Landscape Photography
of James L. Snyder

Soberanes Canyon
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Soberanes Canyon
Mamiya RZ67 Pro II camera, 50mm Mamiya SEKOR-Z f/4.5 W lens, polarizer, Fujicolor Reala film, 75 megapixels
All Images ©Copyright 2010 James L. Snyder. All Rights Reserved

Soberanes Canyon

Rocky Ridge Trail, Garrapata State Park, Monterey County, CA, 7/13/2006

I made this photograph one summer afternoon during a drive along the California coast with a couple of friends. This is a place by the Pacific ocean south of Carmel called Soberanes Canyon in Garrapata State Park. The weather was truly remarkable that day. Everywhere south of here was cold, dark, and overcast; one of my friends apologized for how gloomy and disappointing our adventure was. Everywhere north of the canyon was warm, bright, and sunny - not a cloud in the sky! Here from Rocky Ridge Trail we see the point of contact between the two weather systems. Very low clouds sailed by and presented an unusual opportunity; something special and beautiful was happening here. I immediately knew what I wanted to capture with my camera and I quickly prepared it and patiently waited for the "decisive moment", to quote French photographer and father of modern photojournalism Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004). Aiming my camera southeast, I watched as a series of clouds blew in from the ocean, which is just a short distance beyond the right edge of this scene. For awhile one of those clouds blocked the sun from shining where I was standing and throughout the view. When the lighting finally cooperated and the perfect cloud moved into the frame I snapped the shutter! The presence of a cloud so close to the ground - and we're at sea level - makes this an exceptional occurrence: a photograph that can never be made again. One of my heroes, the noted wilderness photographer and climber Galen Rowell (1940-2002) coined the phrase "dynamic landscape" to describe this type of photograph. He enjoyed seeking out and photographing optical phenomena in the natural world and referred to his photographs as dynamic landscapes, due to both the fast-changing nature of light and conditions and his energetic pursuit of the best viewpoint and optimal timing. Having read several of Rowell's books and feeling inspired by his work, I saw the fast moving clouds in the canyon on this day and recognized the potential for creating a dynamic landscape of my own! Garrapata State Park is at the northern end of the rugged Big Sur coast of California and three miles south of Point Lobos State Reserve. Behind the cloud and in the distance to the left are the headlands of the Santa Lucia mountain range. The name Soberanes is linked with the early Spanish exploration of California. Soldier José María Soberanes marched up the coast to Monterey with the Gaspar de Portolá expedition of 1769. Seven years later, Soberanes served as a guide for Juan Bautista De Anza, whose party pushed north to San Francisco Bay. Grandson José Antonio Ezequiel Soberanes acquired the coastal bluff and magnificent backcountry that became known as the Soberanes Ranch.

Soberanes Canyon

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