Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Oysters along the San Andreas

(Nick's Cove - Marshall, CA)

Yesterday, unexpectedly, I had my day of modest adventure. In the morning there was a parental announcement about workers being here at the house all day, something about carpet, so I decided to go on a day of driving around, maybe up the coast. I invited the boy and he happily decided to go along. I explained that all that I would be doing was driving around and taking pictures of things, whatever I saw that interested me, or us. So, that's what we did.

When we set out I gave the boy a healthy dose of opinion about photography. I explained that if we were going to create a travelogue that we would do ourselves a favor by creating either an establishing or expository shot, to show that our journey had a beginning.

We came up with these, taken at almost the same spot, with two different cameras and subjects:

The wide angle selfie was taken with the new Osmo Action camera. I have decided, almost prematurely, that the camera was a waste of money and that I should have bought the Olympus that I wanted. It takes images on par with the iPhone that I already own, without all the extra features of a phone, and it doesn't fit into my pocket nearly as easily. It is sold as much more of an action video camera than a stills camera, but still... If you look at the image above, shot in good light, you'll see the problem. The resolution is crap, even at ~20mb "RAW" files (they are DNG files, whose main attribute is only its presumed future compatibility, being an open source format).

After those, we decided that maybe an even better establishing shot was in order, though I do not believe we accomplished it with the below one.

What you are seeing there is the entirety of the Sonoma valley, or at least the portion that cradles the city of Sonoma and its surrounding hamlets. It was taken from the top of the hill at Viansa. The wetlands to the right are the beginning of the marsh that leads out to San Pablo Bay, one of the three bays that make up the SF bay area, past the ghost town of Wingo, through a large swath of land owned by the Navy, and then across Sonoma Creek, which can barely be seen towards the top of the image here and which also runs behind our house.   

We talked about how elevation increases the distance that you can see but how that extra distance is mostly just the little tiny strip at the horizon. There's a ratio, but I forget it, and it is mostly meaningless since the extra distance that can be seen exists outside of what the human eye can effectively make sense of. But from up here we could see the whole valley, just without all the pesky details. 

On we went, to China Camp State Park, where much more of the bay can be seen and where two of the three bays meet. 

A detail from the above landscape.

We talked about what makes images interesting. I touched on how, for me, beauty and decay are almost always related. I explained that I don't often do landscape photography of any kind, that I find humans photographically interesting, but that an occasional look around to orient yourself to and familiarize yourself with your surroundings is a good exercise. 

I tried to show him how what we choose to focus on, and how we move our bodies affects the outcome of an image, sometimes greatly.

And that sometimes the composition is as important as the subject of the image.

And that sometimes focusing on something that is midway between your actual subject and the details of the compositional background can make an image more interesting to the eye.

Why was I telling him all of this? I'm not sure, but he embraced the idea that sometimes to get a good image you must run and climb trees. That part seemed to be understood implicitly. 

On we went towards the mighty Pacific, with me artlessly discussing the idea of us trying to capture light in a meaningful way.

We arrived at the beach without shorts to swim. Neither of us had really considered what a day like this one might possibly become, but the ultra wide angle field of view of the new camera was proving its novelty usefulness.

It didn't take long for the boy to give up photography for the joys of sun and beach.

We spent the rest of the day driving with our pants bungie'd to the roof racks of the car, soaking and covered in beach sand. The boy didn't mind too much, he had a blanket with him, so he had a chance to dry out his underwear before we finally stopped for lunch. Less lucky, I did not want to have to explain to a cop why I was driving naked with a child in the back seat, so damp was how I went. 

By this time we weren't really stopping to photograph things any more, though there was plenty to look at. The land and water that separate the North American plate from the Pacific plate just on the other side of the water in several of these images, separated by the San Andreas fault, is a fascinating place visually, at least for me.

You can see the fault line in the image below, if you know where to look. It is what separates Marin from the Point Reyes National Seashore. One day those two pieces of land will be separate continents and there is nothing that anybody can do about it. If we had a flag with us then I would have planted it out on Bolinas, declaring it a sovereign territory of His Purple Mountain's Majesty. 

We drove a large approximate circle around the center of that map - from Sonoma, south to Muir Beach, up the US-1 to Tomales, then across the farmlands of Petaluma back to Sonoma. 

Who might guess that the crevice that leads to the end of our world runs just underneath that fishing boat.

Somehow the day ended with me not getting a single image that I like without at least some reservation, if not outright complaint, or outrage and dismissal. I was being careless and shooting without much concern, nor am I editing them with any chromatic continuity in mind. Not that it matters very much, then or now. Looking through the images I did what I like to do: document a day.

The boy seemed to embrace the idea of us just driving around and eating expensive oysters, taking pictures, and playing in the surf. We have no idea what is on the rolls of film that we shot, what fisheye mysteries may yet still emerge.

Next time: shorts and towels to further compliment the oysters and beer.