Harkins Slough in summer

Went exploring around Watsonville and found the walk around Harkins Slough. I’ve photographed so many egrets, but none against a background of flowers before.  Try to bushwhack through the brush and you’re risking a poison oak rash; the good news is you don’t have to. The walk has open views from several vantage points. You may need a 400 mm lens for a great photograph — mine was 300 mm and not as sharp as I’d like. I cropped my photo by about 75%! Also I noticed that being quiet and standing in one place for a while (like the egrets and herons do) helped me see things I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

Better than shopping. . .

Asilomar Beach is one of my favorite walks. I love to let the susurration of sound wash out my brain, let the tingle on my skin thrill, let the flight of a bird make me soar. It reminds me of being a child in British Columbia, the buzzing of a bee, the waving grass, wild raspberry seeds sticking in my teeth. Here it’s misting fog, breezy air, brilliant sun. I love to bring my camera — that means I have something to take home with me after a bracing walk, like the sunset pictured here. It’s not the same as the open air sunset I saw, but it’s a gift that the walk produced. I can take it home and fuss with it, put it up on my wall or on my blog, or send it around to friends as a hello for the day. It’s my personal experience, thank you Asilomar Beach. It beats going shopping on a slow day!

Patience and grace, not to mention focus

I must be a “Pacific Grovian” now because after 2 1/2 years of living here I love the fog. It’s moody and mysterious and it travels. It’s alive. You can hide in it or find things rising out of the mist. It doesn’t damage your skin. It’s moist but not wet. How perfect is that! Last Sunday I sat on a rock on Sunset Blvd. looking through my 135mm lens watching an egret fish. I was waiting to see it spread its lovely wings so I could exploit that for my art. Due to the relatively short focal length of my lens, I had to get within about 25 feet of the bird. I crept up slowly, trying not to make a sound. I suspect it knew I was there, but decided to ignore me. It was fishing in a tide pool and catching small fish, about six inches long, first gazing intently, then lowering its head, and finally plunging it’s beak into the water to emerge with something wriggling and black in its beak. Did you know that egrets sometimes shake their feathers just like a dog shakes its fur after emerging from the water? It was funny to see — actually I only saw it clearly when I looked at my photographs later. When I was there I felt graced to be in it’s presence. It could just as easily have flown off and gone fishing far out on the kelp. Oh my god, what a model of patience and grace. And focus. See for yourself. I’ll share a picture.

A symphony of sound

The weather forecast is for rain, but the light making its way through the venetian blinds is bright. I look at the clock; seven o’clock. When I get to Lover’s Point an hour later, it’s breezy, but the sky is still blue, with just a few clouds wisping on the horizon.

I drink in the familiar deep blue of the sea here with the cormorants sitting on an outcropping of rocks. Today a lone seagull sits out in front of them; three harbor seals, too, have already claimed their sunbathing spots. Two Canada Geese waddle along the path above. They pay me no mind.

The morning is sweet with the call of birds: the throaty warbling of a thrush, the cheeping of chickadees, the caw of a crow and the cry of seagulls, waves sighing all the while in the background. Small birds hop about on the magenta ice plant and the giant aloe vera beside the dirt path. I continue south and spot a seal floating in the water below; I watch him list in and out with the waves. For a moment I wonder if he is dead, but then finally he raises his snout above the water, waves rippling over its sleek back. Could he be sleeping?

My destination today is the rocky beach below the stone wall and steps that must have been built by the WPA in the thirties. The wall is concrete and stone, the steps dirt capped with timbers, changing to stone as the stair descends the last twenty feet toward the sea. The beach here is full of kelp washed up by winter storms, a mass of broken stems and fronds, sea green with reddish, yellow and brown hues. Read the rest of this entry »

An Ocean Walk is Never the Same

One day at Lover’s Point I found fifty pelicans plunging beak first into Monterey Bay, one after the other, for hours on end, presumably attracted by a big school of sardines. After sunset they folded their wings and settled on grey rocks jutting up out of the water. In the morning they were gone.

I have never since seen more than a dozen pelicans flying by or a group of four or five sitting on the rocks. But every day brings something new.

I admit to repeating the same walk many times in a week, beginning at Lover’s Point. Nine times out of ten, I walk west from there, because the path is dirt instead of concrete, and much easier on the hips and knees.

OK, so I’m not twenty anymore. Even if you are twenty it’s a good choice to go easier on the joints. Every ailment you get in old age is a result of the habits of your youth. I know, I shrugged it off too, and I won’t anguish you with a list of ailments.

I do want to say that, though the path I take is the same one, the walk is different every day. The ocean and the birds are not static; neither is the weather or the time of day. Add to that all the rest of the marine life and you have a lot of variables.

Photo at Sunrise

A great time to walk at Lover’s Point is just after sunrise, before the day gets busy, when the dawn light is rosy and low on the horizon. This morning I spotted a snowy egret on the bank about a half mile away from where I was standing. The sun reflected off its white feathers like a beacon. I had my camera with me and this was an obvious subject.

By the way, never turn your back on the ocean. I did when I was photographing the egret from the beach and came home with cold wet feet and trousers. Still, it was worth it. I captured the lovely bird on film and felt uplifted for my encounter.

The interesting thing about the morning is that when the sun is low, it offers the perfect highlighting for a photo. I tried to capture the bird from several angles, and noticed that with the sun behind it, its outline was backlit. Light can change a prosaic scene to something magical and poetic.