2022 06 18
The Russian River

We had been on our road trip for more than a week when we got to the Russian River Valley north of San Francisco.

Up until then, the landscape had looked familiar. Then suddenly the dusty tones and earthy tans of Southern California gave way to gray clouds, a misty drizzle and a vibrant blanket of towering redwoods and green mountains. It felt abrupt, as if we got dropped into a colorful set piece in a topographical board game. I had never been this far north in California but having lived as a child in Vermont, the mountain terrain felt familiar. I admit the change was welcome. Sunny skies look great on a postcard but are a challenge to photograph especially when shooting digital. Extreme light overwhelms mid tones, shadows go black. Nothing is subtle.

This afternoon in the Russian River Valley everything seemed special and new. The soft filtered light, the deep greens and changing shades of brown and red more pronounced. It was miraculously beautiful. An occasional stray spill of sunlight struggled to poke through the clouds. What could I bring to these vistas that hadn't been captured by landscape photographers and lucky tourists before me? I wrestle with a variation of this question every time I take a photograph, which paralyzes me and is unhelpful. So I tucked the question away and continued to drive down the valley past the sloping fields of wild grass to the ocean. Everything felt wild and ancient that day. I could imagine people living in cities but couldn't imagine why.