What better way to kill time whilst stuck on a long haul flight than to write some random photography related nonsense as to what I have been up to recently? Probably a lot of things, but that’s not going to stop me, so here comes the first of several blog posts about various places and images. As an introduction, I was lucky enough recently to be able to take 3 months off work. My day job in management consulting is generally pretty good. It’s very interesting and keeps me out of trouble, but it’s also very demanding and leaves me with no time during the week to do much of anything photography related, and sometimes weekends too. What this means is that when I do get the occasional weekend when I can go out and take photos I have to pray for good weather, which almost never works. I’ve been itching for a while to take some more time off to just travel and focus on photography to see if I can put together something a bit more coherent than just shots that I like from disparate places.
So then, what to do with this time off? I’ve wanted to go to Oregon for a long time. The coast, the Columbia River Gorge, the rainforests…it all looked amazing. More on that later, as the best way to get there seemed to be a little road trip starting in San Francisco. I’ve been there a number of times before but my girlfriend hadn’t, and it’s such a great place I didn’t mind going back. So we started there for a few days, no photography, just exploring the city and eating well.
After that it was time to start the driving. We headed north up the coast towards Oregon, with the first destination just a one night stop in small sleepy town called Klamath which sits in between the various stretches of Redwoods National Park. I’ve got to say I really misjudged this area of California. I expected the redwood parks to be nice enough and the trees to be pretty big, but not as much so as they turned out to be. I viewed this as a stop off on the way to the good stuff, but in reality we could have spent 3-4 days in this area easily. The towns are not exactly pretty or exciting, but the parks are incredible. Huge trees with deep red trunks and subtle dark greens with vibrant moss and lichen hanging all over the place. It’s where they filmed the parts of Return of the Jedi set on Endor and you can see why. In the mornings the area is often covered in fog rolling in from the coast or there is at least a decent chance of mist forming in the forests. I only had one morning so stopped off in Del Norte Redwoods at sunrise as the beams were beginning to burst through the canopy. They hung around for about 30 mins giving me an opportunity to move around a bit and pick my shots. I found the place to look almost prehistoric, so focussed on a large tusk of a dead tree trunk piercing the forest.
From here we headed up to Oregon for an eight day tour of the state (will follow in a later post), before returning back to California via Mount Shasta (which is a pretty boring place actually) and back to San Francisco. With a few days to kill after my girlfriend had departed for home I went for a drive about. First stop was Bodega Bay, a small seaside town about 90 mins North of San Francisco. I didn’t really know what I’d find there but it was the setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, so figured it would be suitably interesting. It didn’t disappoint. On arrival at about 5pm the whole seaside town was blanketed in thick fog, which generally makes incredible conditions for photography. I wandered around happy as can be for a good few hours until sunset, focussing on simple minimalist compositions, some of which I am very happy with. By the time I was done all the restaurants seemed to be shut, so I had an amazing dinner of a large cookie and half a bag of crisps in my hotel room. Gourmet eh?
Following this I decided to drive down to Big Sur and investigate the coastline, staying in Monteray (where they have an amazing aquarium). The route from Monteray to Big Sur is simply spectacular. Vertiginous cliffs with incredible beaches and rocky outcrops. Maybe it’s something about the way the weather systems work there, but both days were overcast and uninspiring, only to completely light on fire at sunset and provide two of the best sunsets I have ever seen. For the first evening I simply wasn’t expecting it. I visited McWay falls which is a picturesque spot but there’s really only one shot here which is a postcard view and more a collectors item than anything new.
On the second evening I was prepared and headed down to Pfeiffer Beach. As the sky darkened with complete cloud coverage I stood in my spot for a composition I had lined up, then all of a sudden the sky went crazy. I took my shot (below) and then ran around the beach like a mad man trying to find more compositions in the blazing sky. In recent times I have tended to move away from shooting sunsets and seascapes. I just feel it’s too simplistic a style of photography, very much the obvious shot rather than something individual, but when the opportunity presents itself it’s still enjoyable to have a go.
I have mixed feelings about the shot below, I quite like it but the sky looks almost fake despite being very real. In all honesty I have barely altered the colours or intensity here. I pulled the exposure back a touch as the sky was about 1 stop brighter than the rock but that’s more or less it. In case anyone is interested as to how much editing goes on after you get the shot on your computer, you can see a RAW file with minor exposure edits on the top vs. the final processed shot on the bottom, and all the LR sliders are at zero apart from shadows and highlights. Unsurprisingly the processed JPEG looks a bit punchier due to playing with contrast and so on in PS, but in reality it was just an incredible sky. In the weeks following taking this I had plenty of interesting discussions with some fellow photographers about how much editing is acceptable. Maybe I’ll write something on that another time.
After those two killer evenings it was time to head back to San Francisco to catch my plane to Denver for a trip to the Colorado Rockies. I had one last night in SF where I went down to watch the Giants baseball game. Even in SF the light didn’t disappoint at sunset so I snapped a quick panorama on my phone of the view from my seat whilst waiting for the game to start. The Giants won but unfortunately just missed out on the playoffs.