action and I got wet on more than one occasion.  I tried to perch myself in one location so I didn’t have to worry about getting blindsided by an incoming wave, but I still got splashed a few times.  I guess that’s how you know that you’re in the right place.

Storm Surf off Headlands Reach, Sea Ranch

First Storm of 2014 hits Sea Ranch at Headlands Reach
I hope we get lots more storms like this as we really need the rain.  As winter heats up you can be assured that I’ll be somewhere out there capturing images of storm surf in all their glory.
Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens, monopod.

Posted in Beach, Fall, Landscapes, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Continuing the Journey into Black and White

Recently I’ve been exploring the realm of black and white photography, specifically the conversion of digital color images to B&W.  I went back to Del Mar Point and also to one of my other favorite Sea Ranch haunts, Walk-on Beach to capture a few more images of this rugged landscape.  The multi-textured rock formations really provide a great canvas to play with B&W imaging; they’re highly textured and the deep crevices provide ample shadows for artful contrast.  I wanted to stay with B&W again because I realized it’s really a very different aspect of photography than color and I wanted to try to at least work through some of the basics of B&W conversion.  In general what I’ve been doing in terms of workflow is to first shoot in color and do the basic RAW image conversion in Photoshop CS5.  I also decided to fully process each image as if it were going to be a color image and then do the conversion to B&W using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro2 for the B&W conversion.  I felt that getting the color (tone and contrast) right first helped get the B&W image I wanted.

_D358172shrp1200BW _D358188shrp1200BW _D358192shrp1200 _D358222shrp1200BW
The first four images above were taken at Del Mar Point using a 10-Stop ND filter (“Black Glass”) to allow for an exposure long enough to smooth out the moving surf into a nice smoke-like fog.  As I mentioned in my prior posting on this subject, these rocks exhibit some color variation, but I think there is somewhat greater variation in the texture of the rocks making them more suitable for B&W.  It’s still difficult for me to “See” an image in B&W when I’m out on the rocks looking at a scene, but with practice I’m getting a little better at it.  The old large and medium format Land cameras were good for B&W because the image was displayed upside down in the view finder making it easier for the photographer to just focus on shapes and shadows.

_D358361shrp1200BW _D358418shrp1200BW _D358423shrp1200BW _D358291shrp1200BW_D358447shrp1200
The last five images above were taken at Walk-on Beach and were shot using a standard circular polarizing filter.  The coastline here is really a case study in coastal geology as well as a visually exciting place to shoot.  Even though the rocks don’t change much day to day, every day is different in terms of light, clouds, wind and surf conditions. All these factors work together to make for a wonderful place to photograph and to just hike around for hours on end. The journey continues!

Equipment: Nikon D3s, Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens, Oben Tripod

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

Sometimes it’s all About Textures and Shadows

I took an afternoon back in May to shoot one of my favorite spots on the Ranch, the rocks around Del Mar Point. After I processed what I thought were the best images I left them alone for awhile. The truth is I forgot about them having gotten caught up in another project. So I went back to these images recently and looked at them through a different lens so to speak, namely, black and white. Sometimes it’s good to let a little time go by after you process images as you may rethink how you see them. In this case I decided that while the color images were OK (just OK, and maybe that’s why I forgot about them in the first place) and after playing with B&W on some other images recently, I really wanted to focus more on the texture and shadows of these sandstone rocks. While there is a fair degree of color range within these rocky outcrop scenes, I think the there is a broader range of textures, shadows and light.

Dinosaur Rocks at Del Mar Point

Del Mar Point Rocks

Del Mar Point Sandstone

Del Mar Point, Sea Ranch, CA


Windswept Day at Del Mar PointThe first five images show the rocky cliffs in all their striated and sea-sculpted glory. The small fractures and faults that run along these outcrops provide a nice sight line and focal point to the images. The varied shapes have captured my interest for quite some time; I often refer to this place as the “Dinosaur Rocks.” The texture changes abruptly between layers which also adds to the complexity and beauty of this spot.

Stump Deposited at Del Mar Point
The last image shows a large tree stump that was somehow deposited by the tide and wedged into this crevice in the rocks. This stump is easily six feet across. I was really taken with its texture and almost tortured nature of its root structure. In B&W it seems to blend in nicely with the rock surfaces around it. The forceful nature of the weathering here tends to make everything look about the same after a while, in color and texture. So it seemed fitting to show these images in B&W and remove the somewhat confounding effect of color. Let me know what you think.

Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens. B&W processing in Nik’s Silver Efex Pro2.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

An Afternoon of Peace and Solitude at Stornetta Public Lands

I’ve been up to the Point Arena Light House several times, but I haven’t yet hiked around the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands.  This area, donated by the Stornetta Ranch family, includes 1665 acres which was newly added to the California Coastal National Monument.  This is a dramatic part of the north coast, with sharp sandstone cliffs, small near-shore islands, sea arches and sinkholes, lies just south of the light house.  I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d find so I just took my 24-70mm f2.8 lens along.  I fully intend to go back with my 14-24mm and 70-200mm lenses to fully capture the beauty and uniqueness of this place.

This is a desolate place, and seems even more so because it’s still shows the signs of recent cattle grazing.  I was lucky on this trip because there was virtually no wind; it was heavily overcast which set quite a somber mood for the day.  I love hiking the bluffs on days like this, especially when I’m totally alone like I was on this day.

Small Island of Stornetta Lands
The images I show here reflect the feel of the day as much as the terrain and the visual elements of the coastline itself. The first image shows a flat island just offshore.  Small islands like this dot the coastline along this stretch and were once part of the contiguous shoreline until erosion took its toll.  This image pretty much captures the mood of the day.  You can also see a small sea arch in the island showing the light from the western side of the island showing through.

PA-Stornetta Monument

Stornetta Lands looking North
The next two images show more of the rugged coast and some of the many other geologic features common to this area.  The small buildings in the second image are part of an old LORAN installation that’s about to be decommissioned.  You can also see the PA Light House off in the distance in the third image.

View towards PA Lighthouse
In the fourth image I decided to go black and white because the color was just too muted and I felt the B&W reflected the mood here a little better.  I also thought the geologic features stood out much better in the B&W version.  (Also, my latest edition of Outdoor Photographer had a special feature on B&W photography for landscapes, so I had to give it a try.)

Spanish Moss
The last image captures one of the Monterey Pines along the bluff.   All that remains here is the moss and fungi that have taken over this tree.  To me it added to the overall mood and bleakness of the place.  I think there is great beauty in the  desolation here.  Go spend a day there and I’m sure you’ll see what I mean.  I’m definitely going back as there’s just so much more to see.

Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens.  I used NIK Software’s Silver Effex Pro2 for the B&W conversion.

Posted in Beach, Coastal meadows, Geologic Formations, History, Landscapes, Lighthouse, Seascapes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Remains of the Day

The day was a mix of sun and clouds when I got to Walk-On Beach here in Sea Ranch. There was very little breeze and so I thought it was a perfect day just to stroll along the beach as the tide was ebbing. I always loved the different patterns left in the sand as the tide receded. Today I noticed a very thin layer of much lighter sand left atop the more common grayish sand along this beach. It almost appeared to be a thin veil of crushed shells. In any event, I loved the patterns and color mix it created along the beach. The sky also cooperated adding a little more interest to the scene photographically. So here are a few images of a summer afternoon stroll along the beach, happily taking in what the tide left behind.

Life is Good!

Equipment: Nikon D3s, Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens, imagination

Walk-On Beach Looking west


Walk-On Beach looking south

Quiet Afternoon at Walk-on Beach


Walk-on Beach at low tide


Walk-on Beach at low tide

Posted in Beach, Landscapes, Marine life, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment