The Many Textures of Shell Beach

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Shell Beach Shell Beach at Low Tide Shell Beach Marine Life Shell Beach Lagoon

Shell Beach here on Sea Ranch is an extremely interesting place to visit, especially at low tide.  I shot some images there two days ago in the late afternoon while the tide was out.  The low tide exposes the many tidal invertebrates and algae and in so doing, also exposes the many unique textures of this intertidal lagoon.   I also chose to shoot long (20 -30 seconds) exposures using my 10-stop neutral density filter.  Smoothing out the surf also allows one to focus on the rugged textures of the exposed intertidal areas and the bluff-scape as well.  Using B&W also allows one to bring out the many tonal qualities of such a seascape that are often missed or obscured when presenting in color.   I also think that because so many of us who live here are so used to the colors we see on a daily basis, I think the B&W adds a new perspective to something we see, but often miss, every day.

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

Posted in Beach, Black and White, Geologic Formations, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Turbulence in Smuggler’s Cove

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Smuggler's Cove after a Storm

It was late in the afternoon and I was hiking along the bluff trail near Smuggler’s Cove.  A storm had passed a day or two earlier and I could hear the surf in the Cove before I saw it.  Beaches along the Cove are basically inaccessible and the craggy cliffs are a formidable deterrent to anyone attempting to descend below.  I found an interesting vantage point to take this shot of the Cove in all its glory.  It was a bit of a grey day and I enjoy the sharpness and the various grey tones that only B&W can produce.  For me, I feel the energy and power of the ocean as it pushes its way through the Cove.  I also think B&W highlights the sinuous nature of the rocky bluff face.   One can also notice the wind-sculpted Cypress trees along the edge of the bluff.  This is definitely a place to be enjoyed from afar.


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

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

Just Another Day’s Hike

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Aside from the beautiful landscapes and seascapes within Sea Ranch, I often forget how much a part of Sea Ranch is its architecture.   Usually when I shoot landscapes I often try to keep the scene “Pure”, that is without any man-made structures.  However, on my bluff walks the local architecture is always at least in the background.

Bluff Trail Heading toward Smuggler's Cove

In the first image, a local home sits nestled along the bluff trail almost projecting its view into Smuggler’s Cove.  It was late in the day and the sun was filling the frame with its warm glow.  Not a bad place to hike.

Sea Ranch Lodge Barn

The second image shows the Sea Ranch Lodge barn against a backdrop of a misty late afternoon along the north coast.  Also, if you look closely you can see people somewhat formally dressed near the barn, no doubt attending a wedding reception there.

The buildings are part of the landscape here, and Sea Ranch design ideal promotes a “Living Lightly on the Land” concept.  In this way, the entire landscape isn’t taken over by buildings, but rather a more appropriate mix of buildings and open space exists here.   About 65% of the land here is considered commons or open space.  Developments of today would hardly ever build out a project with that share of open space.

Equipment: Nikon D810: Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8lens and Nikkor 70-300mm lens; Oben Tripod and Kirk Head

Posted in Coastal meadows, Landscapes, Old Buildings, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Architecture, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes | Tagged | 1 Comment

Impressions along the Gualala River

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Several weeks ago, I posted a photo essay of landscape abstracts where I used camera motion as an artifact in creating rather impressionistic images.  Well, I’m back at it again, and this time I focused on the Gualala River and its riparian corridor.  Currently the Gualala River is a river somewhat under siege by various entities wishing to extract timber from the river’s floodplain.   I’ve presented many images of the Gualala over the years in the hopes of focusing greater attention to its beauty and its plight.  This river is not only the life’s blood of our community here at Sea Ranch (it’s our only source of drinking water), but countless threatened and endangered species also call it home.

These images were all taken in or around the Gualala River a couple of days ago, mostly near the “Hot Spot”.  What I like about these more abstract images is that they seem to catch the essence of a subject; its color, texture, brightness, and to some extent its delicateness.   I hope you enjoy these impressions, and I also hope you’ll think a little about the River as a giver of life, and its very delicate nature.


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

Posted in Environmental Issues, Forest, Landscapes, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Sonoma County, Uncategorized, Wildflowers | Tagged | 5 Comments

Cypress Cathedrals

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Cypress Cathedral Cypress Hedgerow Monterey Cypress

On occasion I like to visit some of the many Monterey Cypress hedgerows here at Sea Ranch.   It was one of those quiet late afternoons and I headed out to one of my favorites near Del Mar Point.

I called this post “Cypress Cathedrals” because, especially the first image, they remind me of an old Gothic style cathedral in how the trees seem to arch together towards the top.  But mostly, I was struck by the utter quiet and peacefulness that seemed to enshroud the space below the canopy.  I could hear individual needles fall to the ground.  It was certainty one of those magical moments that seemed to transcend my original purpose of photographing a mere line of trees.  The light seemed perfect and the trail between the trees just seem to light up as if to point the way.  The sky was a bit grey and the colors were muted but that too is often the atmosphere of the great cathedrals in the middle of the day.  I was grateful to have been aware enough to notice something beyond my camera’s focus, and to be able to take in the silence and the sense of “Place.”

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

Posted in Landscapes, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Landscapes in Motion

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I take my photographic inspiration from many sources; the world around me, other art forms, and certainly the works of other photographers, past and present.  One such photographer is William Neill, who has a regular column in Outdoor Photographer.   He recently showed some of his more impressionistic images in OP and they truly captured my imagination.  The images I present in this post were captured using the technique he described that involves adding camera motion to a landscape scene.

Essentially the technique involves using your camera hand-held, and moving it up and down vertically if your shooting a vertical subject like the trees I shot here.  I used a somewhat long exposure (up to 2 seconds) and then tilted the camera up and down, or just up if using a faster shutter speed.  That’s the basic technique, but it takes considerable practice to get anything even approaching a “keeper”.

I have to say that was quite liberating to take this highly engineered piece of camera equipment designed to give the sharpest and most detailed images and basically flip the thing up and down hoping to capture something worthwhile.   Now it’s not quite that easy, but you get the idea.  Even though the images are an abstraction, the basic “rules” of composition still apply.  In this case, the spacing of the trees and the color distribution and balance still come into play in determining keepers from the delete bin.

The first two images are taken from a stand of white alders along the Gualala River.  Their light trunks and vertical lines, and the occasional cross branches are still visible in the images.  To me, there is a certain Monet-like quality to the images produced by this technique.  They also remind me more of a water color than a photograph.

The second group of images were taken deep in the redwood forest along the ridge here in Sea Ranch.  The large, dark trunks are clearly visible as is some of the foliage (mostly ferns) at the base of some of the trees.  How you move the camera and where you stop its motion determines what level of detail is preserved in an image.  I’m partly in control of some of what you see, but a lot of it is also random chance based on available light and the motion of the camera.  I like the randomness of some of this, and the fact that these images can never be duplicated again in the wild.

So I hope you enjoy my deviation from traditional photography.  I wanted to explore a more abstract and impressionistic take on the word around me.  I don’t paint, but for me this was the next best thing.


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

Posted in Forest, Landscapes, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

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