Called from darkness by the song of the sea
Headlong through the winter.
Though not on the solstice itself, I trod Pfeiffer Beach on its shortest day of 2012. In October of 2011, I visited the same sands to capture a few images before dawn (still haven’t published) and, though it took 14 months to return, I felt like I was home.
We came on a weekday so as to avoid the throngs of other photographers jockeying for the same postage-stamp of beach. Places like this take on a life of their own amongst photographers—typically because of one or a set of popular images. And though I don’t always succeed, I usually try to do something a bit different than the cliche landscape when at these spots.
Shooting the sunset through the Doorway at Pfeiffer Beach epitomized so much of what I love about this hobby—quietude and contemplation during the long wait for light, followed by frenetic activity when it arrives—all tempered by constant self-admonishment to enjoy it with my eyes as well as my camera.
When at long last the sun dipped low enough to wink at us through the aperture of that doorway, the stack looked for all the world like the brow-ridge of a scaled and world-weary leviathan, lurching for a moment from the brine to peer at the strange and wonderful land creatures that have come for a moment to wade in the ten feet of common ground shared between marine and terrestrial.
His gaze cast a thin strip of gold upon the waves and the brown-sugar sand; and between rogue waves and the steady surge and slap of the surf, I ran that amber runway, placing my camera here and there. I hung my lens just above the spray and the splash and dragged the shutter a bit to bring back a few memories of the setting sun and the receding sea in the last, magenta minutes of an early December evening.
I once read some advice along the lines of, “Don’t photograph the scenery, photograph the light,” and I haven’t been the same since.