It’s the calm before the storm in Point Reyes today,Tuesday, January 26, early afternoon. We’re hunkered down and prepared for high winds and plenty of rain… perhaps even coastal flooding. I love tumultuous weather. It makes me feel closer, more connected to my family and neighbors during those forces we cannot control. And, I can’t help thinking about how magnificent the sky looks when the storm departs. Thinking about this, I remember an afternoon in February of 1998 that I ventured out to Kehoe Beach during the tail end of a storm. I wrote about my experience and the photo I made that day in an essay titled “Dune and Clouds.”
We landscape photographers want to be there, ready, when the light breaks. Often that means venturing out in stormy weather, getting cold and wet, maybe even slipping and falling on a wet trail. There’s something about coming up against an obstacle… a challenge and not turning back that can reap a reward. That’s exactly what happened for me one afternoon in February, over twenty years ago!
There’s a tradition at our house. When I return from a photo expedition, Jean asks, “How’d it go?” If things went quite well, my answer is something like, “I got my feet wet,” or, “I slipped and fell.” This usually makes Jean smile. “Tell me about it, please,” she’ll say.
On a stormy day in 1998, I did slip and fall as I trekked out the trail to Kehoe Beach. It was raining, and an offshore gale was driving the last visitors from the beach. They passed me, bundled in their parkas, heads down against the wind. I made my way against the flow. I’m not fond of getting wet or muddy, so this was pushing my limit. I had my hood up, and my camera wore its own rain gear. I took my eyes off the slick trail for just a second, lost my footing, and landed hard on my knee and elbow, saving my camera from the mud. I gathered myself, checking to see if my body and my camera made it okay through this surprising event. All was well and I felt a glow of excited anticipation for what could come.
I was pushing myself because I knew that right after tumultuous weather, the light, the sky, the beach-—everything—could be breathtaking. But I rarely ventured so dangerously far from the shelter of my car in weather this rough. I pushed on….
I trudged over the dunes and down onto the windswept beach. I stood still and scanned the horizon. Not a soul to be seen save a brave man and his joyful dog jogging well to the north. It looked as if the sun would soon make an appearance. If it did, I wanted to be in a good place to photograph. The wind still howled. I watched as the sun seemed to draw the waters in the ocean with it as it set—“Dune and Clouds, Kehoe Beach.”