NIGHT TRACINGS California Rambles


The Artist


Lands End

May 1991

A 13 mile ramble across San Francisco

It’s my final walk to the Pacific and I am not sure if I learned anything here. Every time I shoot the Golden Gate Bridge I feel as if I’m composing a calendar shot. I am still a stranger in a strange land.

Chirardeli Square

May 1991

A 12 mile ramble about San Francisco

I hit the tourist spots today and the lesser known streets in between. It was a dull day and my shots were dull as well. In a city like San Francisco is it possible to capture its essence without shooting the Cliché?


May 1991

A 6 mile walk through Oakland

I could not come all the way out to California without making some attempt to add to my gravestone collection. San Francisco expelled most of its dead years ago and I found little of interest outside of the pet cemetery at the Presidio. Oakland proved much more fruitful as the stones I found there dated from the time when images of death were shrouded in Romanticism. Against the likeness of a sleeping girl lay a small bleached out teddy bear that looked as if it had been untouched for a hundred years.

Russian Hill

May 1991

A 5 mile ramble in San Francisco

I was very happy to spot a dandelion growing in sidewalk crack. It was the first bit of something familiar to me in this strange landscape. For those who never really take notice of their surroundings one city may be very similar to the next. but I have found this whole trip to be disconcerting as everything is unfamiliar to me down to the simplicity of weeds. It took awhile but I finally figured out what has been bothering me about the streets, most lack trees. It has been difficult for me to get a grasp on this place as I do not yet understand it. There are plenty of pretty views to be had but is it possible to capture the essence of a place if one does not get it?

Pirates Cove

May 1991

A 9 mile walk from Muir Beach to Sausalito

I had originally planned to Hike all the way back to San Francisco but taking note my slowing pace over the last few days I changed my course to Sausalito where I hoped to catch a ferry. The detour was well worth it for the views alone. As I approached the Bay wonderful panoramas opened up. The ever changing play of light caused by the constantly morphing atmosphere was incredible. My eye kept drifting further and further into the distance as the drama shifted from one place to another. It was too much to take in as an infinite string of possibilities loomed before me.

Above Green Gulch

May 1991

A ramble about Coyote Ridge

In one moment I can see for miles and in the next I find myself in the midst of some natural drama as clouds of white bounce off the hilltops or glide between them before suddenly disappearing. The weather here changes at the drop of a hat, sun, fog, rain and back again five times a day. It has made it difficult to make definite plans but I greatly prefer it to a static day.

Above Tennessee Cove

May 1991

An 11 mile loop between Muir Beach and Tennessee Cove

My plans were to walk all the way over to Rodeo Cove but as I made my way there I just could not force myself up over another hill and opted out for the small beach at Tennessee Cove instead. Here I became so intrigued with the veined multicolored pebbles that gathered about a tidal pool that I spent hours absorbed looking for the best polished stones I could find.

Stinson Beach

May 1991

An 11 mile walk between Stinson Beach and Muir Beach

While the scenery I have encountered is great I have not been impressed by the trails I had covered since arriving in California, that is until I reached Steep Ravine along Webb Creek. This trail climbed up a deep redwood filled gorge in the form af a almost continuous staircase for a mile. It was a real marvel of workmanship. Unfortunately the ill effects of dehydration that had left me sick and fatigued for days was still with me just when I needed energy the most. The dense forest was beautiful in the extreme but it held in more humidity than can be imagined. About two thirds of the way up I slid off my pack for a break and as I stood there quietly steam began rising up off my body. When I cleared the tree line to moved out on the breezy grassy ridge I was more than happy.

Mt. Tam

May 1991

A 15 mile walk from Muir Woods to Stinson Beach via Mount Tampalais

I climbed out of Muir woods and up the slopes of Mount Tam following an abandoned railroad switchback. I stopped to reload my film upon reaching the path that ringed the mountain just beneath its summit but my attention was suddenly drawn upward as a long shadow fell over the valley below. Unbeknownst to me a fierce storm had been ragging all morning on the far side of the mountain and at that very moment it began pouring over the crest like a pot boiling over. I quickly started up the last leg of the trail but the race was lost. There was no visibility left within the clouds as I was pelted with intermittent blasts of rain. The storm raged on and off for my long decent, breaking once to reveal the distant Bay under a short but bright rainbow.


May 1991

A 17 mile walk from Olema to Stinson Beach

The passing cars didn’t even slow down as I laid on the highway. I managed to roll over to the shoulder just in time. I had been doing little dances with the marble like seeds that fall from the Eucalyptus and gather in piles along the roadside. Today the combination of my injured foot, a fifty pound pack, and an excessive amount of seed pods finally landed me on the tarmac with a cut across my forehead.

Sky Trail

May 1991

A loop between Olema and Mt. Wittenberg

Just as I began gaining elevation the fog began to filter in between the trees. When I realized there would be no view atop Mt. Wittenberg awaiting me I gave up my climb and headed deeper into the surrounding forest on the Sky Trail. As the air grew ever more misty the trees took on the shape of phantoms. I had seen mist shrouded forests before but was unprepared for what I was walking into. I have never been in such an unworldly place, yet it was just this world I was in. Some things are so overwhelming they are beyond my ability to capture in word or picture. For me this place will always be remembered as sublime.

Woodward Trail

May 1991

A walk between Bear Valley and Woodward Valley

The harshness of this land made itself evident today. Up to this point my mind had been clouded by the new forms of grass, bushes and trees that came my way, but here on this ridgetop the soil looked poor and the vegitation hung onto it desperately trying to survive. All finds its niche whether it be comfortable or not.

Secret Beach

May 1991

An 18 mile loop between Olema and Secret Beach

From where the brushlands meet the sea a wonderful beach appears far below. The soil is loose here and I find it difficult to maneuver into a good position to get shots I want without going over the edge. I find a safe way down to the ocean but there is too little time left in the day to linger.

Above Wildcat Beach

May 1991

A walk to Wildcat Beach

I discovered what stinging nettles are today and can’t say I’m happy to know.

Double Point

May 1991

A 23 mile loop between Olema and Double Point

It took a bit of bushwhacking to reach the edge of the bluff high above Double Point. While the scenery on the way lacked the drama I expected the view of this pocketed beach more than made up for it. Far below on a crescent of sand hundreds of seals basked in the sun. I don’t think I ever extended myself this far over an unstable precipice to get a shot.

Bear Valley Ranch

May 1991

A 9 mile walk from Inverness to Olema

When I broke my water bottle three days ago I didn’t realize all the problems it would cause. This was the shortest and flattest planned leg of my journey, yet it seemed terribly arduous as I was still suffering from dehydration. On reaching Olema I didn’t stray far content with shooting the local inhabitants and unusual visitors at a nearby ranch.

North Beach

May 1991

A 13 mile walk from Abotts lagoon to Barries Bay

For the uninitiated there may be little of interest to be found in open fields. Here every stump pole, flowering weed or head of grass can become a major focal point. The bends and twists of the grass are like the waves of a raging storm at sea. To become aware of the colors so susceptible to weather and time of day is to see with open eyes.

Above Estero Limantour

May 1991

A 20 mile loop between Inverness and Drakes Estero via Pt. Reyes Hill

While the presence of man often has unfortunate consequences on the land it also sometimes creates an interesting counterweight providing some order to seeming randomness. Man has a natural attraction to order though it is often taken to hideous extremes. A fence line in a grassy field creates placement in the minds eye while the scruffy grass around it is a constant reminder of impermanence. Here above the tidal flats man and nature dance.

H Ranch

May 1991

A walk on Pierce Point Road

Even when not hemmed in by endless fields of flowers, the open fields expressed a variety of color. This was a lot like the moorlands found back East, only the scale is different. Here everything is larger seemingly uncontainable by the endless fences that line the road.

Upper Pierce Ranch

May 1991

A 24 mile walk between Tomales Point and Inverness

My goal was to reach the end of Tomales Point but the further I headed out the denser the fog grew. When I could no longer see more than fifty passes ahead I turned back. After a detour to the beach I moved back inland. It was the cypress that appeared first followed by the pale outlines of rooftops. With no contrast to the day the array of abandoned farm buildings in this simple landscape first appeared as strange phantasms until my closer inspection transformed them into a composition of subtle geometries.


May 1991

A short ramble about Inverness

Was the sun out today? I cannot remember if it really was or only a dream. It becomes more dreamlike here with every passing minute once the fog begins to roll in. I want to head out in every direction but the day is almost gone. I wander out just far enough so not to get lost.

Pacific Heights

May 1991

A walk from Pacific Heights to the Mission District

Much of San Francisco with its hills above the Bay, the Golden Gate, and the old military instillations all remind me of New York. Even the ways some people over stylize their property remains the same. While the details may differ there is a close affinity to the residential neighborhoods back home.

East Fort Baker

May 1991

A ramble about East Fort Baker

The red roofed buildings of the old fort are almost too picturesque to shoot. They form a strange oasis at the edge of the city across the Bay. I move on the the stark concrete of abandoned gun emplacements and a more untempered shore.

Slacker Hill

May 1991

A 25 mile loop between Pacific Heights and Point Bonita

There is so much natural beauty packed into the Marin Headlands that it is hard to take it all in. The former presence of the military on these hills above San Francisco has left behind a surreal landscape. While the concrete remains of large batteries are an obvious intrusion, it is the smaller relics that are the most mysterious. Some hint at something much more massive hidden away underground or stand like minimalist sculpture having lost all recognizable meaning. These are the gods of another race.


May 1991

A 15 mile walk from Pacific Heights to Point Lobos

This is indeed a foreign land to me as my normal sense of aesthetics don’t seem to work here. In a dramatic landscape high above the rocky shore at the Presidio I find it difficult to take shots. I know the photos will look okay but okay is not what I’m after. I feel something is missing, something I cannot yet grasp. I feel more comfortable when I reach the ocean.


May 1991

A ramble in the Presidio

The day was filled with an odd assortment of terrain and architectural styles, and yet I had great difficulty finding compositions of interest in what would normally be a perfect mixture. The most intriguing find of the day was a pet cemetery hidden away in a small wooded grove. I am not a sucker for the sentimental but I was truely toutched by the gestures of loss.

Pacific Heights

May 1991

A 5 mile ramble about Pacific Heights

Steep city streets have often been a good friend to me as they provide unusual perspectives and good vantage points but here in San Francisco I was taken aback at some of the grades. The torn ligaments in my foot had not yet healed from a hiking accident back in New York and unlevel walking remained challenging. But I came here to walk, so with what little light was left in the day I made my way down to the waterfront and back up to the Heights. Before night turned to black the hills were bathed in a perfect blue light and street lamps replaced the heavens in a starless sky.


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