Frivolity

Thursday, November 14, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: A Handful of Night Light

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 1:03 PM

From Patrick’s Point, to the Avenue of the Giants, to the Lost Coast of legend, I give you … a handful of seven lovely Humboldt nights. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • From Patrick’s Point, to the Avenue of the Giants, to the Lost Coast of legend, I give you … a handful of seven lovely Humboldt nights.
I was in a situation not long ago with a handful of nights with which I knew not what to do. How many nights are there in a handful? You might wonder, though I never had, but it turns out that it depends on how big they are. The nights, not the hands … well, and the hands. In this case, it worked out such that when my wife held out her hands, I poured about a week’s worth of nights into them: seven magical evenings of North Coast Night Light to share with you here. Let’s pop among them for a little tour.

Were I to pour these evenings into your hand just so, inside the globe at the tip of your fingers you would find yourself high up in a quiet rocky grotto in the forest. The air is still in your protected eyrie, but its rush soughs softly through the forest all around you. An opening in the foliage reveals the Eel River far below, gliding between redwood-covered hillsides. A dazzling night sky dominated by the Milky Way reaches across from horizon to horizon like a great tear in the sky.

A step clockwise and you find yourself pushing through from one scene to the next in your handful of evenings. You’re above U.S. highway 101 now, standing beside the Avenue of the Giants where it passes over the Redwood Highway. It’s near midnight, and the only cars out this late zip by on the freeway below, each zooming past in its individual bubble of light. If you could watch with the patient eye of the camera rather than your own, you would see the cars as meteors trailing streaks of light that each become part of the scene. Several of them might pass by before you blinked once, each dragging their light tails behind them and adding their brushwork of light to the trees on either hand.

One night slips quietly into the next. So peaceful is this one, sitting beside the banks of the South Fork Eel River on a warm summer’s night. You steep there for a while with the redwood forest around you and the soft sounds of water playing along the shore beside you. Surrounded by a skyline of giant redwood silhouettes reaching into higher into the heavens than any other living organism, you consider small you are among living things.

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: A Trail to the Moonset

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2019 at 11:57 AM

No beach access here, a steep staircase descends to a narrow sandy trail snaking out to the point. Precipitous cliffs on either side offer a deadly drop to the wave-battered rocks far below. High above the ocean the point pushes into the waves crashing relentlessly against its base. I scurried along the narrow path in the dark in numerous attempts to illuminate the trail for the camera. My brother Seth would close the camera shutter for me after I’d painted in the observation area. Tepona Point, Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • No beach access here, a steep staircase descends to a narrow sandy trail snaking out to the point. Precipitous cliffs on either side offer a deadly drop to the wave-battered rocks far below. High above the ocean the point pushes into the waves crashing relentlessly against its base. I scurried along the narrow path in the dark in numerous attempts to illuminate the trail for the camera. My brother Seth would close the camera shutter for me after I’d painted in the observation area. Tepona Point, Humboldt County, California.
Scenic Drive in northern Humboldt County, California, offers beautiful western vistas over the Pacific Ocean. Extending from Moonstone Beach at the south end to Trinidad in the north, the drive itself is rough and in areas may require a car with good clearance, and sometimes four wheel drive. The road may not even go completely through at times during harsher, wetter winters. It becomes a winter casualty, as the relentless forces of water from the rains above and the waves below can be delayed but temporarily as nature ignores the best efforts of humanity in its ravenous desire to melt the cliffs into the sea.

Tepona Point stands out from the coast on Scenic Drive, a little north of Moonstone Beach. A natural pier of sorts, it boldly extends the coastline’s reach far into the lashing waves, which at the tip are perhaps thirty to fifty feet below. One’s experience at the point, and particularly on the trail out to it, may well depend upon your feelings about heights and the ocean, and on your confidence in the support of sandy soil. The trail out to the tip is narrow and made of sand perched upon rock, and to left and right are deadly cliffs dropping into the rocks and pounding surf.
A daytime look at Tepona Point. A steep flight of wooden stairs and a narrow trail take you out to the tip, where it widens to a sandy viewing area with a bench and a railing around the edge. Each season sees a little more eroded away. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A daytime look at Tepona Point. A steep flight of wooden stairs and a narrow trail take you out to the tip, where it widens to a sandy viewing area with a bench and a railing around the edge. Each season sees a little more eroded away.
My lay person’s geologic description is that Tepona Point’s foundation is the typical sturdy rock we have along this part of the coast. The photograph shows some rocks like it still standing out in the ocean in brave defiance of the elements. They were once connected to the land, too. Yet none of them will survive; all will tumble into the sea. On top of this foundation is an accumulation of sand and sandy soil, held onto the rocks by vegetation. It feels little more substantial than a compacted sand dune sitting atop a rock.

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Friday, November 1, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Lost in Space (Big Dipper over Trinidad)

Posted By on Fri, Nov 1, 2019 at 9:38 AM

At the western edge of the North American continent, on the rough shores of the great Pacific Ocean, Trinidad, Humboldt County, California, sparkles in the moonlight under a starry sky. The Big Dipper and Polaris, the North Star, have been enhanced for recognizability. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • At the western edge of the North American continent, on the rough shores of the great Pacific Ocean, Trinidad, Humboldt County, California, sparkles in the moonlight under a starry sky. The Big Dipper and Polaris, the North Star, have been enhanced for recognizability.
The planet hung silently in space. A tiny jewel in the blackness, it was a half-lit marble of greens and browns and blues and whites. But it was more than a planet, it was a life-bearing droplet, a little oasis of life journeying in infinite patience in its timeless passage around the sun. Soft moonlight from its single silvery satellite played upon the planet’s face, creeping across continents and oceans as the world revolved in its glow.

From the moment of its birth, the planet was in constant motion. It orbited its sun in a never-ending ellipse, and it spun on its axis unceasingly. Beneath its surface tectonic forces pushed and pulled, shaping the planet’s larger features. Forces on the surface and above it carved and polished the land. Rivers wore the terrain down and carried it in their flows to the oceans, and the oceans themselves sloshed to the rhythm of the moon, their waves and tides nibbling at the edges of the land. The atmosphere roiled continuously overhead and further smoothed the planet’s features in its persistent caress.

Continents drifted, mountains rose and fell, glaciers came and went, each process shaping the land dramatically. But life on the planet was oblivious. Life is short, and the pace of change was long, and life lived on unaware and unconcerned, shaped through the eons by the very forces it could not see.

One night my brother Seth and I stood in the moonlight on the continent’s edge, two small ephemeral life forms contemplating the planet we call home. The moon’s silvery orb hung in the sky, bathing the western edge of the North American continent in moonlight where it met the great Pacific Ocean. Rocks mingled with the waves, vainly resisting the erosive forces tearing them down. Yet they seemed permanent fixtures.
At the western edge of the North American continent, on the rough shores of the great Pacific Ocean, Trinidad, Humboldt County, California, sparkles in the moonlight under a starry sky. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • At the western edge of the North American continent, on the rough shores of the great Pacific Ocean, Trinidad, Humboldt County, California, sparkles in the moonlight under a starry sky.


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Friday, October 4, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Avenue of the Imagination

Posted By on Fri, Oct 4, 2019 at 2:28 PM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
Imagine, if you will, a journey down an avenue through corridors of towering redwoods. Between them the stars hang motionless in the sky, while streaking past beneath you fly the yellow dashes of the road. This is a road you think you know. But this night your journey will end in another destination, and what you find there is for you alone …

Would that I could lose myself in the world of that intro. I enjoyed the strange trip inside as I wrote, a dream that I didn’t want to fade. But really the tale is for the viewer to create within. We each have our own personal experiences that shape the stories that course through our thoughts as we look deeply into these or any images. What I shared in the introduction was a glimpse at the narrative in my own head around these images, with or without the crystal ball.

A reader asked last week, “What makes an image or photograph unique?” And the short answer was that there is no short answer, but perhaps a little discussion would be a place to start. A full discussion requires a lifetime, and much of it will be an internal dialog. Rather than trying to offer a cookbook for it, maybe I can give some tools for you to build on.
To what strange trip might this road lead? Safe travels, I hope.  Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • To what strange trip might this road lead? Safe travels, I hope. Humboldt County, California.
At the core of it is considering things from outside the box. Yes, there is always a box around the box, so just try to get out of the box you’re currently thinking within. Practice thinking and seeing in new ways. It would benefit anyone to understand the elements of design and the principles of design, and I recommend looking those up and thinking about them until you’re fairly familiar them. But don’t get stuck on them as absolutes because none of them is set in stone. Do what you will with them in your consciousness; what matters most is to let them steep in your subconscious. In a recipe do you have to use exactly a quarter teaspoon, or can you make it a dash or two? I say make it a dash. I get nervous if things have to be too precise. As with a chef who with enough experience stops worrying about precise measurements, the artist can also play by feel with the elements of design once they’ve been percolating in the subconscious long enough. Look them up and start them steeping.


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Thursday, September 26, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Ramparts on the Coast

Posted By on Thu, Sep 26, 2019 at 1:41 PM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
The Stars in Motion and Thoughts on Geotagging

A photograph can be worth many more than a thousand words. It’s an old expression, though, and maybe the number “one thousand” just isn’t what it used to be. But you’ll be happy to know that I’ll spare you the full count today and just touch on a couple thoughts about locations, both in the sky and here on Earth.

Do you expect to find the Milky Way in the sky when you go out to a dark place to star gaze? You’d find it stretching across the sky all summer, but in winter when Earth’s night side faces the opposite direction we can lose sight of its magnificence — the star field we see at night changes throughout the year. The stars all maintain their positions relative to each other, but our viewing angle of the cosmos changes a little each day as we orbit the sun; in half a year Earth’s night side will be facing the opposite direction from now, and in a full year we will again have the same view as tonight.
Ramparts stand watch over the great Pacific Ocean at the edge of the continent. The lights of a pair of fishing boats glow in the marine layer’s gloom on the horizon. Patrick’s Point State Park, Humboldt County, California. September 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Ramparts stand watch over the great Pacific Ocean at the edge of the continent. The lights of a pair of fishing boats glow in the marine layer’s gloom on the horizon. Patrick’s Point State Park, Humboldt County, California. September 2019.
What’s never the same is the position of the planets in our solar system. They’re relatively near to us, and because they travel about the sun in their own orbits we see their positions change gradually against the fixed stars of the rest of the galaxy.

During the 2019 Milky Way season, the Milky Way has been straddled by Jupiter and Saturn. I am writing this in late September, and since March the two planets have slid a bit to the right relative to the Milky Way; earlier in the year Jupiter was just inside of it and Saturn was a little farther from it. In 2018, Mars was near the Milky Way all summer and Saturn was deep inside it.
Photographing at night has made me more aware of the motion of objects in the night sky. The sky changes almost imperceptibly each night, and different parts change at different rates: The stars all move together, but the planets change their place against the stars gradually as they move in their own orbits around the sun. The speedy moon appears each night with a different shape and in a different position. All of this helps make the night interesting to photograph.
Too numerous to label, stars, nebulae and planets abound in this image with some of the notable objects annotated. Not labeled is the Dark Horse Nebula; its foot is standing on Jupiter, can you spot it? Pacific Ocean, Humboldt County, California. September, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Too numerous to label, stars, nebulae and planets abound in this image with some of the notable objects annotated. Not labeled is the Dark Horse Nebula; its foot is standing on Jupiter, can you spot it? Pacific Ocean, Humboldt County, California. September, 2019.
Meanwhile back on Earth, some thoughts on sharing precise location information on social media. When we share images online, how specific should we be about the locations where we took the photographs? As a photographer, I pay attention to the interesting images of others. There are some places I’ve seen in photographs online so many times that I no longer have any interest in going there myself. Some locations I see photographed all the time. I wouldn’t feel unique to go make nearly the same photo I’ve seen a hundred other times. I dislike being part of a trend and would rather find less traveled places to photograph. I understand the draw to capture for yourself something beautiful that you have seen before; but I can reach a point where it pushes me away instead. Remember, there is power in uniqueness. Find interesting light and you can make an interesting photo.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Fading but not Forgotten

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2019 at 9:17 AM

It was a ragtag group of setting sunflowers awaiting us at the patch by the time I made it out there to photograph them. The forlorn farewell of sunflowers contemplating the next phase of existence. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • It was a ragtag group of setting sunflowers awaiting us at the patch by the time I made it out there to photograph them. The forlorn farewell of sunflowers contemplating the next phase of existence.
I’ve come to embrace the unexpected when I photograph. I tell people when I go out that it’s always an experiment, but I think they think I’m kidding. In part I am, as I am pretty comfortable with my photography, but there’s also a lot of truth to it. It’s dark while I’m photographing; I don’t simply make an exposure reading and take a picture or set a bank of lights (which I don’t have) to some magic value that will fill a scene perfectly with light. I’m not even necessarily interested in “perfect” light. I hope to make a striking image when I photograph, and that’s usually all there is to it. I do it by the seat of my pants; it’s art. I’ve found that while my planning will sometimes be enough, often it’s something unexpected that adds the touch of magic that makes it special.

My son came out with me the night I made the sunflower image. I told him as we traveled how usually the unforeseen will show up in the form of unplanned light of some kind, but when we arrived the unexpected took a different approach. I had imagined finding vigorous sunflowers standing tall and firm, their bright faces looking toward the next dawn, as in other sunflower images I’d seen. It’s the way they look, I thought without thinking. I hadn’t really considered it further. Instead we found a motley crew of disheveled figures, slumped and downcast as their time on Earth slipped through their shriveled petals. Night had only just fallen and these flowers would wait through the long watch for the rays of one more morning’s sun. Dismayed at first that I had missed their prime, I realized as I stood awhile with them that these were telling their own poignant story, and it added an emotional component to the final image.

There is a mathematical sequence that appears frequently in nature called the Fibonacci sequence. I recommend looking it up; it’s fascinating. But while I’m not here to discuss it in depth, it is relevant to the image at hand. The little florets or seeds across the faces of sunflowers offer a ready example. A close look will reveal that the florets radiate from the center in strong spirals paths. The shapes of these spirals follow a Fibonacci sequence. Leaves on a twig also often arrange themselves spirally in this sequence, and there are many other examples in nature. It’s a ratio or sequence that we are as accustomed to seeing in our everyday lives as blue sky, though we may only subconsciously register it.

Closely related to the Fibonacci sequence is the Golden Ratio, a ratio of 1:1.618. In some circles it is believed the most pleasing rectangles to our eyes are ones the sides of which are made in this ratio. If so, perhaps it is because we are so accustomed to seeing things in nature that exhibit the Fibonacci sequence. I only speculate; I’m not an authority on the Fibonacci sequence or Golden Ratio, and I’m certainly no mathematician. But I’ll tell you this: when I first made an image in a rectangular shape with sides in the Golden Ratio of 1:1.618 I received a Best of Show for it. Your mileage may vary. Of course, after you make your image, you’ll discover that 1:1.618 does not yield a standard print or frame size. For some reason the photo world adores the 8x10 rectangle, but it has no magic.

Because the sunflower gives us such a visible example of the Fibonacci sequence in the arrangement of its florets, which is closely related to the Golden Ratio, I am presenting this image in a rectangle using the Golden Ratio of 1:1.618. It does make a nice rectangle, doesn’t it?


To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or peer into its past, visit or contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx .
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Friday, September 13, 2019

KEKA Pulls Out of Truckers Parade, Asks Others to Step Up

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2019 at 1:09 PM

KEKA has announced the radio station will no longer present the annual Truckers Christmas Parade and is encouraging another business or community organization to take up the mantle.

A release states that issues, including rising costs, declining participation and increased liability, led to the “difficult decision.”
A flatbed went full Rudolph during a past parade. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • A flatbed went full Rudolph during a past parade.
“While our family has put on the parade for decades, it’s become apparent that the additional challenges which have had to be met in the past few years have made this event too overwhelming for us to continue putting on,” KEKA owner Brian Papstein says in the release, which also gives a nod of appreciation to Dale Bridge, who has coordinated the parade for decades.

Read the KEKA release below:


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Thursday, September 12, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Beauty on the Redwood Highway

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2019 at 4:19 PM

Late night cars paint their strokes of light onto the dark canvas along a redwood corridor on US 101, the Redwood Highway. Photographed from the Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Late night cars paint their strokes of light onto the dark canvas along a redwood corridor on US 101, the Redwood Highway. Photographed from the Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt County, California.
I hope my images stoke appreciation for the beauty and wonders around us here on the North Coast of California. Many people never experience so uniquely beautiful a countryside as ours, and too many who live within them forget the treasure they have. They are the unlucky ones. Perhaps my images and stories will help to enlighten those who have never seen the wonders all around us, and reacquaint those who might have forgotten and gotten absorbed in the race and lost their place in the mundane. To be grateful for where one lives is a blessing too easily lost.

I know what it is to drive for an hour through the snarl, crawling along too slowly, too crowded between too many terrible drivers, a smog-belched yellow haze in the air you breathe — you drive and you drive, and how far do you get? Not very. (“Damn, this traffic jam!”)*
Each of us is alone inside our own thoughts. We struggle mightily to express ourselves so that others will understand us, and many of us attempt to understand others, but we are always alone in our thoughts. Perhaps it is that innate aloneness that leads to us feeling separate from nature. Oh, but we are so far from being separate from nature; that is an illusion. We are not separate from nature, we are but a tiny part of nature. We are not large, we are small. Earth itself is not large, it is minute. It is a mote in a sea of Nature so large that we call it the universe. Hack and hew though we might, we will never tame the universe. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Each of us is alone inside our own thoughts. We struggle mightily to express ourselves so that others will understand us, and many of us attempt to understand others, but we are always alone in our thoughts. Perhaps it is that innate aloneness that leads to us feeling separate from nature. Oh, but we are so far from being separate from nature; that is an illusion. We are not separate from nature, we are but a tiny part of nature. We are not large, we are small. Earth itself is not large, it is minute. It is a mote in a sea of Nature so large that we call it the universe. Hack and hew though we might, we will never tame the universe.

Here on the North Coast one could spend that same hour driving through places like this stretch along the Redwood Corridor… and for an hour of beauty you’re transported 65 miles away (for some drivers a bit more!). All the while you are driving among the hills, along rivers, high above Pacific vistas, through parks and forests full of clean air. Drivers are so few and far between that the bad ones are mostly easily avoided.

I’m running the numbers on our little corner of the world here, people, and … let me see … ah, carry the 7 … yes — no matter how you add it up or slice, it’s coming up paradise. It’s not too many places in the world where a photograph of the local freeway is a thing of beauty. Think about it. It’s a blessing to be grateful for where one lives, and I very much am.

*From James Taylor’s song “Traffic Jam.”

To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or peer into its past, visit or contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx .
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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Eel River Stargazer

Posted By on Wed, Sep 4, 2019 at 3:33 PM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
Not far from anywhere on the North Coast the dark skies and solitude of nature quietly await. People travel great distances to come here to camp and hike in it, enjoying the beauty of our forests, beaches, rivers, and amazing night skies. It’s a wonderland to them, and here we are living right in it. It’s almost too good to be true.

It is easy to get used to the beauty when one lives in it and can see it any day. But how often do you visit your favorite nature getaway at night? It’s an entirely different world out there at night. We have nighttime skies here that blow the minds of the city folks I share them with. Yet we’re mostly content to stay indoors ourselves or scoot from one building or light bubble to the next, and never get away from the light. We aren’t nocturnal creatures, but I guarantee that if you can set aside a night to go stargazing away from the lights of human habitations it will be rewarding.

Throughout summer and fall the night sky is dominated by the great belt of the Milky Way. The milky band of lightness stretching across the heavens led to us calling the galaxy in which we live the Milky Way. During this time of the year earth’s night side faces toward the center of the galaxy, showing us a view through the dense plane of our more-or-less-flattened-pinwheel of a galaxy and toward its core. The core stands out in the Milky Way as the most detailed portion of it that we see. When our planet is on the opposite side of the sun, Earth’s night side doesn’t face the middle of the galaxy anymore and the detailed core is hidden to us. This seasonality to the view is what people mean if you hear them speak of “Milky Way” season.
Small beneath the stars, a friend photographs the nightscape on the banks of the South Fork Eel River. Popular in the daytime, we had the site to ourselves. Part of the Milky Way’s core is visible above the horizon, roughly that area with the greater detail and more reds and yellows. Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Small beneath the stars, a friend photographs the nightscape on the banks of the South Fork Eel River. Popular in the daytime, we had the site to ourselves. Part of the Milky Way’s core is visible above the horizon, roughly that area with the greater detail and more reds and yellows. Humboldt County, California.
At night you have to yourself places that are otherwise popular in the daytime. I was stargazing on the South Fork Eel River with a couple friends when I took the accompanying photograph of one of them making his own nighttime photograph. This place was completely empty but for us, though during the day it’s a popular spot.

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Tule Fog on Humboldt Bay

Posted By on Thu, Aug 29, 2019 at 2:15 PM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
Apparently, the term “tule fog” is specific to a particular seasonal low fog in the Central Valley, but we sometimes see a similar blanket of ground fog around the lowlands and bottoms of coastal northern Humboldt County. Low and mysterious, the veil of mist hugs the contours, it pools in pockets and reduces visibility to nil as wispy strands slide silk-like across the landscape. It’s the kind of fog that makes you throw a backward glance over the shoulder for the Baskerville hound.

Our version of tule fog always brings to mind the sharp features and long nose of Basil Rathbone’s 1939 Sherlock Holmes stalking his foe across the grey, misty moor. The night that I made this photograph I had set out to capture an image that might evoke a similar feeling of foreboding mystery.
Low fog hugging the ground along the Bayside Cutoff on Humboldt Bay. U.S. 101 passes from left to right in the distance. The insanely bright light on the right is a bright yellow LED road sign warning of two-way traffic on the highway at the end of the cutoff. The planet Mars is the brightest point in the sky. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Low fog hugging the ground along the Bayside Cutoff on Humboldt Bay. U.S. 101 passes from left to right in the distance. The insanely bright light on the right is a bright yellow LED road sign warning of two-way traffic on the highway at the end of the cutoff. The planet Mars is the brightest point in the sky.


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