The Making of Olema Hill Triptych

Early in my career as a fine art photographer, I supplemented sales of my own work with income generated by doing copy work for fellow artists. During a session as I made color slides for my friend Gary Smith, one of his landscape paintings particularly drew my attention. This work featured a striking view of a Point Reyes icon, Black Mountain. Composed from an angle I had never seen, Gary’s painting captured the sacred quality I felt for this mountain. Gary generously told me where he found this view. Soon thereafter, I began walking the Bolinas Ridge Trail, a fire road that begins on Olema Hill and heads south toward Mount Tamalpais.

Since that first time, I have spent many happy hours exploring & photographing the views at the northern end of this trail. My wife and I made our home at the base of Olema Hill and the trail quickly became a favorite for walks together with our dog, Pooka. Over the years I have made many photographs of the views of the rolling hills that cascade toward the Tomales Bay delta and the Point Reyes valley. Eventually, in June of 1998, I found the place to make the photograph that forms the basis for my edition of the Olema Hill Triptych.

Black and white triptych photograph of black mountain, tomales bay and inverness ridge as seen from olema hill, california.

About a mile uphill, just before the trail splits off toward Samuel Taylor Park, I found an inviting rocky outcropping. Ancient granite rocks strewn among tufts of dry grass invited me to stop and rest from the steady uphill walk. As I sat on a rock and slowly surveyed the scene, I was struck by the gorgeous panoramic view spreading out before me. On this day, the afternoon sun backlit the rolling hills. The day’s late-summer light was exquisite and provided drama to the scene. I chose a wide angle lens to record what I saw. To my left was the Inverness Ridge and the straight sliver of water that forms the Tomales Bay as it runs out to the Pacific Ocean. In the middle, the lovely rolling hills of the valley wound down to the ranch lands of Point Reyes. And, far to the right, Black Mountain rose prominently, its wondrous folds lit obliquely by the rays of the setting sun.

The Olema Hill Triptych is a version of the original single-film image, Tomales Bay & Black Mountain, made that day. It was inspired in 2012 when a collector requested a very large version of one of my photographs that could be split into three vertical panels. I searched through my portfolio of images to find a landscape that would split while still providing a presentation in which each panel would remain distinct and compelling.  Tomales Bay & Black Mountain turned out to be the perfect composition for this variation. Each panel invites the viewer in for a closer look, yet taken together the three panels still flow together harmoniously.

The original photograph, Tomales Bay and Black Mountain, is shown here for comparison. This single image is still available. I now prefer the triptych version which I have been showing in my gallery starting in 2013.  The triptych has  received positive reviews and interest. It’s been collected several times since its release in 2013. Both are available in several sizes online here. Which one do you prefer?

Tomales Bay & Black Mountain

10 comments on “The Making of Olema Hill Triptych

  1. A rather late comment from me, I don’t normally seek to add my tupennyworth. I think the triptych has taken a nice ordinaryish landscape and turned it into three strong compelling images, each with a different focus but intrinsically linked by the landscape itself. It works so much better as a triptych and the white border contributes to the overall effect. I wouldn’t have the temerity to play about with one of your pictures myself but i am so glad you did.

  2. Triptych !


    It’s so curious to compare them.
    But note this: The white frame border, which is relatively wide, really contributes to a sense of contrast, as well as aliveness. I imported the images into Photoshop to see what would happen if I trimmed the white border to make it more narrow like the grey border of the original. Very different effect. Still contrast-y, but not as much power as with those wide white borders. Nice effect, Marty.

  3. I love your triptychs, Marty!

    I think they provide resting places for the eye and a way to organize a sweeping vista.

    I dearly love mine that hangs about my Gary Smith table!

    • Susan,
      Just proves that Gary and I are connected in the artwork cosmos. I’m pleased that you chose to pair our creations in your home. warmly, Marty

  4. I prefer the triptych, and I’m trying to figure out why that is. Perhaps because it creates the effect of looking through a window at the gorgeous scene ahead. The framing it creates seems to only enhance the experience and not get in the way of it. Beautiful!

    • Shira,

      Thank you. I couldn’t have said it better. I’ve always felt that this kind of matting created the illusion as if looking through windows. When hung on the wall it creates the feeling of looking into other worlds.

  5. I am lucky enough to have been gifted this piece by my family. I have the triptych and enjoy it everyday!!
    Thanks, Marty, for sharing your wonderful talent.

    • Kit,
      Good to hear from you and thanks for weighing in on your preference. I prefer the triptych, but even so I still enjoy the original, so will not retire it from circulation. Cheers, Marty

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