The 50th Anniversary of the Point Reyes National Seashore (2012)

Over the past several years I have had the good fortune to visit and photograph some of the most beautiful spots on the planet, primarily, but not exclusively, in the western US.  If asked for advice, it would be easy for me to simplify the process to “go to a beautiful spot, wait for good light and perhaps a “moment” (e.g. weather) and snap away.”  So it is about me and the weather and some artistic vision and some luck.  

Not quite.  It is really about “the most beautiful spots on the planet,” and the realization that to keep the spots pristine and accessible, vast numbers of employees and volunteers expend huge efforts, often unnoticed and under-appreciated.

This is certainly true at the Point Reyes National Seashore, where I have hiked, taken classes and photographed many times.  Fifty years ago a few volunteers and thousands of hours of effort resulted in the creation of this National Seashore designation.  Today, the National Park Service and its partner, the non-profit Point Reyes National Seashore Association, work in concert to maintain this incredibly valuable resource in Northern California.

This blog then, is a commercial.  Come and visit, but also donate.  I took the following off the PRNSA web site:

“PRNSA is the primary nonprofit park partner working with the National Park Service at Point Reyes. As the only federally protected seashore on the West Coast, PRNSA's partnership in helping to fund critical preservation and restoration projects is both crucial and unique. We can't do this alone! The support of PRNSA members directly contributes to endangered species recovery and wildlife protection, habitat restoration, preservation of cultural and historic legacies, and environmental education programs for people of all ages. As a member, you will be protecting Point Reyes as a critical part of a healthy Bay Area ecosystem and as a beautiful park, rich in history, for you and future generations to explore and enjoy.”

Of course, all of our parks need support.  As the New Year comes in (tomorrow) it is a good time to reflect on how lucky we all are to have such resources for our children and ourselves. 

Check out the following web links:


To donate:


And the NPS site:


Near the end of my recent photography trip I met up with some friends near Casper, Wyoming to fish the North Platt – trout, catch & release.  The lodge gives out “25” logo hats to those anglers who land a 25 inch trout or better.   I am sure I hooked a 28 or 29 incher – a giant – but I didn’t land it – no hat.  Of course I (and my friends) have already signed on for same time, next year.  The “almost” gave me a taste of a truly great fish; I’ll definitely be back.  I love fly-fishing. 

Photography is not dissimilar.  We look for the “25” but often have to settle for the 18 or 20.  We can seek out the best light (dawn and dusk), but can sometimes get skunked if dense cloud cover obscures the rising or setting sun.  More often the problem is a lack of drama or moment – we want some clouds, a rainbow, lightening, a storm, unexpected wildlife showing up in the scene, but no – we make do and still celebrate the beauty, but miss getting the “hat.”

I spent two weeks covering Cedar Breaks, Bryce, Coral Pink Dunes, the Pawnee ButtesThe Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.  Maybe my inspiration level was low, maybe it was too hot to get enthused, maybe my compositions just didn’t click.  Most of the time “photographic weather” remained elusive, spooking the fishing.

So I am putting up a few of my shots, but like fishing the North Platt, a “25er” will require a return visit (and not in July or August).

I took the Bryce Canyon photo in 2007, in fact several.  But I couldn’t connect with any.  This one in particular was too broad, covered too much. I tried multiple crops, and performed the usual Photoshop manipulations.  Nothing.  In retrospect I know I was influenced by pictures from other artists – big mistake.  There are tons of gorgeous cropped shots of individual or a few rock formations.  But for me that morning was not about small but about big.  As the sun came up the entire canyon opened up.  Recently I went back over my rejects (and there are many) and begin looking at this picture differently.  How about the whole thing?  Morning light just a moment before the first sun rays appear over the horizon.  An Olympic Stadium, the Roman Colosseum.  So I accepted the full monty, but now had another problem.  What about that aggravating small tree in the mid-foreground?  This breaks composition rules.  So I tried cropping it out but lost the “stadium” appearance that I wanted.  So I cloned it out:
Bryce Canyon
But now there was an unappealing rather large area of mostly “nothing” in the right foreground.  Okay, what about moving the tree?

Sitting in the lower right corner, it fits into the standard “rules.”  But I couldn’t see it there.  Out of place.  Did it really add value?  Finally I went back to my Colosseum comparison.  Where would I be sitting?  Right there in the middle foreground, taking in this spectacular view.  The tree is Me.  Bring on the Olympians.


Richard Gaston Photography