Making Photographs: The Story Behind Pond, Mount Vision

I’ve been thinking about 1990 and remembering what I was doing and photographing during that time some thirty years ago. Writing about the early photographs made on Mount Tamalpais in last week’s post, Light on the Mountain, jogged my memory. I was reminded of photographs I’d made at other places during that time. A film negative that I’ve always loved came to mind: Pond, Mount Vision was photographed on a late February day in 1990. It was recorded quite early in my career, during the 5th year of serious photography. I’ve now been at this pursuit for thirty-five years! The experience of making this photograph embodies much of what I feel about finding my way and finding photographs in the natural, changing light of the landscape.

February1990

Letting Go
In the winter of 1989-90 I haunted the western slopes of the Inverness Ridge trying to get some evocative images of the great landforms of Point Reyes and Drakes Estero. I wandered around the lookouts on Mt Vision road that winter without much luck. But, more importantly, during this time, I began to learn how to let go of my expectations. Instead, I gradually became aware of what was being offered. Sometimes it was a matter of simply turning in another direction or walking away. Paying attention to nothing in particular and letting go, I stopped hunting and relaxed.  It seems simple to me now, but at the time it was a revelation–to become present to a scene bathed in a fleeting moment of revealing light! At unexpected moments, the light from a setting sun could break through the moving fog or clouds.

Such was the case with Pond, Mt. Vision. I could have easily left the ridge because the fog was obscuring what I was so determined to photograph. Instead, I let those thoughts go and quietly watched, then photographed as the surprising light from the setting sun coursed under the fog, piercing the darkness. The light sparkled, reflecting on a still pond. I wrote about this moment in my book, Point Reyes 20 Years:

From the Book
I don’t remember the first time I looked toward the Point from Mount Vision. I just know that, when I see that view now, I’m filled with a deep sense of hope, awe, and tranquility. The views from Mount Vision are etched deeply into my heart.

Over the years, I’ve let the light lead me as I hike. My camera and tripod are comfortable extensions of my body that I hardly notice as I walk. When the good light arrives, I notice it as it breathes life into the shape of a tree, reveals the curve of a hill, or flashes off the surface of water. It’s when this light comes that I remember I am carrying my camera.

As I watched the sunset from Mount Vision one February evening, the sun winked through the Pacific fog to sparkle on a small pond. At the horizon, the curtain of fog opened briefly to reveal a small, shining window to the sea.

3 comments on “Making Photographs: The Story Behind Pond, Mount Vision

  1. Simply stunning! I live on the coast and experience the evening fog rolling in. But, never, with this amazing back-drop. Thanks for sharing, Marty.

  2. I think “letting go” is essential for creating expressive, evocative imagery. There is no bad light or bad weather just different conditions that present different photographic opportunities. Thank you for sharing this beautiful scene and your wisdom.

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