Last Friday conditions were promising for night-sky photography. A moonless night combined with unusually clear skies inspired me to try my luck at Kehoe Beach. I was excited, hopeful as I packed my gear for the drive out to the northern coast of Point Reyes. I had photographed at Kehoe many times over the years, but this would be my first time to explore the view during a starry night. When I arrived at the trailhead, the last visitors were leaving, returning along the trail to their vehicle. As I walked toward them, I heard their happy chattering grow louder and saw the light from their flashlights grow closer, bobbing in rhythm with their steps. I would be alone on this beach, on this starry night!
I love photographing at night. Under the clear darkened sky, time spreads out. The experience deepens and more seems possible. I wander slowly during these hours of maximum darkness and let the compositions come to me. For several hours the light remains the same, the only changes are the slow movement of the stars and the shifting of the landscape shapes as I move about. There are moments I am dumbstruck by the vast, unfathomable space of the heavens, delighted by the beauty of these bright stars slowly revolving above…filled with wonder, having to stop, unable to even point my camera.
On this night at Kehoe Beach, I gathered myself again and walked slowly along the beach to the north where a favorite bluff beckoned. As I passed by it, I turned back to admire its strong profile glorified by the star-splashed sky to the south. I made several exposures. This one is my favorite:
Turning around to the north, I saw the great land mass of Point Reyes, magnificently curving toward McClures Beach under a canopy of stars:
I decided to wander south on the beach to see if I could find a familiar tidal pool I had photographed another time under sunlight. But before I left, I made one more photograph of the line of bluffs that shelter much of Kehoe Beach:
In a few hundred yards, I found the tidal pool. And although I had hoped to catch the starry sky reflecting on a mirrored surface, the wind that night prevented such visions. Nevertheless, the beautiful shape of the pool provided a striking foreground for this view to the south:
The air started to feel damp as it does in Point Reyes as the evening deepens. I turned around to discover the cause. Wispy clouds drifted high overhead, coming my way. These clouds felt magnificent and powerful. It was time to go. I made this last photograph of as midnight approached: