Showing posts with label Point Reyes National Seashore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Point Reyes National Seashore. Show all posts

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Five days in Point Reyes National Seashore

An overcast sunset at North Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore
An overcast sunset casts a pastel glow over the landscape at North Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore.

In June, I had the opportunity to take a trip to relax and focus on photography for a few days. It had been almost two years since I was last in California, so I decided to spend those 5 days photographing and hiking around my favorite park, Point Reyes National Seashore. While early June isn't necessarily what I would consider prime time for photography in Point Reyes, I had an exceptional trip and came back with a number of photographs that I’m rather excited about. The wildflowers were really putting on a show (especially the wild radish and yellow bush lupine), the tule elk were looking handsome in their summer velvet, quail were running around all over the place, and I even had a nice encounter with a bobcat.

It was a truly refreshing experience to be back in a place that I love so dearly and to have the chance to focus so much contiguous time on experiencing the park through photography. Each morning I rolled out of bed with the first light under the fog and spent as long as possible photographing wildlife under the overcast skies. Then as the harsh light of the midday sun finally broke through, I'd pack away my camera and head out for a long hike. I hit up a number of trails that I had never hiked on during my five years of frequenting the park while I was in California, so it was great to experience new aspects of an old friend. Then as the sun started dropping, or the fog started rolling back in, I'd start searching for wildlife again.

I came back with a ton of pictures which are partially sorted and processed so far. You can drop by my Point Reyes National Seashore Special Collections to see my new work as I upload it, and I'm hoping to post new images here on the blog with a regular rhythm over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Windblown tule elk at sunset, Point Reyes National Seashore

Windblown tule elk at sunset, Point Reyes National Seashore

This is another selection from my Favorite Photographs of 2012 that I had not blogged about previously. The light was magical on this last evening of my September trip to California. I was watching this herd of tule elk along the road to Drake's Beach, but as the sun started creeping towards the horizon, I had plans to catch the sunset overlooking the Great Beach from the lighthouse. After capturing my planned images there (and nearly getting blown over in the process by those Point Reyes winds), I drove back to watch this grazing herd of tule elk in the fading pastels of dusk.

View more photos of tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Caspian terns, Point Reyes National Seashore

Caspian tern touching down in Point Reyes National Seashore

On an overcast morning during the summer of 2011, I found a sizeable flock of Caspian terns relaxing on the exposed mudflats of the Estero de Limantour in Point Reyes National Seashore. In my experience, terns can be somewhat difficult to approach, since they are quick to fly away. However, this flock was amenable to a ground-level approach. As I crawled towards them across the sand, something spooked the flock and they all took flight. Much to my delight, they circled around a few times and landed closer to my position.

View more photos from the Limantour area of Point Reyes National Seashore.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Great Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore

The Great Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore reflecting warm sunset colors

This image of the Great Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore at sunset was one that I had always intended to make while I was living in California. Somehow though, I never found myself near the lighthouse around sunset -- so I specifically added this shot to my to-do list for my September trip to Point Reyes. This view looking north from the lighthouse parking lot is a very common vantage point for photographers, but the sight of the last rays of the day lighting up the sandstone bluffs is well worth it. Even though I would have worked this scene regardless of the conditions, I was excited to see the wave-like patterns in the sand.

View more landscape photographs of Point Reyes National Seashore.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Goldfinch on the fence, Point Reyes National Seashore

Female goldfinch on an old fence rail in Point Reyes National Seashore

While I was preparing for my talk at the PSA conference last month, I spent some time digging through my archives. I have a ton of images from California that were only partially sorted and processed, and it was a lot of fun to relive some of my trips to Point Reyes National Seashore. While there were plenty of images that I passed over for a reason the first time, I came across a handful that I was excited to find again. I typically save any image that is sharp, just because you never know when you'll see the advantage of a new or different composition within the frame. I passed over this image many times before, since in the full frame, the fence dominated the image. Eventually though, the light bulb finally turned on for me, and I saw the potential in using a 20x10 aspect ratio.

This lovely female goldfinch was perched on a lichen-covered fence railing in the Tomales Point parking lot in Point Reyes National Seashore. There's a male sitting just outside the left edge of the frame that she's intentionally ignoring as he tried to court her. It goes against my usual tendency to prefer subjects that are looking into the frame, but for some reason, this "rule-breaker" works for me.

View more of my song bird images.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Coyote on Tomales Point, Point Reyes National Seashore

Coyote on Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore

I had the chance to spend a few brief days in California recently, and it felt great to be back. I was invited to give a talk at the annual Photographic Society of America conference, which was in San Francisco this year, and I enjoyed the chance to share a collection of my favorite wildlife images from my time as a resident of the Golden State. It had been over a year since I had left California, and at first it felt a little weird to be a tourist in the Bay Area. I headed straight for Point Reyes National Seashore on my first evening though, and the feeling of home quickly came rushing back!

This shot is of a friendly coyote I met one morning along the Tomales Point Trail. By friendly, I mean that it didn't directly run down the hill to disappear -- it first gave me about two minutes to get off a shot. Quite a handsome specimen though, and yes, that's a tule elk watching the scene unfold in the background.

View more photos from Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Velvet buck after sunset, Point Reyes National Seashore

Mule deer buck with velvet antlers in tall grass

I typically preferred to do my photography at sunrise in Point Reyes. There's something so special about being out in the cool morning air as the first rays of light break the horizon. Plus, I could very often have most of the park, or at least my trail of interest, more or less to myself if I arrived at dawn. Every now and then though, the promise of the warm sunset colors was a lure enough to keep me from having dinner at home, and instead catching a sunset in the park. On this particular evening in June 2011, I spent a long time hiking in thick fog on Tomales Point during the evening hours (so much for the warm sunset colors!). As I drove out of the park around what would have been sundown, the skies gradually cleared as I neared the Bear Valley Visitor's Center. I decided to take a swing through the parking lot for a quick chance at finding some quail, and I came across a small herd of mule deer grazing in the tall summer grasses on the hillside. After the sun had dropped below the trees, I captured this buck browsing in the glowing grasses of dusk.

View more of my mule deer photos.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sanderling stands alone, Point Reyes National Seashore

Sanderling stands alone on sand reflecting an overcast sky

A sanderling in transitional breeding plumage stands in the wet sand on an overcast morning last August in Point Reyes National Seashore.

View more photos of sanderlings.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Flock of sandpipers, Point Reyes National Seashore

Flock of sandpipers landing on Limantour Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore

It's been an eventful couple of months since I last posted to my blog (including starting my exciting new job with the Environmental Sciences & Engineering program at Harvard!), and I'm feeling the need to start sharing my creative vision again. While I have had only very limited photographic productivity so far in 2012 (and really, it was just in the first few months of the year), I still have a back log of hundreds of images from California and our trip through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks waiting to be shared. In addition to sitting on some of my favorites from these trips, I've also spent some time over the past few months mining through old folders looking for images that were once overlooked -- like this one of a flock of shorebirds on Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore. I'm looking forward to getting out again for the fall shorebird migration, but until I have some new images from coastal Massachusetts, I hope you enjoy some travels through my archives.

More photos from Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vernal equinox or summer solstice?

Spotted towhee perched in wildflowers in Point Reyes National Seashore

I'm not sure what happened to winter, but it seems like spring has decided to follow suit. On this first day after the vernal equinox, it sure feels an awful lot like summer. The windows are open and we're expecting high temperatures in the low 80s over the next few days in the Boston area. While I might have liked to have a bit more snow for my first winter back in the Northeast, I'm not going to complain about these unseasonably warm temps. It's a nice treat to bring my shorts out of the closet in March, and the warm morning air does make me feel a bit like this happy spotted towhee that I photographed singing among the wildflowers of Point Reyes National Seashore last summer.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fog rolls over Inverness Ridge, Point Reyes National Seashore

Fog rolls over Inverness Ridge, Point Reyes National Seashore

In my post of a killdeer at sunrise a few days ago, I mentioned that I watched the fog roll over the evergreen forests of Inverness Ridge before continuing to Limantour Beach on my first trip to Point Reyes in 2011. This is some of that fog. It was beautiful to watch, as the rolling motion of the moisture-laden air was clearly visible, and the patterns change by the moment. Even more stunning was that about 20 minutes before I took this photo full of cool morning colors, the sky appeared to be on fire with the first light of the day.

View more images of the scenic beauty of this awesome park in my Point Reyes Landscapes Gallery.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Killdeer at sunrise, Point Reyes National Seashore

Killdeer in dew covered grass at Point Reyes National Seashore

One of the most fun parts of spending years photographing wildlife in Point Reyes National Seashore was that I never knew what subjects I would find on a given day. Sure, I always came up with a plan of what I would be targeting as I drove through Marin County to arrive at a trailhead before sunrise, but a lot of my best work was from the luck of finding something unexpected along the way. On this particular morning, I had hoped to photograph shorebirds on the beach of Limantour Spit for my first trip to Point Reyes in 2011. Instead, I was treated to an amazingly colorful sunrise over the thick fog blanketing the rest of the park. After spending some time watching the fog roll over Inverness Ridge, I continued on to my targeted destination and pulled into the Limantour Beach parking lot. As I got out of the car into the cool (and so refreshing) early morning air of Point Reyes, I was greeted by the call of two plovers in the dew covered grass nearby. I quickly grabbed my camera out of the car and set to work photographing these beautiful shorebirds in the morning light. As the killdeer eventually started crossing the pavement, I left them behind and headed to the beach with their calls to each other still echoing behind me.

View more photos of one of my favorite areas of Point Reyes National Seashore in my Limantour Beach Gallery.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Overcast snowy plover, Point Reyes National Seashore

Western snowy plover in Point Reyes National Seashore

In keeping with the theme of my previous two posts, here is another shot pulled from the archives of an awesome trip I took to Point Reyes National Seashore in February of last year. This series of images illustrates part of why I love Point Reyes so much -- because I could start out my day being surrounded by a herd of tule elk, then have time to cruise through the park to see a kestrel, a skunk, and a bobcat along the roads, before ending up on Limantour Spit to photograph shorebirds including sanderlings and western snowy plovers like this one. While all of these shots lacked the magic light of the golden hour, Point Reyes taught me to truly appreciate overcast skies for wildlife photography. If the marine layer fog hadn't kept the sky covered throughout the morning, I would have been ready to leave the park after seeing the elk and losing the nice light to ugly blue skies. Instead, this wonderful diffuse light stayed around all morning, and I was able to keep shooting all the way up until it was time to head home in time to have lunch with my wife.

View more photos of these adorable shorebirds in my Plovers Gallery.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tule elk overlooking the ocean, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk overlooking the Pacific Ocean

This shot of a young bull tule elk is from the same trip to Point Reyes National Seashore as my previous post. Since this image was taken in February the rut was long over, but this young bull thought he was king of this large harem of females. I had seen his antlers rise over the hillside first, and waited for him to appear along the hill crest. This image is a great example of one of my favorite aspects of photographing tule elk at Point Reyes -- the ability to include the ocean as the backdrop. Along Drake's Beach, I've even seen elk hoof-prints in the sand, but I was never lucky enough to have a chance to photograph an elk right in front of the breakers.

View more photographs of elk and other wildlife on Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Soft tule elk ears, Point Reyes National Seashore

Portrait of a female tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore

Earlier this week I took a little time to browse through some unsorted images from a few trips I had taken to Point Reyes National Seashore in early 2011. I had some really great outings during the winter there, and this particular trip was a real highlight. I saw a wide array of wildlife, from shorebirds to kestrels, skunks to bobcats, and of course, tule elk. On this cold morning there was a slight chance for ground level snow in the higher elevations of the Point Reyes peninsula, so I was out there for sunrise in the hope of finding such a rare scene before my lens. It turned out that it had only rained overnight, but the wildlife was incredible in the cool morning air.

I saw a large herd of tule elk near the road on Tomales Point, so I pulled my car off onto the shoulder and sat to watch them. In just a few minutes time, the whole herd had surrounded my car, and I was able to get an intimate view of their daily life. I rolled down all of my windows, and moved from seat to seat in the car for over a half hour before they slipped down a nearby hillside. It's such a privilege to be so close to a group of large animals like this, and I really enjoyed the chance to take some detailed portraits of the elk. In this shot, her head looks so soft and fluffy that I want to reach out and give her a scratch behind the ears (not literally of course, no good would come from trying that).

View many more images of tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore in my Tule Elk Gallery.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Quail for the new year, Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail on coyote brush with branches behind in Point Reyes National Seashore

On my first photography outing in 2011, I had a nice encounter with a California quail in Point Reyes National Seashore, and it turned out to be a great year of quail images for me. Since I haven't made it out with my camera yet in 2012, I thought I'd post a few shots of a quail in honor of my unofficial "Year of the Quail" last year.

Quail perched on coyote brush near Abbott's Lagoon

These two shots are of the same bird in the same bush just moments apart, and I couldn't decide between them as to which I liked more. I decided to include both as another example of why its a good idea to rotate the lens when you have a cooperative subject. Each image has its own feel -- to me, the vertical frame is more about the bird and the horizontal is more about the quail as part of its environment -- yet they were taken just moments apart.

View more images of California quail in my Quail Gallery.

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- Follow the link to check out this week's posts!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quail along the fence, Point Reyes National Seashore

California quail on a fencepost with barbed wire

A male California quail perched on top of a fence post in Point Reyes National Seashore. This quail is from the same trip as my previous post of the peeking sparrow, and I found the quail along the road to Drake's Beach. I have often seen quail dotting the fence posts along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard on my way to the outer reaches of the Point Reyes Peninsula, but it was fairly uncommon to see them along the short road to Drake's Beach. Perhaps its because there is not as much scrub vegetation out there, as its mostly pastures.

California quail are of my favorite species to photograph -- view more photos of these lovely birds in my Quail Gallery.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Peeking Sparrow, Point Reyes National Seashore

White-crowned sparrow peeking out from behind coyote brush

A white-crowned sparrow peeks over the branches of a coyote bush along the Abbott's Lagoon Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore last June. This shot is from a terrific early summer day spent in the park. There was a late-season rain system moving through the area that would bring rain later that day, so the sky was filled with gorgeous purple clouds and nice diffuse light.

View more photographs of sparrows in my Song Birds Gallery.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Young bull tule elk, Point Reyes National Seashore

Young bull tule elk in tall grass on a foggy day

I finally started going through the images from my final trip to Point Reyes National Seashore before moving to Massachusetts. On many occasions I had glanced at the folder in Lightroom, but couldn't bring myself to seriously go through my last set of new images from my favorite place in the world until yesterday. My wife accompanied me for my last trip to Point Reyes two days before we left California, and we decided to start with a hike along the Tomales Point Trail with the hope of photographing some rutting tule elk. As you can see, the day greeted us with the characteristic fog of Point Reyes, and really, no weather could have been more appropriate! That park taught me to love the fog, and especially the quiet solitude that it brings, and I spent so many mornings walking this trail hoping that the fog would lift just enough for photographs.

This was my favorite shot from the day, since there is a fair amount of emotion to the pose of the bull elk -- much like we were at the time, he was sensing the wind and deciding which direction to go (of course, his decision was based simply on the availability of female elk). Otherwise, I didn't get too many images that I was very happy with from this trip. We spent a fair amount of time watching a large bull guard his harem, and were able to listen to him bugle at many rival males in the area, but the images lacked the clarity that I favor due to the amount of moisture in the air. No regrets though -- Point Reyes gave me more than my fair share of favorite photographs over the years, it was wonderful to spend one last morning in the park with my wife. Even though I'm not sure when I'll make it back, I am already looking forward to greeting the sunrise (or a thick layer of fog) the next time I'm able to be in Point Reyes!

The tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore are fantastic photographic subjects and you can view more in my Tule Elk Gallery.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Point Reyes National Seashore, My Happy Place

A firey sunrise over Inverness Ridge in Point Reyes National Seashore
The sunrise over Inverness Ridge in Point Reyes National Seashore.

The Point Reyes Peninsula is a very special place to me. It’s where I go to relax, it’s where I clear my thoughts, it’s where I feel so alive as the breeze touches my face or the scents of the coast reach my nose. When I close my eyes and let my mind drift to my happy place, it’s always Point Reyes.

There is something about the landscape there that captivates me. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it is. There are so many amazing places in California, some well known and still spectacular (i.e., Yosemite National Park) and some under the radar that can be just as amazing (pick any beach along the Sonoma Coastline). But yet, as I realized that my time was running short in California, and that I would only be able to visit my favorite places or try out new ones just a handful of times, all else was forgotten and my eyes (and my heart) were set on Point Reyes.

I think the landscape is beautiful, and I know I’m not the only one (it was even recently recognized on ABC’s Good Morning America during their segment on the 10 most beautiful places in the country) – but when I take a step back, set my emotions aside, and try to think about what makes it so special, it’s hard to say exactly what it is. Sure, the coastline is spectacular with gorgeous bluffs and long beaches of soft sand, but you can find this in other places. And perhaps surprisingly, a lot of the land is agricultural pastures, and you’ll often see far more cows than anything else on a trip. But somehow, that just makes sense there. And the miles upon miles of old weathered fences pull me in every time. I once thought to myself, there are so many interesting fence posts here, that if I had the time, I could make a photographic book of just the beautiful patterns in the wood, the interesting mosses and lichens growing on them, the wildflowers that bloom along them, the raptors and quail that sit on the posts, and the songbirds that so elegantly perch along the wire, and maybe, just maybe a deer or elk leaping over one.

Old fence along the dunes at North Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore
An old fence stretches along the dunes at North Beach

But set into this speckled land of fenced-off pastures are the rolling hills, the large sand dunes, and the small coastal mountains that add amazing depth and life to the landscape. Perhaps though for me, it’s not just that landscape that has gripped me so deeply. I know what wild things are out there, and the chance to spot one, and hopefully photograph one, always keeps me coming back for more.

So many times in the past few years, as I’m getting my camera ready the night before an outing, my wife will ask me where I’m headed the next morning. And with much regularity, I’ll say “Point Reyes.” She’ll often chuckle and reply, “Did I even have to ask?” It’s funny to me to realize that it took us a year of being in California to even take a hike there, but I can still remember that trip in much detail. After parking under a typical summer morning of heavy fog, we saw a quail for the first time near the trailhead, saw some tule elk off in the distance on a hillside, and we even saw a coyote (or maybe it was a grey fox?) through the binoculars. We sat on a large log that had long since turned into a piece of driftwood to eat our lunch along the beach, and we watched the pelicans skim the tops of the waves under the quiet foggy sky. Then, when we were ready to move on, we got back onto the trail, and the fog lifted and the blue skies came out – and we were in awe as we walked along the coast and saw the crystal clear sky reflected in the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Happy to be in Point Reyes
Me, excited to be in Point Reyes for the first time, but not yet knowing what this landscape would eventually mean to me.

While thinking about what I wanted to write in this post, I became curious about just how many times I’ve been to the park. A quick scan though my photo archives reveals that since our inaugural hike in 2006, I’ve been back to Point Reyes some 60 additional times. What is it that keeps pulling me back again and again? Shouldn’t I have gotten bored with walking the same trails, seeing the same sights, and driving the same roads?

A while back I read an interesting post on Greg Russell’s blog, which linked to a wonderful post about someone’s love of a specific desert landscape. In the comments, Greg replied back to me about how interesting it is that certain landscapes can capture the imagination and that he “thinks, perhaps, like choosing a mate; we need a fit with a complementary personality. Landscapes or people, it’s all the same…” This idea rang so true for me with Point Reyes.

Heavy fog over Kehoe Beach dunes in Point Reyes National Seashore
A foggy sunset along Kehoe Beach in 2007.

There is something in the personality of the park that just connects with me. I’ve been to many parks in California, and I’ve really enjoyed all of them. But there is just something so special to me about this one piece of land that it just keeps pulling me back. Perhaps it’s not worth my time to try to pinpoint what it is that I love about that park so much. But rather, just to enjoy the fact that I have a place that is so special to me, and that always makes me smile when I think of it. Point Reyes is my Happy Place, and I like to think that no matter how often or how little I’m able to visit throughout my lifetime, it will always give me that warm feeling of freedom inside my heart when thoughts of it cross my mind.

If you're interested to see more of Point Reyes, please visit my Point Reyes National Seashore Special Collections.