Cypress Sunset

SSA Photography (277 of 400)

I have observed many sunsets in California over the past three years.  The view west from my in-laws’ house peeks through the greenery to a patch of ocean and sky.  There was nothing particularly special about this night’s sunset.  The sky was a bit hazy, which somewhat amplified the corona, but there were no pinks or purples to speak of just above the horizon, as I had seen on a number of occasions.  Still, I managed to wrestle myself away from the others and stroll down to the path that runs along the ocean on Scenic Drive in Carmel-by-the-Sea.  I took a number of shots of the setting sun, but this one, framed by two yin and yang Monterey cypresses, was my favorite of the lot.

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The Lone Cypress

SSA Photography (238 of 400)

I often wonder how this iconic tree took root.  For those who don’t immediately recognize the scene, this is the “Lone Cypress” off the coast of Monterey, California.  This photograph was taken during the height of the Soberanes Fire southwest of here in the valleys just off the coast of Carmel and Big Sur.  Although likely surpassed by the recent Woolsey Fire, the Soberanes was the costliest wildfire in the history of California.  It coated everything in a thin layer of ash, and the smoke that hung thickly, almost unctuously in the air made shots of the coastline nigh impossible.  This photograph was taken towards the tail end of the trip, as the fire was winding down, and still the haze bled the details from the shot.

When the sun managed to pour through the thick air, the sky took on a burnt, sepia tone, which made every picture I took look like I had applied a strong filter to it.  The tree is at least 250 years old, and for the last 65 or so has been held in place by strong metal cables.  When I saw the cables in person, I thought that it was a supremely arrogant act by man to forestall the inevitable cycle of nature for the sake of Japanese tourists (and me) making a pilgrimage to gaze through chain-linked fence to snap an awkward photograph of the icon sitting on its outcropping, engirded as it is by a brick and mortar parapet.  But still, we come en masse, ogling the tree with a misplaced reverence.  When this one dies, as it will, it will be replaced with a fellow that I am certain is already being grown for its stead, like a Cardinal waiting in quiet for the Pope to abdicate.

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China Cove

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The colors of China Cove in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve are surreal.  The first time I saw China Cove was on a postcard in Carmel.  That postcard, and this photograph do not do justice to the emeralds and turquoises of the water, framed by dense, dark bull kelp.  I took this picture before I came into possession of a ultra wide angle lens, and so I am looking forward to capturing the whole cove when we go back to California next.

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As They Saw It

SSA Photography (249 of 400)

I have published many posts taken at Point Lobos, but none yet of the point itself.  Point Lobos is located a few miles south down the coast from Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, and it is one of our favorite destinations when we visit Carmel.  When I took this picture, I wanted to capture the ruggedness of the point as well as the grove of Monterey Cypresses, which as I mentioned in a previous post, is one of two groves left in the world where the cypresses grow naturally.  When I went to “develop” or post-process the photograph, and I decided to go monochromatic, I was struck by the similarities to postcards I had seen in town from the 1930s and 1940s.  The coastline remained the same, albeit a bit more worn by the waves.  They cypresses were just as withered and topped by the constant winds.  The great Californian poet Robinson Jeffers wrote extensively about the coastline in his verses, and as I gazed at the photograph, I thought to myself, this is as he would have seen it – hence the genesis of the title of the post.

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Cypress Bluff

SSA Photography (204 of 400)

This photograph of a solitary Monterey Cypress (Hesperocyparis Macrocarpa) was taken at Point Lobos in Carmel, California. The species is native to the central coast of California, but now is confined to two small relict populations – Cypress Point in Pebble Beach and Point Lobos.  The most famous of the trees is the Lone Cypress, which is found along Seventeen Mile Drive in Pebble Beach.  Though the trees can grow to over forty feet, they are generally stunted by the strong winds that blow from the Pacific, which gives them their iconic flat-topped appearance.  Although it has long been held that some of the cypresses are two millennia old, this is a romantic conception of seaside literature, and the oldest of the cypresses are likely closer to 300 years old than 2,000.  Although only two native groves remain, the trees have been widely planted outside its native range, particularly along the coasts of California and Oregon.  Indeed, some intrepid seeds have even made it to Great Britain (including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands), France, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Sicily.

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Kemper at the Cypress

SSA Photography (323 of 400)

I rarely take portraits of people, though the ones I have taken are some of my favorites. In my photography, I try to be as unobtrusive as possible.  My son Kemper, however, is a willing and able model when I get the itch to add a human touch to my photographs.  This gnarled Monterey Cypress trunk just off of Ocean Avenue in Carmel, California would have been interesting enough with the rays of the late afternoon sun coming in from the southwest, but Kemper’s knowing stare off into the distance gives the photograph so much more meaning.

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Pebble Hill Cypress

SSA Photography (221 of 400)

This photograph is a morning panorama of the Pebble Hill golf course just outside of Carmel, California.  In fact, the photograph was taken on the beach of Carmel Bay.  Beyond the point at the far left of the photograph is Spyglass Cove, where I have sat a number of times and just watched the sea otters and harbor seals bob between the long, whip-like strands of bull kelp.

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