We head out to California in less than a week. I have prepared for this trip (photographically, at least) more than any other I have taken in the past. As the house my in-laws own is to be put on the market after our visit, it may be the last time in a long while that we can make it out to Carmel, and I wanted to make the most of my time in the most picturesque part of the continental United States that I have ever visited.
I bought a new camera (a D7500) and a new lens (a Nikon 17-55 f/2.8) for the trip, and I have been compulsively watching Youtube videos on various photography techniques and also tutorials on editing in Lightroom and Photoshop. This is one of my older photos of Point Lobos, and though my technique in taking the photograph was not optimal, the original turned out fine by my standards. With new post-processing tools, though, the photograph is far more evocative than its previous iteration.
I am thrilled to be going out to California one last time, and my kit is fully stocked. I have new tools and new techniques, but above all, I have a much deeper appreciation of this last rare chance to capture the once-foreign coastline that has become so familiar to me in the last five years. I have a feeling that the photographs are going to be more technically sound, but more than that, they will carry a greater weight about them.
I’ll be in touch…
There are so many coves along the shoreline in Point Lobos State Preserve in Carmel, California, that I am only moderately ashamed that I don’t know the name of this one. I have posted a picture of China Cove previously, with its colors that defy the natural palette. In comparison to the China Cove, this one is a bit pedestrian. If there were no China Cove, however, this unnamed cove very well could be the highlight of the entire shoreline. This is a testament to the beauty of this part of California.
As I’ve mentioned previously, California brings out a creativity in me that North Florida never has. I long to go back, and when I am there, I am always conscious that I must leave. I honestly don’t know if the desire to be in California is simply a desire to be creative at all times, or at the very least to have freedom to be creative.
As I wrote this post, specifically that last paragraph, I thought immediately (as one clearly does it was spent so many years in the Latin classroom) of the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus. Although many of Catullus’ poems survive in full, some are only excerpts. One such excerpt, which has been labeled in the modern canon as Carmen LXXXV, is only two lines long but it is powerful in its brevity, its directness, and its meaning: “Odi et amo. Quare id faciam fortasse requiris / Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.”
Roughly translated, this means “I hate, and I love; why do I do this perhaps you ask. / I know not why, but I know it happens, and I am tortured by it.” Although Catullus was speaking about the conflicting feelings he had towards his lover, who he calls Lesbia (her real name was Clodia), and who was the sister of Cicero’s mortal enemy Publius Clodius Pulcher, the second sentence speaks to me in the context of this Cove. I can’t say why the California air draws out the artist in me, nor can I say why the Florida air does not; but I know it happens, and for the time being, I am (if ever so slightly) tortured by it.
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.
Click here for a larger version (and a color version).
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.
Click here for a larger version.
“Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque,
et quantum est hominum venustiorum:
passer mortuus est meae puellae-
passer, deliciae meae puellae,
quem plus illa oculis suis amabat.”
Mourn, O Venuses and Cupids,
and whatever there is of pleasing me:
the sparrow of my girl is dead –
the sparrow, the delight of my girl,
whom she loved more than her own eyes.
Catullus, Carmen 3
As evidenced by this brief passage from the funeral dirge of the first century (BC) Roman poet Catullus, the sparrow has been a subject of art and admiration (even tongue-in-cheek adoration) for thousands of years. I found this golden crowned sparrow perched in the chaparral along the path towards Whaler’s Cove in Point Lobos State Nature Reserve, Carmel, California. I thought it was a lovely photograph of a beautifully marked bird, but upon closer inspection of the photograph as I was processing the photos at the end of the day, I noticed the rather doleful look on the sparrow. For an animal that flits about, seemingly without care, this look struck me as rather queer. Perhaps, like Catullus, I am importing more meaning to the life of a sparrow than reason would suggest appropriate. Still, this remains my favorite photograph of the many sparrows I have photographed over the course of the last fifteen years or so.
Click here for a larger version (and a black and white version).
I find patterns in nature fascinating. “Ordo Saxae” is Latin for a row of rocks. As is always the case, there is something lost in translation – not only is it a row, but there is an order (ordo) about the perfect arrangement of the outcropping. These particular rocks reach out across Carmel Bay towards Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. The linear quality of the jagged rocks is offset by the jumbled ones in the foreground, but my eye keeps going back to the organic ordo ab chao of the rocks that stretch out towards Point Lobos in the distance.
Click here for a larger version.