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Sonoma Coast 5/9
Sonoma Coast State Park 5/9
Salt Point State Park 5/10 1of2

2024 Trip Chronicles:  Page 5

Sonoma Coast 5/9

There are many beaches along the Pacic Ocean coast with surf smoothed stone cobbles and pebbles. However, few such stony beaches have multi-colored stones that requires uncommon geologies at nearby shore bluff areas they erode out from. I've been occasionally photographing these multi-colored beach stone subjects for nearly 3 decades, so have a sizeable body of this work. However few of those images have ever been presented on my public web site in part to keep these locations out of the public's awareness. Of course, many beachcombing people might collect such natural beauties that over years would denude these beaches of better stones much like has happened at Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.

One well-known very accessible location is on the San Mateo County coast along California Route 1 at Bean Hollow State Beach at Pebble Beach that has sandstone rock with sedimentary conglomerate bands that erode out embedded stones. Most such locations I've discovered are somewhat obscure sometimes requiring climbing down steep unstable sea bluffs. Often such stony areas on beaches are fully covered in sand that depend on tides and storms to be uncovered. The best time for such wet stone photography providing best color saturation is on sunny mid days with a higher sun altitude for a translucent glow from inside stones. Thus cloudy or foggy conditions ought be avoided. Such wet stone subjects are considerably more aesthetic when freshly wet and glistening in sunlight from surf wave action than when dry or even slightly wet.

Although a photographer could manually wet stones with say a spray bottle, such is against my personal choices reflecting the rest of my large body of ethical work and post processing. Thus, I only work stone subjects that waves have freshly washed over and never touch or move them. And that also becomes a game of knowing tide tables and keeping and ear and eye towards waves in order to not while focused down on subjects becoming soaked from larger sets of waves rushing up beach sands. Worse, if such waves reach one's camera, the corrosive salty ion water may destroy it, waterproofing or not. Many times, I've sprung up like a jack in the box on steroids, moments before foamy, sandy, salty waves were about to soak me. Needless to say, waterproof boots have value as one will be walking on wet boulders, stones, and sand.

Since purchasing a Sony a6700 last summer that replaces the a6000 bought in 2014, its focus bracketing function has made capturing such stone close-ups much faster and more productive. Instead of using my Oben CT-2316 carbon fiber tripod with its panoramic head setup, on beaches I use an old Benbo Trekker tripod with a small ballhead that sets up faster and easier for close to the ground subjects. If I need to capture an occasional panorama landscape, I can still use the grid thirds display method to accomplish that. I also wear cheap knee pads in order to keep the Levis 505's I often wear from hard stone surfaces and getting knees wet.

Especially on the frequently strong northwesterly wind days, there is much salty water vapor in the air that also may rapidly coat gear. So it is important to continually bother covering lens glass if not actively shooting. I also bring a small cotton cloth in my coat pocket for soaking up any seawater splashing and multiple microfiber lens cloths in my camera day pack. As with the rest of my recent work, I use a small RF wireless shutter release, RM-P1BTA, so my camera once a shot is set up, is absolutely still and stable, as otherwise with focus stacking using a high megapixel camera, mis-registration ghosting between shots may result.


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The above image was worked on Thursday May 9, 2024. Subjects with stones isolated by sand offer more element separation to stand out better. Each time a wave washes up on such shore areas, stones and sand move around changing and refreshing subjects. So working beaches can be more productive on a rising tide. With single shot camera work for the sake of adequate depth of field, frame elements need to be relatively equidistant or positioning a lens from a perpendicular position and one must use a smaller, less sharp, lens aperture. However in doing so, optimal light on stones is usually less than ideal versus focus bracketing from any desired angle. With this above subject and most others, the frame bottom edge is closer than the top with the left and right frame balanced. The a6700 has a camera display leveling tool I always use on any subjects.

These subjects won't look impressive in the severely downsized for web versions I present herein that loses so much fine detail. That is why I also encourage selecting the enlarged vertical slice view links below each image to better perceive why that is so. The public will otherwise need to wait till I publicly begin exhibiting full images with large 8k displays. And note, such slices are at only 50% full pixels, so actual 100% pixel images are even more impressive.


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The above subject has a large colorful siliceous boulder barely uncovered in the sand that reflects the source of why these subjects have so many colorful stones eroded out from adjacent sea bluffs. In post processing wet stones, Zerene Stacker must be used in a more tedious and time-consuming manual mode versus the automated Pmax or Dmap modes, because otherwise, every shot in a focus bracket set will have different mis-registered, bright glistening spectral reflections. Thus, I immediately totally replace Pmax results and build images at 100% pixels painting in small areas from shots window frame by frame that requires being able to distinguish between slightly different focus detail between shots. A subtle visual skill I have amazingly improved at over 7 years.


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Another subject above with nice sand stone separation. Of course, I prefer to put most prominent stones near frame center.


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This above subject is a more common situation of all stones without sand.


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Eroded out from a bluff, fine dark gray sand that a stream off the bluff has eroded a stream path through revealing buried stones underneath. At frame upper right are seagull footprints. I often find stones at my favorite stony beaches buried under sand.


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Another all stones without sand subject. Due to wave action, some areas like this tend to mechanically sort stones by size and shape creating smooth level areas of small stones and pebbles.


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Centerpiece of the above wet shore stones frame is a freshly washed up starfish.

Sonoma Coast State Park 5/9


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Further along the coast at 1:57pm, I had hiked down to a favorite bluff wildflower landscape spot with Gull Rock in the distance at frame center actually populated by cormorants and 2 other sea stacks closer. Arched Rock is in the distance at frame right. In the foreground, California goldfields, lasthenia californica, California poppy, eschscholzia californica, with a few seaside daisies, scarlet pimpernel, anagallis arvensis, checker mallow, sidalcea malviflora, and sea thrift, armeria maritima. A very difficult and time consuming focus stack image to post process due to huge parallax artifacts at the near bluff flower edge to distant seawater boundary.

Back at my Forester, I drove north to Salt Point State Park where I obtained a camp site in the Lower Forest Loop. Later that breezy afternoon, I surveyed some areas preparing for work the next morning.

Salt Point State Park 5/10 1of2

After overnighted at the Salt Point State Park campground, on Friday morning May 10, 2024 rose early in order to survey landscapes well before light would be good enough to work them. Note, I have always been able to obtain mid week walk up campsites at this park that are now $33 for seniors. I ventured out in calm air across its green wildflower dense coastal bluffs that have numbers of small sandstone rock outcrop hills.

I was immediately surprised and impressed by a California goldfields bloom on the near bluff edges beyond what I've ever seen in the past that resulted from the strong rain storm a week before at an optimal time for the species in early spring. There were other species as rose johnny-tuck, cream cups, witches teeth, dwarf brodiae and others also blooming in unusual numbers. As someone that has experienced several since the term was coined in 2016 for the Death Valley bloom that late winter, this became only the second Northern California location I might ever label as a genuine "superbloom" along with that at Table Mountain near Oroville.


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Per above image, at one hill was this grapeleaf geranium, pelargonium vitifolium, a southern Africa native plant, that required several attempts during breeze lulls before capturing a bracket set that stayed dead calm long enough. This type of subject sharp to the ground frame edge to edge, would be impossible to post process without in camera focus bracketing capture due to many elements with significant parallax. Especially impossible to fix is parallax in back of tiny plant stem and leaf hairs. In Zerene Stacker, manual processing would also be impossible so used the automated Pmax output that required several seconds of dead calm while my a6700 cranked through 34 shots. Note the detail of fine hairs and dangling rattlesnake grass (alien) seedheads that in breezes shake making a slight sound like rattlesnake rattles.


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Across the top of fragrant yellow bush lupine, lupinis arboreaus, with rattlesnake grasses behind. The colorful species was originally only native as far north as San Mateo County but has spread along shores as far north as Oregon. Leaves and stems are covered by tiny white hairs that give the cyan green color a unique white glow.


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Seascape shot at an early 8:12am PDT with California goldfields, California poppies, and sea thrift, at the bluff edge, and sandstone with tafoni below. Most of these shore wildflower species were just beginning to open up and the sea itself was quite calm as diurnal winds had not yet developed. Lower shore rocks are increasingly dark from organic life that is also extremely slippery to walk atop.


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May 10 had a minus 1.0 foot low tide, so spent some time carefully climbing about down within the extremely slippery lower seawater boulders while keeping an eye out for occasional large waves. This subject required an awkward Benbo tripod set up allowing my lens to peer down between boulders. Giant green anemone, anthopleura xanthogrammica, ochre sea star, pisaster ochraceus (starfish), brown seaweed. Also a few purple spines from hidden sea urchin poking through seaweed. The camera rattled off 35 focus bracket shots at F5.0 to capture this subject. On Internet lens test sites, F4.0 through F5.6 are my Sigma 30mm and 56mm DC DN lens sharpest apertures.


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At 8:54am, a seascape bluff with an expanse of sea thrift, armeria maritima, also called sea pink. One of the few species that does not close up at night and colonizes windiest bluff edge areas.


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At 9:21am, another bluff terrace seascape with freshly blooming California goldfields, lasthenia californica, sea thrift, California poppy now more opened up, cream cups, and a yellow bush lupine at frame left edge. The green areas between goldfields are prostrate lupinis varicolor plants very few of which bloomed this spring. That rich brown soil patch frame mid lower right is from a gopher. Note the heavy with water vapor marine air off in the distance.


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Looking down a slope at California goldfields, sea thrift, California poppy, cream cups, sea lettuce, and a yellow bush lupine, with the use trail along the bluff edge frame upper left.


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Intimate subject with much fine detail, a bit inland with bluff California goldfields, scarlet pimpernel, California poppy, in front of a yellow bush lupine. Early mornings, one will often see little cottontail rabbits about these coastal bluff gardens.


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At 10:24am with an optimal sun altitude for best light and flowers now fully open, a 3 column 1 row seascape panorama stitch blend expanse of California goldfields, sea thrift, California poppy, tafoni sandstone with lichen.

At page top a seascape with bluff California goldfields, sea thrift, California poppy, sandstone. Sea lettuce, dudleya caespitosa, aka sand lettuce, or coast dudleya, is a spectacular native succulent growing along our sea shores. Though flowers bloom during summer, the dramatic red leaves are most impressive. Here up against a sandstone boulder with colorful lichen that thrive in the cool moist marine air. Note the fisherman in a red kayak that would only gamble venturing out in such a minimal craft near these dangerous rocky shores during uncommon calm conditions with small wave swells.


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California goldfields and sea thrift surround a sandstone boulder embedded in bluff soils with colorful lichen.


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Seascape with freshly blooming California goldfields, California poppy, sea thrift, California poppy, cream cups, rose johnny-tuck, triphysaria eriantha rosea, yellow bush lupine, and scarlet pimpernel. Note at frame right, another fisherman in a red kayak.


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Close-up of coastal tidy tips, layia platyglossa, and 3 Douglas iris, iris douglasiana. The large showy iris densely colonize in patches at wetter bluff areas.

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   David Senesac
   email: info@davidsenesac.com
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