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.

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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.

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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

A Day with the People of Sakha

During the last week here on the coast the Gualala Arts Center, along with Gualala Point Regional Park and the Fort Ross State Historic Park, cosponsored a Days of Sakha Culture Festival. It was over 200 years ago that the Yakut people of the Sakha region of Russia (in Siberia) first arrived here on the Sonoma coast in what is now Fort Ross. These people occupied this region from about 1812 through 1842. The cultural festival today is designed to further strengthen the bonds between our regions here on the Sonoma Coast and the Sakha Republic in the Russian Federation.

Part of the week-long celebration involved the creation of several ceremonial hitching posts, or serge (pronounced sayrgay) which will be installed in all three of the participating locations (Gualala Arts, Gualala Point Regional Park, and Fort Ross.) Now these hitching posts are not your great grandfather’s hitching posts; these are totems carved out of full-size mature trees, as you will see in the image below. I was lucky enough to visit the encampment in Gualala Point Regional Park where the Master Wood Carvers were carving the totems. As you can see in the first image, this is no small undertaking.

Serge in the works
These wood carvers are from Yakutsk, the capital city of the Sakha Republic in Siberia. In the next several images I show some of the carvers and their family members within the encampment. These folks do not speak any English, and I motioned to one of the carvers and pointed to my camera. He waved and seemed to give me the go-ahead to take pictures. Carving like this is focused and delicate work with extremely sharp chisels. I didn’t want to interrupt their work, and I also didn’t want to intrude too much into their personal space, so I used my 70-200mm lens and shot from a good distance. I was able to capture more candid shots this way as well. I enjoyed my afternoon watching these people work and go about their day. They also seem to work quite collaboratively and yet they each seem to have a specific duty to perform. I found them quite interesting.


Woodcarver working the details

Carving into the poleAll hand workCarving the top of the SergeA young lady gathering seedsOne of the Sakha elders
Some of these Sakha people were also engaged in what appeared to be the construction and/or repair of some traditional Sakha saddles, or Yngyyr in the Sakha language. The images below show a pair of these saddles with their traditional large horn and hammered metal front. Many older versions of these saddles had hammered silver front plates. The detail on these saddles is exquisite, both the leather work and the metal work. Also shown is a Yakut craftsman doing dome hammering detail on one of the front plates.


Sakha Traditional SaddlesHammer work for the saddle front plate
Before I show the completed serges I also wanted to show some of the carving detail that flows throughout these huge pieces. The images below show the small carving details that go into the main totems and also the carved pieces that are added to the totems. What I find compelling about this work is not just the quality of the carving, but the intricacy of the overall design. All these carvings have to be laid out and proportioned prior to initiating any carving. It all has to come out right all the way around the pole; and the pole changes size from top to bottom.


Carving DetailCarved Horse Feature to be added to Serge
The completed and installed serges are shown in the final two images. They were installed in the Park in a beautiful open meadow overlooking the Gualala estuary. In Sakha, these totems not only served as a hitching post, but were erected next to a family home to represent the family’s desire to survive the harsh winter and other natural obstacles. These are a welcome addition to the park, and I feel privileged to have witnessed firsthand the making of these beautiful works of art. I hope they return again.

The Serge installed at Gualala Point Park

Serge overlooking the Gualala estuary


Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 70-200mm lens.

Posted in History, Landscapes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Isolated Landscapes

In my previous post, “Intimate Spring Landscapes,” I showed how using an ultra-wide angle lens (14mm) can be used to create an up-close and personal view of a subject. The optics of this lens offers the ability to also capture more distant backgrounds and thus provide context to the intimate landscape. Now let’s compare these intimate landscapes with more isolated landscapes captured via a longer telephoto (70-200mm) lens.

California Poppies


Indian Paintbrush

I recently went back to Walk-On Beach where I shot the previous post’s images and reshot some of those scenes at 200mm. The first three images above show how this lens can capture an intimate landscape by isolating the subject from the broader landscape. The narrower field of vision at 200 mm also limits how much background can be captured and included in the image. I like these images; however they lose much of the broader context captured in the 14mm images. But you can’t beat a longer telephoto lens for being able to isolate a subject.

Brown Pelicans


In the last two images above, subject isolation was my goal. The brown pelicans were pretty far away but were easily brought in close at 200mm. There was really no need to bring in much background beyond the pelicans into the image. In fact this image was cropped from the original image in order to isolate this subject further. The last image is where this lens really shines. I captured this small lizard from a good distance away and yet was able to isolate and frame the lizard in its natural habitat. I would love to have been able to capture this guy at 14mm, in a nice intimate landscape, but I’m sure that there’s no way he would have allowed that to happen.

A Note on Brown Pelicans

The Brown Pelican was delisted from the Endangered Species list in 2009. However recent reports have shown that breeding numbers this year have shown a sharp decline. This decline may be due to a building El Nino this year but this decline was initiated prior to the onset of the El Nino. This is troubling news for this species. These are incredibly beautiful birds, up close or in “Squadron” formation cruising along the beach. I offer these and other images here on my blog to draw attention to the many life forms that make up our coastal environment. My hope is that if the science behind environmental protection is not compelling enough, that the innate beauty of these fragile resources might make a difference. Hope springs eternal!


Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens, monopod

Posted in Beach, Coastal meadows, Environmental Issues, Landscapes, Marine life, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes, Uncategorized, Wildflowers | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Intimate Spring Landscapes

Spring is in full swing here on the Ranch and I thought I’d head out to the Walk-On Beach bluff to see if the wildflowers were blooming. The bluff there is pretty unprotected from the wind so the few wildflowers that do show up are fairly low to the ground. But I love those wind-swept bluff tops where tortured little plants hug the few rocks for cover. Getting down to the ground (laying down, actually) gives one a unique perspective on these little scenes that otherwise go unnoticed. So I enjoy sticking the lens of my camera right into these intimate little settings and seeing what happens.

Needle Grass and Rattlesnake Grass
The first image is a small but diverse grouping of grasses common to the Ranch. The predominant grass with the slender long spikes looks to be the Purple Needle Grass (Nassella pulchia). It was this grass that caught my eye against the backdrop of the rocky outcrop behind it. The other dominant grass in this little scene is the Quaking Grass or Rattlesnake Grass (Briza maxima), a non-native species introduced to the West coast from Europe. This interesting little grass is often grown for ornamental purposes, but it is an invasive species which can crowd out native grasses and lower meadow diversity.

Poppies on the Bluff

Poppies and Weathered Fence
The next two images show one of my favorite flowers here, the California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), which is also the State Flower. These little guys are starting to “pop” up all over now that spring is really under way. The other small purplish flower on the right side of the second image is the Thrift (Armeria maritima), also a very common plant along the coastal bluffs. The Thrift is more prominently seen in the final image where it has managed to grow out of a small crevice in the sandstone bluff face. Nature finds a way.

Thrift on the Rocks
I hope you enjoyed these little scenes of Nature’s beauty, which just seem to exist no matter how harsh or extreme the environment or the location. You just have to look.

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

Posted in Beach, Coastal meadows, Geologic Formations, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes, Uncategorized, Wildflowers | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments