Back to Point Reyes

On the weekend of March 9, I attended a photography workshop with a very small group of wonderful photographers led by Gary Crabbe at the Point Reyes National Seashore. Signing up for this, as I did more than two months ago, I knew I was possibly in for some less than ideal winter weather. I assumed it would be cold, of course, and that it might also be raining. And, indeed, the forecast for that weekend was for possible rain on Friday afternoon when we’d all arrive, significant rain most of Saturday, and possible clearing for Sunday morning.

What I didn’t expect but ended up experiencing, was to run into weather that is more likely in this region for the summer months – significant, and often thick, ground-hugging, fog (illustrated by the photo at the top of this post taken along the half-mile walk from the Point Reyes Lighthouse parking lot to its Visitor Center). This did not mean that the workshop would be a wash-out but that we would be concentrating on different kinds of photos and probably not see any sunrise or sunset opportunities (which also meant not getting up at zero-dark-early).

On Saturday morning we headed out to shoot photos near the Chief’s House (where we were staying for the weekend). Fortunately, the fog had lifted a bit to become a low overcast. Gary challenged us to create images from just around the immediate vicinity of the house but to also force ourselves to utilize our different lenses. [I don’t know about the other participants but I do tend to continue to use the lens that is currently mounted so I found this to be an extremely useful exercise.]

Bird on a wire
One bird on a wire appears to march (fly) to his own drummer (telephoto)
Calla Lily
Calla Lily, Chief’s House (macro)
Elephant Seal
Elephant Seal (noted for its long nose)

Later that day, after the fog had lifted a bit more, we walked down to the Historic Lifeboat Station to do some more shooting. There were a few Elephant Seals lounging on the beach and the lifeboat station itself is a wonderful subject.

Historic Lifeboat Station boat launch ramp
Historic Lifeboat Station launch ramp and pier
Thick fog near Point Reyes Lighthouse
Thick fog on the stairway down to the lighthouse

After returning briefly to the Chief’s House, we drove to the edge of the headlands to visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse. The dense, thick fog had returned again (see the photo at the top of this post) and the one on the right. The thick fog made it easy for me to decide to not make the trek down the 300+ steps (and, especially, back up) and confine my photography to images of interest along the half-mile pedestrian road between the parking area and the top of the stairs.

I was able to create abstract images formed by the lichen growing on rock and other surfaces and other photos showing off the strength and tenacity of trees in this area of constantly rugged wind and weather.

Lichen on rocks
Close-up of lichen on rock surfaces near Point Reyes Lighthouse
Trees in Fog
These old trees seem to glow in the fog along the Point Reyes Lighthouse pedestrian way

On Sunday we were all looking forward to the idea of a clear day. We left early in order Sunrise (?) in the fogto catch the sunrise, heading for Drake’s Beach a few miles away. We broke into a clear pre-dawn sky (just above the still present fog layer) but as soon as we attempted to approach the beach we found ourselves surrounded by thick fog, once again. Sunrise unfortunately looked something like the photo on the right.

We drove back along the ridge road looking for a likely spot and finally spotted a ranch road with a good view point of the hills and a possible sunrise. We hiked down the road for a hundred yards or so and set up. It became pretty obvious that the fog layer was moving up along with the sun. While it was still on a “down” I managed to get this morning photo (before the fog began to surround us once again).

Sunrise above fog
Sunrise just above the fog at a Point Reyes ranch

When it became obvious that the fog was not going to dissipate any time soon, we decided to drive north a few more miles on the main road (Sir Francis Drake Blvd) until we reached the “Tree Tunnel” – a well known, often photographed, iconic spot in the park.

Tree Tunnel

Coincidentally, I had stopped at this very location on my drive into the workshop on Friday afternoon and grabbed a quick shot (shown on the right) in the very defused gray light of that overcast afternoon.

As it turned out, we had blue sky above us with excellent early morning light bathing the trees and a thin layer of fog around us. Below is an image taken that Sunday morning in a totally different kind of light. I like them both but prefer this image with the morning light from the side and its air of mystery hinted at by the misty view down the tunnel.

Morning sun breaking through fog in the Tree Tunnel
Morning sun breaking through fog in the Tree Tunnel

Since this was a workshop, Gary reminded us (challenged us) that once we each had the iconic shot in the bag to take a look around for other interesting, less typical rendering of the area. I took several photos but particularly liked this one which utilized the morning light to emphasize the graceful height of the trees, the blue sky above, and the slowly retreating fog — all without featuring the tunnel.

Trees of the tunnel as sun breaks through
Morning light on some of the trees of the tunnel
Partial fogbow or white rainbow

Gary also pointed out something new (at least, for me); that there is something called a fogbow (similar to a rainbow) caused by light through the much finer droplets of water suspended in the atmosphere from the fog. Those droplets are so small that they often do not act like prisms as raindrops do and do not break the light into the typical colors of a rainbow as much but often appear white (as a result, fogbows are sometimes called white rainbows).

Thanks for looking. I hope you enjoyed the photos in this post. You can see many of these photos, larger and with more detail, as well as others not included in this post by visiting my photo website at CedBennett.Photography. Take a look at the photos under the menu choice, What’s New, or use this link to be taken directly to the relevant album (to zero in on the images specifically from this workshop).

In addition, you may enjoy Gary’s much more succinct summary of our group’s experience as well as two photos from each of us six participants in the workshop on his blog.


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