Art

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Eureka Slough Railroad Bridge

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 12:23 PM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
I remember when the rails in Humboldt County rumbled to the passage of great trains rolling regularly through the county. Looking back, I took far too little advantage of the photographic opportunities they afforded while their time and mine here overlapped. Now we have them in memory only, and photographing the remnants of their steel carriages and rusting rails evokes ghosts of a bygone day.

With thoughts of capturing some of that once mighty line’s remains in the stark light of the modern night I found myself on the old railroad bridge over the Eureka Slough at the north end of Eureka, Humboldt County, California. Here the Old meets New, as this section of the former track is slated to become part of the Humboldt Bay Trail, connecting Eureka with Arcata for non-motorized traffic
(https://humboldtgov.org/humboldtbaytrail).

In photography’s early days images were monochromatic, reproducing all the vibrant colors of a scene as a range of gray values from white to black. Film was an ideal medium for capturing history, and the early history it recorded lives on today as black and white images. For over a hundred years photography recorded a world without color for posterity.
A night on the old Railroad bridge over the Eureka Slough at the north end of Eureka, Humboldt County, California. Trains thundered down these tracks regularly back in the day. Photographed June 7, 2018. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A night on the old Railroad bridge over the Eureka Slough at the north end of Eureka, Humboldt County, California. Trains thundered down these tracks regularly back in the day. Photographed June 7, 2018.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Memorial Day Flag

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 11:39 AM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
There will be many words written and sentiments expressed in honor of Memorial Day, but none will be as significant as the thoughts and feelings, wishes and prayers we hold within ourselves. One’s heart is a special place, and when we had our moments of silence this weekend it was in order to bring to that special place those parts of the outside world that strike us to our core, to make them forever a part of ourselves and to better ourselves through them. When we better ourselves, it improves the world.

I was a college student at Humboldt State University in 1991 when the Gulf War broke out, our first war against Saddam Hussein. As always, times of war bring with them much on which to reflect. I thought about this as I watched our country’s people respond in so many varying ways. While I tend to do most of my reflecting on such things internally, the gamut of human expression is wide and other people will express themselves in any number of ways.

Some will raise their voices visually. Not long after the Gulf War started in 1991, a striking visual beacon was raised against the night sky along U.S. Highway 101 between Arcata and McKinleyville: a gigantic flag flying along the freeway, hoisted by crane and stretched taught by a cable anchored to a roller. Impressive by day, the giant flag’s illuminated Stars and Stripes stood out spectacularly against the backdrop of night. It drew my photographic eye like a moth to a flame. I wanted to photograph it. I had no thought of speaking any messages with a photograph, only of crafting something visually appealing.
A giant U.S. flag flies beside U.S. Highway 101 between Arcata and McKinleyville, Humboldt County, California. 1991. Shot on 35mm film, this is an in-camera double exposure on a single negative; I made one exposure of the whole scene with the crane carrying the flag twisting in the wind. Then, without advancing the film, I took a telephoto shot of the flag filling the frame with its stripes flowing softly upward. The two images overlapped on the negative to produce this image. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A giant U.S. flag flies beside U.S. Highway 101 between Arcata and McKinleyville, Humboldt County, California. 1991. Shot on 35mm film, this is an in-camera double exposure on a single negative; I made one exposure of the whole scene with the crane carrying the flag twisting in the wind. Then, without advancing the film, I took a telephoto shot of the flag filling the frame with its stripes flowing softly upward. The two images overlapped on the negative to produce this image.


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The Otters are Coming! The Otters are Coming!

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 10:53 AM

The otter sculptures ready to be shipped. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • The otter sculptures ready to be shipped.

A shipment of 100 otter sculptures is heading toward the North Coast, according to Jeff Black, who created the North Coast Otter Public Arts Initiative. All the way from Jolly Roger Sculptures in the Philippines, the arrival of the 3-foot-tall sculptures standing ready for an artist's touch will kick off a public art initiative scheduled for next summer.


The initiative will combine art and citizen science to “promote clean water and healthy habitats where we live and play,” using a fun scavenger hunt across five counties in the North Coast, a junior ranger program and an Eo Day/Otter collaboration to support the River Otter Citizen Science Project. The initiative is a celebration of otters, Black said.


Black is still continuing his search for sponsors and hosts, as the scavenger hunt will incorporate business across Humboldt, Del Norte, Siskiyou, Mendocino and Trinity counties. To learn more about hosting or sponsoring an otter click here.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Rainy Night at 5th and F in Eureka

Posted By on Thu, May 23, 2019 at 10:35 AM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
Rain had come out of the blue and the weather was up in the air. I couldn’t find any stars anywhere, so I lit out to the downtown regions of Eureka, Humboldt County, California to find something interesting in the lights of civilization.

I had in mind finding a fire hydrant to work with as a foreground object in a city street scene. To me the fire hydrant in a city is akin to the lone fence post in the country, it’s one of those subjects that draws me somehow. Not that I have a lot of shots of them at all, but I do think about them. Actually, I’m not really sure I’ve ever focused on one in a composition, but I’ve been collecting images of them in my head.
Hmm, the stars gotta be around here somewhere ... rainy night self-portrait on the corner of 5th and F, Eureka, Humboldt County, California. A long exposure from the night of May 16, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Hmm, the stars gotta be around here somewhere ... rainy night self-portrait on the corner of 5th and F, Eureka, Humboldt County, California. A long exposure from the night of May 16, 2019.
This night I had the bug to track one down and capture it in its native element. I found my candidate in one of the city’s neat yellow and cyan fire plugs down on the corner of 5th and F Streets. It had a certain character about it, and I liked the location for the lighting, the lines and the brick sidewalk.

Rain came and went all evening. Even between showers there seemed always to be some droplets floating in the air and landing on the lens. But the light quality from the city lights was beautiful, reflecting bright, rich colors off of the rain-soaked road’s gritty surface. Long exposures turned car lights to smooth streaks of light and color as they drove through the frame. I loved how the colors were working in the photographs.
The fire hydrant sitting on the corner of 5th and F Streets in Eureka, California. The light streaks in the image are from cars going by. In long exposures such as this, the cars moved almost entirely through the frame while the shutter was open, causing their lights to become streaks. The driving cars themselves are not bright enough to see. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The fire hydrant sitting on the corner of 5th and F Streets in Eureka, California. The light streaks in the image are from cars going by. In long exposures such as this, the cars moved almost entirely through the frame while the shutter was open, causing their lights to become streaks. The driving cars themselves are not bright enough to see.
I’d brought a crystal ball I hadn’t used in ages to incorporate in a photograph somehow. There is something of a mild craze for photographing crystal balls these days, so it’s been in my mind’s eye of late. This crystal ball I bought for photography almost 25 years ago down at Globe Imports along the waterfront. (How many years has THAT place been gone?!) But unfortunately this night the rain was not cooperating, and I’d hardly played with it before I was driven back to the shelter of the car.
I set my crystal ball on the fire plug, holding it securely in place using a specialized compound: chewing gum (I packed it out, too). Looking through a crystal ball turns the world upside-down, but I thought that made the small scene inside it difficult to make out, so I flipped the crystal ball upside down so the scene inside was right side up. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • I set my crystal ball on the fire plug, holding it securely in place using a specialized compound: chewing gum (I packed it out, too). Looking through a crystal ball turns the world upside-down, but I thought that made the small scene inside it difficult to make out, so I flipped the crystal ball upside down so the scene inside was right side up.


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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Perception of Time

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2019 at 11:03 AM

The rugged northern California coast is battered by a constant barrage of waves, their motion smoothed out in this 25-second exposure. Puffy clouds blowing by overhead were changed to streaks in the camera by their motion. Only the stars and rocks appeared to be still. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The rugged northern California coast is battered by a constant barrage of waves, their motion smoothed out in this 25-second exposure. Puffy clouds blowing by overhead were changed to streaks in the camera by their motion. Only the stars and rocks appeared to be still.
Considering how the world is versus our perception of it is interesting. Take this photograph. What do you see in it? Perhaps give yourself a moment and label all the things you find in it. You could describe the image with all of the thousand words a picture is due, but yet miss entirely some of the action that was taking place during the photograph, either because it wasn’t recorded at all or it was recorded in such a way that it isn’t recognizable. Did you note the crashing waves pounding the rocks below, or describe the cottony-puffy shape of the clouds as they drifted across the sky? What about the motion of the Earth beneath the stars, or the perpetual crumbling of the coastline into the waves occurring before our very eyes? It’s all there, but did you see it?

What’s real time? Let’s say real time is how we perceive time passing via our personal biological senses of sight, sound, smell, etc. Our eyes are made to bring us a view of our surroundings in an instant, with moment-by-moment updates. When I shot this image, I was out photographing with my friend and former student Jake Langston. In real time we saw each of the individual waves arriving in a continuous procession. One by one they rolled in to the shore, crashing and splashing around the gigantic buffer rocks in the shallows before finally pounding against the cliffs and beaches amid the familiar roar of the surf’s white noise. Above us a cluster of small clouds slid slowly across the sky, each a discrete little puff. Stars twinkled behind them, hanging apparently motionless across the magnificent night.
Jake takes a starry night photo overlooking the Pacific Ocean along Scenic Drive, Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Jake takes a starry night photo overlooking the Pacific Ocean along Scenic Drive, Humboldt County, California.


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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Humboldt Moonset

Posted By on Wed, May 8, 2019 at 1:39 PM

A Humboldt Moonset - High Saturation. What passes between friends as the crescent moon sets over the Pacific at the end of the Milky Way? Humboldt County, California. November 10, 2018. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A Humboldt Moonset - High Saturation. What passes between friends as the crescent moon sets over the Pacific at the end of the Milky Way? Humboldt County, California. November 10, 2018.
When friends or family visit from afar my first wish is to share the natural beauty of our area with them, especially if they come from city lives insulated from nature. From the legendary forests of our towering redwoods to the beautiful beaches and rugged coastlines, the natural beauty of our area is its greatest treasure.

It’s all still there at night, too, remember. And night offers something else city folk never see at home: a sky full of stars. It’s all too easy to take things for granted when one is accustomed to seeing them, and we live in a wonderland here. But conversely, to those unaccustomed to the sights, our area offers some amazing eye-openers, not the least of which is our night sky. Visitors from less rural areas are often amazed at the number of stars we still have in our skies. If you take your visitors out, or even go yourself, allow fifteen to twenty minutes to let your eyes grow used to the dark so see the most stars.

There is really no better way to feel small in the Universe than to stare into the night sky full of stars and realize that each one is itself a sun, and all are impossibly distant from each other. Some of those points in the sky are themselves entire galaxies full of stars. And everything we see is but a small part of the whole Universe … so it makes me feel small. Living amongst and beneath all this beauty we have on California’s North Coast goes remarkably well with my current passion: sharing these wonders of the nightscape via my photography.

Even visiting friends who themselves are not strangers to the outdoors will appreciate our unique scenery. Take the new moon’s crescent setting over the Pacific at the very foot of the Milky Way … I ask you. How many folks get to see that? Not too many, probably, for it happens only once each year. The Milky Way moves across the horizon from left to right month by month, and the previous month saw the Milky Way setting to the left of the crescent moon, while the following month it was to the right of the moon.

The moon was the brightest object in the sky at the time of the accompanying photograph, and in allowing the camera to gather enough light for the surrounding area the moon itself nearly became a featureless brightness in the sky. But its crescent shape is preserved in the original image, and can be seen when printed large. If you’re unable to see the crescent shape here, it’s because it is too small as presented.

In editing the photograph I noticed that the sky above the horizon had two distinct color casts between the left and right sides. In the spirit of fun, I bumped up the saturation to bring out the color differences. In part because of that, I halfway think of the image title as “High Saturation” but officially I have titled it “Humboldt Moonset.”

To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or peer into its past, visit and contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx .
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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Cave Fire Dancer

Posted By on Wed, May 1, 2019 at 11:24 AM

Shapes of the mind. Sometimes inner peace is only a surface illusion we cloak ourselves in to hide what’s really within. But if we hide it too well, would we lose ourselves? What do you find if you lose yourself in this image? Fire Dancer: Chelsea Burns. Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Shapes of the mind. Sometimes inner peace is only a surface illusion we cloak ourselves in to hide what’s really within. But if we hide it too well, would we lose ourselves? What do you find if you lose yourself in this image? Fire Dancer: Chelsea Burns. Humboldt County, California.
Photographing a fire dancer this week was a new experience for me, and I was unsure how things would turn out when Chelsea Burns, a local fire dancer, approached me about taking pictures of her as she danced with fire. It sounded like something interesting to photograph in the dark, so I was into it. My imagination began to conjure images, seeing shapes and designs and scenes that we could make.

We chose a beach location for its fire safety and potential for reflections. I was interested in capturing images inside a nearby cave, and there were other large rocks and rock faces with great textures that could be brought out by the fire’s illumination.

But as I photographed while dusk slipped to night, I began to realize that capturing my vision of the fire dancer was going to take more experimenting than I had thought. Usually the fastest things moving about in my images are stars or clouds sliding across the sky, and bright light sources are held to a minimum. In contrast, the fire dancer’s twirling fire was a veritable cyclone of whirling light in constant blinding motion. It took a few frames to get used to that, and to be sure I am still not its master after photographing for only about an hour.

Looking through the photographs at home I couldn’t find any that I felt excited about. I needed more time to get used to the way the moving fire landed in the image in order to really capture what I was envisioning, but I see how it will be possible in future sessions. While I could find no single exposure that I thought stood on its own merits, I did find a number of them that I could put together into a fantasy environment. So I did.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Smoky Coastal Skies and Milky Way

Posted By on Wed, Apr 24, 2019 at 11:30 AM

The Milky Way looms over the Pacific Ocean, standing out over the smoky, misty air along California’s North Coast. Smoke from inland fires lingered in the sky. August 2015. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The Milky Way looms over the Pacific Ocean, standing out over the smoky, misty air along California’s North Coast. Smoke from inland fires lingered in the sky. August 2015.
At the end of the summer of 2015, my brother and I were out around midnight on a great rock overlooking the Pacific Ocean, enjoying the view between ourselves and the rest of the Universe. Fires inland had been burning for weeks, their pall of smoke glowing orange in the sky to the south of us, illuminated from below by the lights of coastal Humboldt County habitations. From out of our view in front of us, a lighthouse cast a cold blue light onto the Pacific to contrast with the orange color of the smoky sky. Above it all, rising from the fog of smoke and ocean mists loomed the Milky Way, a great galactic structure in the sky reminding us of our small part in the cosmic dance around us.

The night sky is a precious gift, a window out into something much larger than we are, a view into the cosmic splendor of which we play such a tiny part. It’s a window denied to those who reside in the city, but we on the California North Coast are fortunate to live where there are few major light sources at night and we can easily get away from them to enjoy rich starry skies. Here we find the natural beauty of the Earth by day, and at night we have the majesty and beauty of the universe to behold. It doesn’t get much better than that for those who love the natural world.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Musings at Moonstone Cave

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 11:24 AM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
We stood in the mouth of the cavern, looking out through a great broken crack in the blackness into the night as if through a window into another world. It fired our imaginations, conjuring mysteries in the night. What is it about caves that stirs us so inside? My thoughts wandered and stories began to play across my mind as my imagination took me to a time that might have been earlier that day. …

… Hiking the redwood forests of Humboldt County earlier in the afternoon, my two companions and I had stumbled onto a stone stairway in the woods. Its worn steps led up a hill and into the goosepen of a great redwood tree. We had all hiked this area before but none of us had ever seen the stairs or the tree, not even the hill it was on. I admit I was more than a little confused. I consider myself to have an excellent sense of direction and have never gotten lost in the forest before, but how could I have missed this until now? Were we where we thought we were? My companions were as confused as I.

The stairs seemed ancient, small ledges of rock covered in moss, lichen and fallen debris. They led up into the dark opening at the base of the tree where the redwood opened to accommodate them, widening as though it had been growing around the steps for a thousand years, enticing travelers to enter and explore its mysteries. We accepted the invitation.
Imagine, if you will, a stairway to the darkest recesses of your own mind, where the only journey you will make is within, and the only fears you will face are your own. This is a place you cannot find on a map, cannot reach on foot — yet a familiarity of places known hangs about it like the cool Humboldt mists. … (Thank you, Rod Serling) - Note: this is a composite image of two Humboldt places and only exists in the imagination. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Imagine, if you will, a stairway to the darkest recesses of your own mind, where the only journey you will make is within, and the only fears you will face are your own. This is a place you cannot find on a map, cannot reach on foot — yet a familiarity of places known hangs about it like the cool Humboldt mists. … (Thank you, Rod Serling)Note: this is a composite image of two Humboldt places and only exists in the imagination.
The steps climbed up and into the tree’s hollow, and then immediately descended again to vanish into the darkness underground. The beam of my headlamp revealed the staircase curving out of view in the shadows below us. We looked at each other there at the top of the stairs — to explore, or no? My companions flicked their own headlamps on in answer. Down we went.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Reflections From Trinidad

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 12:37 PM

The stars arc across the sky in their nightly parade in this view looking south from Boat Launch Beach, or Indian Beach, beneath the town of Trinidad, California. January 30, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The stars arc across the sky in their nightly parade in this view looking south from Boat Launch Beach, or Indian Beach, beneath the town of Trinidad, California. January 30, 2019.
I opened the camera’s shutter and waited.

It was already high tide, and I didn’t expect any waves to reach me. When I had arrived half an hour earlier I’d set up where the small waves coming in across Trinidad Harbor lapped nearly at my feet. I’d taken a few photographs from there, but the incoming tide periodically sent the odd wave farther than the rest and had pushed me back up the beach.

It must have been a message to me that I needed something more interesting in the foreground, for I found myself guided to a heavy wave-sculpted piece of driftwood I hadn’t noticed before in the darkness. Its contours would help bring the foreground to life.

Now as I waited through the long exposure I thought about the light falling around me. Most of the light on the beach came in from the boat launch area some distance to the right of me. It lay across the sand and surf in interesting patterns of shade made by various forms near the boat launch.

Light skimmed gently across the upper surfaces of the driftwood, accentuating its contours and illuminating a mound of sand around it. Some of the light also struck the camera, so I stood and waited where my body could shade the bulbous face of the wide angle lens. I wasn’t sure I had to, but it couldn’t hurt. It was a long exposure and I didn’t want any slight lens flare to build up during the course of it.

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