I’ve caught the fever – I can’t believe how fantastically, incomprehensibly, and unfathomably beautiful the night sky is! I’m hooked…. I’ve been watching the sky. Whenever it looks clear and the moon is dark, I find myself heading out to one of our wild and remote beaches at Point Reyes. (Once atop the Inverness Ridge, I hope to discover that the coastal fog is gone, making starry night photography possible.) I’m happy when conditions are right. I’ve photographed the night sky frequently, in the last few weeks, since I posted my essay, Starry Night at Drakes Beach.
I’ve visited McClures Beach on two evenings in recent weeks. McClures Beach is my favorite Point Reyes beach. It is the most northern accessible shoreline in the park, tucked below the rugged highlands of Pierce Point. Out there, it feels like I’m at the end of the earth. Windswept and carved by the Pacific, its wild shores are populated by mammoth stone seastacks. It’s a little spooky walking down the steep trail to McClures at night, alone. So, for my first night photo visit, I asked my wife, Jean, to come with me.
On a clear and moonless evening, we left the dogs in the car and walked down the creek-bed trail to the beach. We arrived shortly after sunset. We were the only souls on the beach that night. I found a fine place to stand where I could photograph the Milky Way streaming above the rocky point to our southwest. Jean ran the flashlight between exposures so I could adjust the settings on my camera. It was misty but the long exposures cut through the atmosphere to record the beauty of the starry night sky. From time to time, I’d hear Jean sigh. She told me she was so happy she was there with me, under the splendor of this star-crazed heavenly view! Later, as we walked up the trail, I vowed to return again, soon, to visit the “secret” beach at McClures.
A week later, I took my good friend Hadley to McClures Beach for a second visit. It was his first time there which was exciting for both of us. This time we walked further, past where I photographed the rocky point, until we reached the “secret” beach, which is unknown to those who do not walk far enough south. We slithered through the narrow chasm in the rocky point to the this steep crescent beach. It is treacherous there. The beach is narrow and steep, pushed up against even steeper, nearly unclimbable cliffs. I never turn my back on the sea when I’m on this beach.
We witnessed the final moments of light on the rugged sea stacks there. Hadley had earlier alerted me to the fact that the moon wouldn’t rise ’til late and that the tide would be extremely low. This was good news as we were able to set up our tripods behind the “Monolith.” (I called this seastack “Monolith” when I photographed it pho on a winter afternoon some 20 years ago — this is also the cover photograph of my book, Point Reyes 20 Years.)
I’ve been coming to McClures Beach since 1974 and have made many of my favorite seascape photographs there. But on these two recent nights, first with Jean and then with Hadley, I photographed the night sky there for the first times.
The fever still rages…. I’ve recently added a number of new starry sky photographs to my website. Fine prints of the photographs in this post are available in a number of sizes and presentations. Additional night sky photographs are also available and can be found in my new online collection: Night Sky.