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Point Lobos State Reserve 5/28

2017 Trip Chronicles:  Page 11

Point Lobos State Reserve


I was not able to get out in the field as much during this May of 2017 as I hoped to given my retirement because of troughy breezy weather conditions that would make focus stack work difficult or impossible. Additionally there were many foggy days along immediate coastal areas of interest, as northwesterly winds cause upwelling cold water that condenses sea surface marine air into fog. A couple days after my Yosemite trip, I drove up to nearby Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve in our Santa Cruz Mountains and though I did work a few modest subjects, focus stacking misregistration from movement was not worth the bother to post process. One image I shot along SR9 on my drive home of red ribbons, a beautiful clarkia species, is at page right. In any case on such days, I may have little photographic expectations but feel it is worth getting out for the hiking exercise and enjoying natural areas.

A few days later on another breezy day without my camera, I hiked 7 miles with a meetup.com group in Pescadero Creek County Park and found a couple ticks had bitten me for the first time in about a decade. Both were quickly removed before they might become a more serious issue. I did see some redwood areas along the stream that would be worth returning to on a cloudy overcast day with light winds. The next day I went back up into the Santa Cruz Mountains hiking 4 miles exploring another area of interest.

crop from QW08569-72b

I had been hoping to visit a location on the Monterey County coastline that I first explored during a low tide during the spring of 2014 just after I had received my Sony A6000 mirrorless camera. Weeks before I noted on tide charts for Carmel Bay, that Sunday May 28 would my best chance to do so. Thus was up and out early that Sunday morning May 28, 2017 arriving after the 70 mile drive to Carmel about 7am. Exceptionally low tides during day hours below -1.0 feet occur just a few times each year and on this day it was a -1.6 foot tide at about 7:30am PDT. The next such tide would be June 26 at -1.5 feet, the last such morning spring tide of 2017. Although it was another breezy overcast day at the coast, that did not matter at all for the tidal zone subjects I would shoot. All subjects were down in dim shadowy locations that would be helped a bit by the diffuse reflected skylight illumination.

To reach these features requires uncommon low tides below -1 feet or so. And those tides due to the nature of sun and moon alignment, are either early morning after sunrise or near sunset. Some of the features I photographed can barely be shot with tidal levels between 0 and -0.5 feet. However the truly interesting features require uncommon low tides and that is why no one tends to otherwise see these amazingly colorful features without wearing a wet suit. These creatures simply do not like being out of the water. They also tend to be in crevices and overhanging bedrock that indicates a need to hide and be protected from powerful wave surge. The dynamic tidal and wave action often carves out shaded hollows on the sides of bedrock with overhanging ceilings. Note there are other coastline areas along our California Pacific Coast where one can find the same sea life, and such is most likely with harder rock geology.

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Photography has issues in such environments and the most important is salt water means instant death to electronic equipment including expensive digital cameras thus one has to be extremely careful not to get one's camera wet either by dunking it in the water, from wave splash, or laying it against wet elements. If one wants good low ISO resolution in these dim places, early or late in the day and in dark places, exposures will be long and slow requiring a tripod. There are also considerable reflections from sky and brighter nearby objects because everything is shiny wet. All my shots were several seconds at ASA 100. Diving photographers use a higher ASA but have additional issues that seawater in tidal zones is always moving about that requires even faster shutter speeds all of which results in a significant hit to potential resolution. On the other hand what I am doing captures full resolution because everything is dead still allowing focus stack blending. And as the below images show, there is incredibly colorful detail to be captured if one can work so.

Another issue is rock in those tidal levels is extremely slippery and is covered by lots of sharp sea life like barnacle shells, urchin rock hole edges, and crustose coralline algae. Thus if one slips and falls against the rock even a little, it can easily tear skin making a bloody mess. I tend to move about like a crab on all fours with my Benbo tripod in one hand, very slowly wearing an old leaky pair of rain pants atop old jeans and waterproof boots with a grippy sole below. Of course, everything is chilly salty wet so wet objects one touches with a hand may also be transfered to camera surfaces, thus a need to dry one's hand on something like a rag or paper towels readily available. Although walking atop these rock areas is certain to crush some life, as long as few people go out there as has always been the case, such spots are rapidly recolonized by other life as anything bare is prime real estate. Poke polling and abalone fishermen are about the only other ones to ever venture out in such places.


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This first image above is a 2 frame 2 column horizontal stitch of the sloping lower side of a large boulder. Note identifying the tremendous variety of Pacific Ocean tidal life along our coast is something I have very limited knowledge of. A marine biologist would recognize many more species than I note below. The most obvious animal in this feature are aggregating anemone, anthopleura elegantissima, of which I count 30 through a variety of sizes. These primitive invertebrates are anchored to their location on the rock surface. Color is the result of symbiotic relationships with internal algae species. The bright orange red hued animals are red volcano sponge, acarnus erithacus, even more primitive than the anemone. I count 3 snails in this image that have turban shell shapes. More numerous are acorn barnacles, with small crater shaped shells with a hole at center although many are so encrusted with other life they may be difficult to make out. One at frame lower right slope poking out in front of shadows is shown in a 50% small crop image above left. The purple to pink areas including those covering other life are crustose coralline algae species that contain hard calcium deposits in their cell walls. The image below is another crop frame mid lower right of a group of aggregating anemone. I love the wet glassy visual nature of anemone tennacles.


The next image below shows purple sea urchin, strongylocentrotus purpuratus, that use their teeth and spines to digs round holes in the rock for better protection. Also are areas of red volcano sponge and frame lower right is purple hued crustose coralline algae. Upper right is a loose piece of bull kelp. Frame mid left edge is some green hued sea lettuce.


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It is difficult to visually grasp the 3-dimension character in the below image that peers into a crevice. The red hued anemone lower left is nearest. It may be red due to its location down under rock. Across mid frame is furthest while frame top is the closer ceiling. Just above it is a weird circular tube with a white end. At frame top, the circular orange hue areas are orange cup coral, balanophyllia elegans. Frame lower right are bead coralline algae while pink areas are crustose coralline algae. A bit above right of center is an oval shaped limpet and a bit above and left a grayish oval shaped egg case of some animal. A bit below center against pink hued coralline algae are feather-like appendages of acorn barnacles called cirri. Barnacles open a shell door at the top of their shell through which cirri filter feeding structures protrude. Just above the noted red hued anemone is the white circular end of a tube worm. The branches pink to brown seaweed frame lower right is a coralline aglae species very common on our near shore rocks.


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The image QW08542-50 at page top contains considerable strange life I am not able to identify beyond some of the species noted into above images. Frame lower right corner is a loose piece of a brown seaweed species with several small gas filled floats branching off a stem and that have a blade extending out from their other end. The image below is a small 50% crop from that image showing its amazing density of life.


Below shows a colony of strawberry anemone, corynactis californica, that are more well known for a reddish pink hue though like many anemone species are rather variable in coloration and here are an apple orange brown. Note the anemone above the water line frame right hanging downward from the side of the rock. Making up for the anemone's color in this image are the colorful crustose coralline algae and red voclano sponge between each animal. At center top is a dark crustacean with the front half of its body sticking out of a hole.


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Below 80% pixels crop from above QW08558-68 showing detail of strawberry anemone. And is that an octopus leg lower left corner?


This final image below shows the colorful surface of a rounded boulder inside a sizeable cave, maybe 15 feet deep.


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   David Senesac
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