Author Topic: Point Reyes vicinity, California  (Read 399 times)

Bill De Jager

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Point Reyes vicinity, California
« on: November 02, 2021, 01:50:30 »
THE LANDSCAPE

The western part of Marin County, just north of San Francisco, is largely a pastoral landscape.  Rolling hills and low mountains, grasslands with dairy ranches, forests, and estuaries with oyster farms spread across the landscape.  The area is bounded to its west by the Pacific Ocean, beaches, and steep ocean bluffs.  Scattered villages and a few small towns are scattered through the area.  About 60K hectares of this region is public parkland, and most of the rest is protected from conversion to urban use by protective zoning and agricultural easements.  I believe it's one of the most beautiful landscapes of California.

I like to take a day trip through this area every autumn to enjoy the beauty of the area and the vineyards turning color farther north in adjacent Sonoma County.  The summer fog is gone along with most of the crowds of summer tourists, the first rains have fallen to break the long summer drought of California, the hills are starting to turn green from those rains, while the leaves of the grapevines and many trees are turning color.  The low angle of the sunlight adds a beauty to the landscape that's missing in the late spring and summer, and near sunset it can spill through the clear air and across the landscape in often heartbreaking beauty.  Or alternately, cloudy skies and temperatures in the 10 degree C range provide a taste of coming cooler weather, and the gloomy skies contrast nicely with the autumn color.

THE GEAR

I've picked up some nice gear over the past couple of years, and haven't gotten out much to enjoy using it thanks to health problems and COVID.  So I packed up the following for a day trip:

Nikon Z6
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 FL on an FTZ
Olympus E-M1.3
Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8
Olympus 300mm f/4

I selected this gear to provide flexibility and mobility, as I expected to and did drive a great deal looking for opportunities that were sometimes fleeting thanks to changeable weather.

None of these lenses had gotten much use at all beyond walks in my neighborhood, and I was eager to put them to use in far more interesting environments.  The Olympus kit was really a substitute for the long telephoto F-mount lenses I've taken on previous trips to Pt. Reyes to shoot wildlife.  With the Micro Four Thirds gear you lose most subject isolation and low-light capability while gaining portability and quickness.  While I brought a tripod I ended up not using it at all.

THE TRIP

This year I decided to make this trip a bit earlier than usual despite a forecast of cloudy skies and perhaps rain. When I arrived it was drizzling and continued to do so on and off, but I took a chance with the low-contrast environment and the moisture and started shooting.  The first two are with the Nikon 24-70 on the Z6 and the second two are with the Olympus 300/4 on the E-M1.3.



Broken Fence by Bill de Jager, on Flickr.  Nikon Z6, 24-70/2.8.

1/400, f/2.8, ISO 100, 52mm.



Red Alders, Inverness, Tomales Bay by Bill de Jager, on Flickr.  Nikon Z6, 24-70/2.8.

1/320, f/5.6, ISO 100, 70mm.



Trees in the Drizzle #1 by Bill de Jager, on Flickr.  Olympus E-M1.3, 300mm f/4.  1/1600, f/4, ISO 400.



Trees in the Drizzle #2 by Bill de Jager, on Flickr.  Olympus E-M1.3, 300mm f/4.  1/2500, f/4, ISO 400.

I heavily manipulated the last two photos to increase separation between the closer and farther trees.  After taking a series of shots with this lens I switched to the 40-150mm, and by the time I'd done that the mist and drizzle had departed and the forest looked flat.

More to come soon...

Jack Dahlgren

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Re: Point Reyes vicinity, California
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2021, 04:24:22 »
Nice description. I grew up in Marin and have spent a lot of time out in West Marin. I completely agree that this time of year is the best for bringing out colors and light. Every where is showing green after the first rain in 5 months.

Ian Watson

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Re: Point Reyes vicinity, California
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2021, 04:35:33 »
There is something particularly compelling about the first photograph. You have certainly not let the dreary weather impede you! I look forward to more.

Bent Hjarbo

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Re: Point Reyes vicinity, California
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2021, 09:33:19 »
There is something particularly compelling about the first photograph. You have certainly not let the dreary weather impede you! I look forward to more.
I must agree on the first picture, very nice.
Looking forward to more of your fine pictures, from this nice place.

Bill De Jager

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Re: Point Reyes vicinity, California
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2021, 00:27:38 »
Thank you Jack, Ian, and Bent for your compliments.

This was my first time using the Olympus 300mm f/4 PRO lens for serious photography, let alone wildlife.  Handheld it moved all over and (for me) would have been a hopeless case with an unstabilized camera and lens. Fortunately, the Olympus E-M1 III and this lens both have image stabilization, which can work together to produce a claimed 6 stops of stabilization benefit.  I found this dual image stabilization worked very well.  Here are the actual pixels from a shot with this combo:



Hawk actual pixels by Bill de Jager, on Flickr

1/8000, f/4, ISO 400

This image isn't critically sharp at full magnification, but it was shot while the bird was flying so motion of the bird and focus may be factors. The C+SF+Tracking AF mode was very effective at following birds on the ground.  The initial shot in this series was blurred due to a rare autofocus failure but the remaining two shots were useably sharp.  Unfortunately, due to the card being corrupted by user error all EXIF exposure details were lost, but fortunately I was able to salvage the images. My bad. I was looking at the NEF files.  Data are available after all!

I found that the 300mm focal length, equivalent in angle-of-view to 600mm on a full-frame sensor, made photography of larger birds very feasible. This egret was shot at a distance of about 35 meters and the image is uncropped:



Egret uncropped 35m by Bill de Jager, on Flickr

1/1600, f/4, ISO 400.

Portions of the head look slightly blurry but that's actually some of the feathers separating from one another.

Onward to more photos...

Point Reyes was originally named Punta de los Reyes (Point of the Kings) by the Spanish navigator and explorer Sebastian Vizcaino at the beginning of the 17th century.  It's partly separated from the mainland by Tomales Bay to the northeast.  This bay is an ecologically important area that's an absolute treasure of beauty and recreation.  Seasonally it can be very windy, but with the coastal fog season over winds are now mostly gentle making for easier times on the water.



Paddleboarders, Tomales Bay by Bill de Jager, on Flickr

1/1600, f/4, ISO 400.

I managed to find a good spot to observe a couple of great egrets hunting for food.  The following photos are cropped.



Egret Posed by Bill de Jager, on Flickr

1/1600, f/4, ISO 400.

This last photo is a demonstration of my inexperience with wildlife photography.  As I tried to follow this egret as it walked across a shallow pond, I was concerned with focus tracking and failed to notice the nice reflection below the bird.  This is the only shot in that series that captures the entire reflection.  If I could go back and do it again I would have framed the photo lower.



Egret Reflection by Bill de Jager, on Flickr

1/1000, f/4, ISO 400.

Bill De Jager

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Re: Point Reyes vicinity, California
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2021, 01:27:02 »
I've updated both posts with exposure information and better indicated which photos were taken with which camera-lens combination.

ColinM

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Re: Point Reyes vicinity, California
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2021, 20:09:37 »
Thanks for these Bill.

I found each egret image more enticing than the last.

Quote
I found that the 300mm focal length, equivalent in angle-of-view to 600mm on a full-frame sensor, made photography of larger birds very feasible


Out of interest, were these taken handheld?

Bill De Jager

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Re: Point Reyes vicinity, California
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2021, 05:33:35 »
Thanks, Colin.  The photos were all taken handheld.  Image stabilization saved the day with both the Olympus and Nikon gear.  A 600mm-equivalent field of view handheld is a game-changer in wildlife photography, as noted by wildlife photographers using the Nikon 500mm PF lens which has nearly the same reach in the full-frame format.  I actually had assumed beforehand that the Olympus lens would need to be on a tripod, and I carried one along in my vehicle, but found that the combined sensor-lens image stabilization worked so well even with such a long lens that I didn't bother with the tripod.

If I had been going to only one or a few points then I probably would have used a tripod.  However, with weather being rather changeable in both locality and in short periods of time, I made a great many stops while looking for photographic opportunities. Going handheld made all the difference in finding opportunities that day, by reducing the frictions involved in taking photos on the fly.

Bill De Jager

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Re: Point Reyes vicinity, California
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2021, 00:12:34 »
One of the distinctive features of the Point Reyes peninsula is the forests of bishop pine (Pinus muricata) found on Inverness Ridge.  This is one of three closely related pines in California that have closed cones; the cones do not usually open on their own but open only after a fire passes through.  Bishop pine and its close relative Monterey pine (P. radiata) grow in the wild only on foggy coastlines where summer fogs moderate the temperature and humidity during the rainless summer months. The trees actually harvest moisture from the air via fog condensing on the foliage and dropping to the ground.  This fog drip has been measured at up to 420mm per year in some coastal forests.

Both these tree species develop distinctive deeply furrowed bark as they get older, producing a rather rugged appearance to the trunks. Together with the lichen often growing on these trees in their relatively moist environment, the result can be striking.  One of the favorite photographs my father made was of the interior of a Monterey pine forest in the Monterey, California area.

On Inverness Ridge I took many photographs, trying to capture the particular and distinctive look of these forests when seen from the inside.  It wasn't as easy as I thought at the time and few of my photos approached what I hoped they could be upon closer examination.  More than anything else it was a learning experience for me.  I will need to work harder at first finding better perspectives; it didn't work too well in most cases having the upper half of the background as sky and the lower half as distant and (relatively) dark hillside.

The following three photos were taken with the Nikon 24-70 S on a Z6.



Mossy Bishop Pine Trunks by Bill de Jager, on Flickr

1/1250, f/2.8, ISO 100, 39mm.



Pine, Hills, and Ocean by Bill de Jager, on Flickr

1/1250, f/2.8, ISO 100, 70mm, heavily cropped.



Bishop Pine Forest Silhouette by Bill de Jager, on Flickr

1/320, f/5.6, ISO 100, 40mm, heavily cropped.

Well offshore from the mainland lie the desolate, rocky Farallon Islands.



Farallon Islands by Bill de Jager, on Flickr

Olympus 300mm f/4 PRO on Olympus E-M1.3, 1/2000, f/4, ISO 400, handheld, cropped.

Finally, a view of the Point Reyes landscape extending out to the ridge at the end of the peninsula.  The point proper is out of view to the right.



Point Reyes Landscape by Bill de Jager, on Flickr

Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 FL on Z6, 1/400, f/5.6, ISO 100, handheld.

This concludes my presentation of photos from this trip.

Jack Dahlgren

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Re: Point Reyes vicinity, California
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2021, 17:42:40 »
Must have been a rather clear day. Typically the Farallons are not visible. The long lens helps bring them a lot closer than they look in real life. They are about 30 miles off shore.

Bill De Jager

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Re: Point Reyes vicinity, California
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2021, 18:02:24 »
It was clear under the clouds when it wasn't drizzling.  I used the dehaze feature in Photoshop Elements to make the islands more distinct as they are fairly dim in the original.