Travels and Stories

The Wild Coast

Waves, fog, and sea stacks, northern California coast, USA

Waves, fog, and sea stacks, northern California coast. High coastal stratus is common along the California coast, but low fog like this is more unusual. I used those conditions to create a soft-on-soft look to this photo, with a six-second shutter speed smoothing out the waves, and the fog obscuring the background. 168mm, 6 seconds at f/16, ISO 100, 7-stop ND filter.

As much as I love the redwood forests, the rugged, rocky coastline of northern California is just as beautiful, and just as essential to the character of this region. You can go from the windy, noisy, wide-open expanses of the coast to the calm, quiet, dense forests in minutes, and the transition is breathtaking. Along many trails through the redwoods you can hear the surf in the distance – while watching the fog roll in off the ocean and into the woods. To me, it’s the close proximity and interaction between the ocean and forests that creates the wonderful, wild mood of this place.

This coastline features innumerable rocks and sea stacks, as the ocean gradually erodes softer rocks, leaving harder rocks stranded offshore. Part of the challenge in photographing these scenes is figuring out where to stand in order to arrange those rocks in a compelling way within the frame.

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Return to the Redwoods

Young and old redwoods, northern California, USA

Young and old redwoods, Northern California. Soft sunlight filtering through the fog added a beautiful and unusual mood to this scene, and I loved the juxtaposition of young and old trees. 25mm, 1/6 sec. at f/16, ISO 800.



Until last year, Claudia and I had visited the redwood forests of northern California nine years in a row. The pandemic interrupted that streak, but in late May this year we were able to return once again, and spent almost two weeks in the area.

It was great to be back, as I love this part of the world. While Yosemite has been my home, both physically and spiritually, for over 35 years, returning to the redwoods also feels like coming home. It’s a much different environment – damp, cool, foggy, lush, and overgrown – and that’s what I love about it. Many places look like they could be sets from a Jurassic Park movie (which, of course, they were). It’s not hard to imagine dinosaurs roaming this terrain.

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Breaking Through

Oak and grasslands at sunset, Sierra Nevada foothills, CA, USA

Oak and grasslands at sunset, Sierra Nevada foothills, California. 31mm, five frames blended with Lightroom’s HDR Merge, each frame at f/11, ISO 100.

While looking through my photographs from last year, I realized there were many images that I hadn’t had a chance to post before.

One of those was this photograph of a lone oak at sunset in the Sierra foothills. I made this on April 6th, during the first lockdown. Yosemite was closed, and we couldn’t travel outside our county, but Claudia and I felt lucky to live in the Sierra foothills, where we could easily drive to some beautiful spots without encountering any other people. We explored and photographed places we hadn’t been to before, and it was fun discovering these new locations in our backyard.

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Canyon Mood

Dusk light, Grand Canyon NP, AZ, USA

Dusk light, Grand Canyon, Arizona

In a recent post I described how Claudia and I made a spur-of-the-moment detour to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We arrived in the afternoon, and spent the rest of the day checking out various viewpoints.

As sunset approached we had just enough light to check out one more spot. We made it there just after sunset, and in the gathering dusk I thought the light in the canyon to the west was exquisite: soft, with a beautiful backlit glow, and a slight haze to add atmosphere and depth.

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North Rim

Morning sunlight from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, AZ, USA

Morning sunlight from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona. I used the “thumb technique” to reduce flare in this image; see the post for more details.

On our road trip last month Claudia and I found ourselves in Kanab, Utah. We cooked breakfast at a picnic table in a small park in town, and discussed our next move. There are a lot of options from Kanab. Should we head to Zion? Detour east toward the Paria River area? Drive the Cottonwood Canyon Road?

And then I thought, we’re pretty close to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. And neither of us had ever been there. So the North Rim it was.

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Autumn Light

First light on aspens, Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison NF, CO, USA

First light on aspens, Colorado. I waited for the sun to come up over a ridge and rake across this hillside, thinking that the first light catching the tops of the trees might be interesting. This turned out to be one of my favorite images from the trip. 297mm, 1/45th sec. at f/11, ISO 100.

After photographing fall color in northern Utah, and then having our course deflected toward Dinosaur National Monument, Claudia and I did finally make our way to the aspen groves in Colorado.

As we were quickly discovering on this trip, the pandemic has made outdoor recreation especially popular this fall, so well-known spots were busier than usual, and campsites hard to come by.

But there are lots of aspens in Colorado. Millions of them. If you’re in Colorado at elevations between 8,000 and 10,000 feet, there are bound to be aspens nearby. We didn’t have a particular timetable, so we looked at maps, picked out some likely spots, and just went.

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