Beginnings: 50th Anniversary of Photography at Point Reyes

This year marks the 50th anniversary of my arrival in Point Reyes. It also marks 50 years since I developed my first rolls of film. I have fond memories of creating the first prints from these negatives. The images illustrating this post are from those first self-developed rolls. Back then I almost exclusively photographed my friends. These photographs are all from the autumn months of 1973.

Brass Menagerie workers enjoy hanging out together.

In the autumn of 1973 the company I worked for, the Brass Menagerie, relocated from San Francisco to Point Reyes Station. We were a small manufacturer of brass and wood novelty items. The old Creamery Building in downtown Point Reyes was available and suitable for our business. The company purchased the abandoned creamery. Getting out of the city and into the natural beauty of coastal West Marin was a dream for all of us. Many of us left the city and collectively found places to rent in this area. I was one of several managers of the business, but in my spare time I often dreamt of becoming a photographer.

Friends: Kingsley Moore and Carol Whitman at work. Peggy Day and daughter during visit.

 I carried my camera with me everywhere and pretty much pointed my lens at my friends. I had not yet discovered the landscape and becoming an artist was unthinkable. Then something happened one day that was life changing. A door opened that led to a life-long journey into creative photography and art. My neighbor, Marie, asked me a simple question. “Who develops your film and makes your prints?” Naively, thinking the answer obvious, I answered, “I drop the films off at Photomat and pick up the results in a couple of days, doesn’t everyone?”  I noticed as we talked that Marie was tending a garden hose that trickled into a stainless steel container. She looked down at it and fished a reel out of the tank. On the reel was a roll of wet film! Marie looked up and said, “I develop my own film. I’m going to hang this one up to dry. Would you like to learn how to do your own films?” With that offer, I was off to the races!

Caty and her children, Zohra and John.

Within a week and after a few of Marie’s film developing lessons, I heard that a neighbor was selling his complete darkroom set up for $75. I tapped my savings and rushed out to secure the equipment. I never turned back and over they years I built several darkrooms, each one more advanced. From that time on, some fifty years ago, I developed tens of thousands of negatives–every exposure of black and white film I made I also personally developed.

Last night, I went deep into my archive of negatives and found the first rolls I self-developed in 1973. There was nary a landscape in the bunch, but lots of photographs of my friends. I’ve gathered a few of my favorites here for this post.   We were oh, so young and smooth-skinned then! Fifty years ago I came to Point Reyes and took the first important steps to becoming a photographer.

My friends: Betsy, Kallie and Rick.

February’s Radiant Light 

In February the light begins to return here in coastal, northern California. This morning I looked through my archives to find images made during some of February’s radiant moments.

Everything begins with the light. Walk the same path a hundred times and you think you’ve seen all there is to see. You really haven’t, though. One day, at a particular hour during a certain season, you are surprised. The light has transformed the view. You find yourself in new territory. The fog lifts–revealing light shining on a previously unnoticed pond.


Views never seen before appear. What was once commonplace has become extraordinary. For a moment you wonder if you’ve ever been there before.  In fact, you haven’t. The light, the atmosphere of the moment has trumped the place. You experience a view that you may never see again. The world is new, brand new, born of a fleeting and precious moment.

There are still some frosty mornings as winter loosens its grasp on the land and sea. There is more light and it is of a different quality. The air has often been scrubbed clean by passing rain clouds and wind. Some hours the landscape seems to radiate its own light as if it is bursting from within. I am drawn to these gifts of light. That is what I photograph.

Film = February 1998


Miata Frost Detail 39
A floral-like frost pattern found Christmas morning on the trunk of Jean’s Miata sports car.

Last week in Point Reyes we had the coldest mornings of the winter as temperatures plunged into the high 20s. That may not seem cold to my New England friends, but it was chilly enough for me to cut short my usually leisurely walk with Jean and our pups. I did not carry my camera. My skin is thinner these days and my fingers ached from an old frostbite injury. During last week’s arctic blast, my pace quickened and we all hastily retreated to the comforting warmth of our hearth.

Back home and warm again, I thought about photographs I’d made a few years ago during some even frostier mornings. In particular, I remembered ones made during freezing mornings between 2015-2017. I searched my archives for the most evocative ones I could find. I gathered images of frost tableaus, close-ups of frost-adorned flora, and wider views of frost-covered landscapes. You can see this new collection at my website here: Frost Collection.