What do you do when the weather’s too bad for photography? Take photos anyway. Billy Connolly says, “There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little.” That’s what I did this weekend. It was gray and wet, but we went to Muir Beach anyway and captured some of the atmosphere.
Yosemite is stunning under a blanket of snow, but sometimes the challenge of getting there makes the payoff even more rewarding. After one failed attempt to get in via 120 due to road conditions, and multiple fails with tire chains, we finally got into the valley a full 24 hours later via 140. I’m glad we did though. In the meadows the snow was up to our waists and with a few fortuitous breaks in the snowfall I got some photos I was really pleased with.
After a weekend in wine country we decided to take a drive back via the Sonoma coast. I remembered that there were sometimes bald eagles by the Russian River in Jenner, so we swung by to see. There were a couple down by the harbor seals, but they were too far away to get a decent shot. When they flew up to an old fallen tree on the beach I realized if I was quick in getting round to Goat Rock Beach I might catch them from the other side. I crept along the beach until I was close enough to get a shot. Just as I arrived, and with a break in the rain, they took off, but I managed one sharp shot at that exact moment. Some days you just get lucky.
Over the last couple of weekends I made two trips to Point Reyes. On the first I came across a beautiful great horned owl. After taking some photos I was really pleased with I promptly lost my memory card and the images are seemingly gone forever. Typically that would really bother me, but four incredible encounters with the wildlife later I was feeling truly grateful for my experiences.
In each occasion I was able to spend a lengthy period with each animal, watching from a reasonable distance and observing their behavior. Elephant seals tussling on the beach, a hawk scaring turkey vultures away from her kill, and a northern harrier surveying his land calmly from a rocky perch were special moments. My favorite, however, had to be the tiny burrowing owl standing over his underground nest. The photographs were worth every second lying in the wet grass.
This year on Instagram I created 135 posts and received a surprising 15,383 likes. I'm not ashamed to say that's a number I'm proud of. These numbers were generated by 2017bestnine.com. My favorite nine are shown below.
A few weeks ago I talked about all the missteps I had trying to capture an image I was happy with for the Mill Valley Click-Off. The image above is the one I finally created on the last possible opportunity I had before the deadline. It wasn’t exactly the photo I set out to capture, but that’s the nature of, well, nature. It doesn’t always cooperate. And I was really happy with how it turned out.
This week the winners of the Click-Off were announced at a small ceremony. There were five categories and I’m honored to say I collected first prize in the Black and White category. It felt even better when I saw the quality of images. There were some amazing photographs included, and some very talented photographers taking part. I was also proud to have won in that specific category given that my photography is almost always in color.
I hadn’t entered any photography competitions before this year, but I’ve gained a ton of confidence having been selected for a monthly feature by Lee Filters, collected third prize in a Visit Marin competition, and now this recognition. I’m also really grateful for the encouragement from Allison too. Now I’m looking forward to what 2019 has in store.
This year I’ve had a lot to be thankful for, so on a very autumnal Thanksgiving weekend it was great to #optoutside and enjoy much that I have to be grateful for.
Shooting an image for the Mill Valley Click-Off competition really tested me! For my first attempt I went up Mount Tamalpais looking for a dramatic sunset image. The cloud cover made it difficult, and while I got a couple of images I liked in color, I didn’t manage to get one that felt right in black and white.
On my second stop I headed to San Pablo Bay looking for a sunrise shot. That got off to a bad start as the clocks went back that night and I mis-timed daybreak by an hour. Conditions weren’t great either and I new my window of opportunity for the competition was closing.
My third attempt was at Black Sands Beach in the Marin Headlands. I found a great composition, but the tide was moving in fast. Every time I got set up and began my long exposure a rogue wave would surge up the beach. I had a few lucky escapes with my camera until one wave drenched me up to the waist and my camera got soaked. I was very lucky it still worked the next morning.
In a final, desperate attempt I went back to Black Sands Beach the next day. I like the additional layer of meaning with black sand and white water on the theme of a black and white and white image. I’ll share the results of that image soon.
I recently entered a photography competition, the Mill Valley Click-Off. Competitors are randomly assigned a category by drawing a theme from a hat. My theme was ‘Black and White’. I was pretty enthusiastic about this as I could still shoot the kind of photos I love to take and have been evolving as style around, but It’s been years since I shot in black and white so it give me a chance to take it in a new direction.
The competition rules state that the photo needed to be taken in Marin County between two dates, so selecting something from my archive wouldn’t work. I thought it would be fun though to take some of my past images and revisit them in black and white for inspiration and get a better sense of what might work. Here’s a few of my favorites.
From the desert to the mountains in one week was quite a contrast. Winter is definitely on the way along the Tioga Pass Road in Yosemite. It was worth braving the cold though for these views from Tuolumne Meadows.
Joshua Tree is a long drive from the Bay Area, but with a spare weekend I took a notion to go down there and try to photograph something different. It wasn’t as fruitful a trip as I planned, but, even with getting a bunch of cactus needles jammed in my leg, I’m still glad I went. It’s always special to see the Milky Way.
Today, up at Point Reyes, I pulled over at the side of the road and got my car firmly stuck in a ditch. Nothing I tried worked and I only succeeded in getting the wheels stuck further. There was no signal on my phone either so I had to walk across a few fields to reach a dairy farm and ask to use their phone. The one person working showed me to the office and I called AAA.
By the time they arrived and pulled me out I was tired, dusty, and frustrated. I was so close to calling it a day and going home, but something told me to keep going, and I’m so glad I did. I saw two norther harriers; one hunting low over a field, the other in a bush. For the second I waited patiently and caught it looking straight at the camera during takeoff. If that hadn’t been enough I came across a herd of elk, and coyote sleeping in a field. He got up, scratched, bathed, and went back to being a badass. Not bad for a day I almost quit on.
On a couple of occasions recently I’ve gone to Point Reyes to see what I could photograph, but it’s been the drive home through Inverness and Nicasio where I’ve been really inspired.
Point Reyes never disappoints. Some days I go up there and all the wildlife in the area comes out to say hello, and sometimes I’m just pausing to take a landscape shot, but even if nothing is leaping out at me it’s still a special place to be for a few hours. Luckily today there was a some inspiring wildlife and landscape opportunities.
San Francisco is an amazing city, but my favorite thing about it might be its location. Just drive and hour or two in any direction and you'll stumble across any number of scenic locations. The fact that Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Pescadero isn't even that well know is a testament to how beautiful California is.
This is the best time of year to explore Mount Tam and the Marin Headlands, with fog rolling in almost every day.
In all the time I've been exploring the Marin Headlands I can't believe I'd never visited Muir Beach Overlook before. This is a location I'll be visiting again.
Monterey might be a tourist trap, but there's a reason. The landscape all down the coast is just stunning, and the animals who live there are incredible. My favorite thing, however, is the way the ocean clouds often diffuse the sunlight and cast everything in a dreamy haze.
Pinnacles isn't, at first glance, the most picturesque of National Parks. The rock formations are often bleached in the sunlight, and the caves have challenging light conditions for photography. And while the condors are truly amazing creatures, they have the kind of faces only a mother could love. But as the sun goes down and the animals appear it's a fun place to be, and when the stars fill the night sky, it's awe-inspiring.
I must have visited Rodeo Beach ten to twenty times to take photos, and it seems like every time I go there's more photographers setting up tripods with the same hope of capturing something special. It's always fascinating to see what everyone is doing differently to get the image that appeals to them.
For me though, the most interesting thing is how it changes over time. The tide might be high or low, the weather clear or not, and the sun setting in a different spot. At certain times of year the sea seems to dump much more sand around the rocks than at others, so even the makeup of the landscape changes frequently. It makes it worth returning to old haunts.