Posted on September 11, 2020
The Idea for this journey began during the (almost) endless lockdown the South Bay. And not just beaches. I couldn’t even hike the Peninsula or photograph the tidal pools that are just down the hill. The planned photo trip to Scotland, a distant memory. I decided that once I could, I needed to get myself out into nature. Someplace different, away from crowds and rules. I was thinking photo road trip, further away than the Southwest or Big Sur, closer than Scotland.
I settled on the Pacific Northwest. Not hard to get to, a minimum of logistical hassle. Just fly up to SeaTac, rent a car, go west on the Olympic Peninsula till I hit the Pacific — then drive south 1,300 miles. Taking a few days in each area to shoot whatever interested me, then head south another 50-100 miles and plant myself in the next cool spot … Rialto Beach, Cannon Beach, Cape Kiwanda, Heceta Head, … , for 3 1/2 weeks.
One rule on the journey was to stay safe — follow the guidelines, take the same care I would in LA County, even thought this section of coastline was one of the safest in the country. I knew there would be some enormous hassles, lots of restaurants closed, state parks closed, masks everywhere — till you’re out in nature. Then you can breath in ocean air and remember what it’s like to compose an image.
The Northwestern Coast, it turns out is even more than I imagined. Quiet dunes, sea stacks, ancient lava, waves painting pastel beaches, all surrounded by old growth forest. It was just what the soul required. There were other tourists, mostly folks from Oregon or Washington. And everyone seemed to enjoy the cliffs and hidden beaches without too much worry about Covid. The entire journey was a rediscovering one’s center in nature, color and the pursuit of good light.
My work treats the camera as a starting point. The file provides a high def blueprint, classically composed, of shot locations I’m intrigued by. And in post, I explore the deeper layers and nuances that exist beyond the muddy shadows and flatness the camera gives. My post production acknowledges the way the camera captures light, color and movement in time but also remembers the mythic power of the Hudson River School and ancient Chinese landscape painting. Ultimately, I want to immerse the viewer in a feeling, a immersion in Nature that’s purely my own — my own sense of texture, design … harmony.
Each artist makes post production choices. Even the guy who gets the file out of camera and goes straight to PRINT is making a choice. If you shoot Raw, you make plenty of choices since the file starts off bland and murky. We landscape shooters (mostly) shoot Raw anyway because the format stores three times the amount of light/color info. So the algorithmic software tools are part of the process.
As a landscape photo artist, I use post as part of a personal path. That camera has one eye, not two. Canon’s one eye sees half what I can in the dark shadows, half as much nuance in the sky. So I put that file on the Photoshop table and shape it like a director might in turning script into play.
I don’t add stuff that isn’t there at pixel level, no composites. But I touch each image as a painter would, adding layers, creating an interior world using brushes Ansel never imagined.
In ancient India, a good work of art should capture the flavor breath of human experience, the rasa, in its parts and whole. So a pieced of landscape art created by the artist’s hand would evoke the essential nature of that place. The sound of waves on the beach, the dampness of earth, the texture of brambles and of wildflowers … the pleasure of a morning on the Olympic Peninsula.
That’s the challenge. To capture the flavors of that pastel beach using a photog’s crude tools.
Water flowing through time, over wet stones and soft moss on a sunny morning.
At moments we become fused with light, as we walk through panes of wet color, towards that golden chamber.
One of my watercolorist friends wondered how a pastel could be so … amazingly detailed. I guess what I do is bend the visual notes in the direction of a different genre. Like how a blues harpist might bend a note. But it’s not so people will say, “Oh, it looks like a painting.” No, I want to evoke painting’s depth, texture, techniques, in order to capture the inner dimension of a place and time. Inner experience in a 50 MP file. Somehow, when I mix the two genres, the viewer enters a more imaginative realm. A tone poem, a visual haiku.
Another lighthouse picture. How trite. At sunset. But there’s something real going on. A raw-edged coastline, waves driven by the wind. The glow of a fresnel light, a beacon for those in peril on the sea.
This place wasn’t in the travel books or covered on Instagram. It was a road pull-off for the Hemlock Road Overlook a five second shot. Till your mind says, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”
Posted on September 7, 2020
The very bottom of the state has some of the most impressive moments of any in Oregon. Just above Brookings is a warren of trails and coves surrounded by dense forest. It’s a lot to take in folks can spend a week getting . And north of that are more expansive of the rough cut beaches, Gold and Meyers River, barely inhabited spots trimmed with dunes and native grasses and the iconic coastal rock outcrops.
Posted on September 1, 2020
On the southern side of the Oregon Coast, Bandon Beach is a standout. The beach seems endlessly long but it’s got plenty of areas to explore thanks to the distinctive sea stacks like Wizard’s Hat and Face Rock. I found myself starting by shooting from the long bluff above the beach then heading down to explore the sea stacks more closely while I moved in and out depending on the flow of tides. And it doesn’t hurt that all this beauty is no more than a few minutes from lodgings and restaurants.
Posted on August 30, 2020
For anyone driving the Oregon coast who’s interested in photography, Cape Kiwanda is a must see. This state preserve located on the outskirts of Pacific City, is one of the most distinctive geological areas along the coast. The limestone cliffs are like sculptures shaped by thousands of years of wave action. And the Cape’s color palette works beautifully against the deep blue of the Pacific. I spent two full days shooting here and farther north around Walden Island and wished I had spent longer.
Posted on July 24, 2016
Before my recent Monterey Peninsula photo tour, I spent the evening down at the Carmel city beach. The town spreads out like an amphitheater around the beach and mostly gets used by residents once the tourist influx leaves in late afternoon. By sunset, folks are walking their dogs or taking in the view.
The Golden Hour. I believe the house on the cliff was designed by a son of Frank Lloyd Wright.
I perched on this rock for a while just breathing in the moment. There was a guy from Switzerland (who lives in Australia), we chatted as the sun headed lower.
The last peek of the sun pulled me off my rocky perch. By this point in the evening the color palette gets simple, yellow-orange and deep blue. So I began to play more with color and shape.
Head uphill above the beach and you get a more expansive moment.
Here’s another variation of the shot — more zoomed in to make the pool of water in the foreground the center of attention.
The shot of the surfer taken after sunset is even simpler.