Sonoma Coastal Bluff, Goldfields, Sea Pink, Wave, Sea Stacks

Sonoma Coastal Bluff, Goldfields, Sea Pink, Wave, Sea Stacks

full print size of 28.6x37.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2004   view detailed crop

geranium Sonoma Coast State Beach, Sonoma County
mid morning Saturday April 18, 2004, slide 04-I-2
Wisner 4x5 Expedition, 90mm Rodenstock, Gitzo G1325 Mk2
Tango Drum scanned Fuji Provia 100F 4x5 film to 300mb RGB file
Adobe Photoshop 6.0 processed for accurate image fidelity
Lightjet5000 printed on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
signature bottom mid left

The previous couple years I'd visited this location noting a nice patch of spring wildflowers along the bluff with a fine seascape beyond. Carpets of goldfields are common along many Northern California coastal bluffs, however timing a visit to coincide with peak displays are tricky. Compounding that, the coast is often foggy or hazy with water vapor, and almost always windy. Days before, I gambled on a short trip to Chimney Rock at Point Reyes National Seashore which is a couple dozen miles south and found near peak conditions. Thus when the satellite images and NWS weather forecast discussions looked favorable the night before, two of us made a fast early morning two-hour drive north to the Sonoma Coast then right to this spot. Upon arrival I was excited to see the bluff edge covered with bright goldfields. More surprising was the air was relatively calm thus would not blur our near foreground flowers. And the fine blue sky was quite clear with a few nice clouds. A rare photographic opportunity. However we could see a breezy zone not far offshore that we expected would soon expand towards our area.

In this foreground are small yellow goldfields, lasthenia chrysotoma, which are well adapted to windy coastal bluffs by being short ground hugging belly flowers. Freshly blooming goldfields have particularly bright yellow ray flower petals and these had an intense neon glow. A few days in the sun's ultraviolet light and they noticeably fade. Disc flowers in the center of these little sunflowers are a darker yellow. A big bonus in the foreground was sea thrift aka sea pink, armeria maritima, that were perched right on the bluff brink. That allowed us to position our cameras putting them against the ocean water background. Also note the tiny white flowers in the lower left frame.

Sonoma Coast State Beach is famous for its many sea stacks that add a fine aesthetic complexity to otherwise featureless seawater scenery. This morning large waves sets were regularly moving towards shore and given the apparent high tide, conveniently breaking with considerable explosions on the nearest of these sea stacks.

I positioned that rock to my ground glass's frame centerline. Well I chose one of the biggest waves we saw and nailed depressing the shutter perfectly for this image. Later after receiving the developed film back, I couldn't be happier to see my exposure selection, always tricky with large format film, was also dead on.

Note the sea bird just about to rise up on that same wave behind the right side of that sea stack. At the base of the rock one can see darker color of mussel shells. A bright orange spot therein is a starfish. The most distant large grayish sea stacks are what is named Arch Rock though the large arch is not evident from this view. Closer towards this view are a pair of tooth like sea stacks and closer a dark rounded rock that has a double white speck atop it. Likely two California gulls. Some large sea stacks also have their own vegetation. Note the stack mid way down the shoreline with a slight resemblance to an old man with a patch of yellow green hair above a long sloping nose. Dark rock of eroding bluffs, feeds smooth dark sand beaches that contrast strongly with fingers of foaming ocean surf. Down the beach lighter brown debris of much battered wood concentrates in a favorable zone for beachcombers. Much of this wood is from the Russian River, the mouth of which is north just beyond to the right of Arch Rock in this scene. In the right distance atop springtime green hills, a few homes, likely ranches involved with dairy cattle so common in Sonoma County.

The edge of that pesky wind still off shore is delineated in this image as a darker blue sea color beyond. Closer the calmer air allowed a more pleasant translucent quality to the seawater. And quite predictably within fifteen minutes of taking this image, breezes arrived with the sea pink continuously shaking thereafter.

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   David Senesac

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