Thursday, August 27, 2009

Heaven and Earth

I enjoy a good glass of wine as much of as anyone else in wine country. Last year I photographed extensively for Red Car Wine in a few of their vineyards. After many months visiting the beautiful locations I still hadn't had even a sip of their fine wine. So in conversation with owner Carroll Kemp, and hoping to get my hands on a bottle or two, I inquired... "So how good is this wine?" He laughed and said, "The folks who do the ratings have been kind to us." Carroll later decided to start a new brand called
Heaven and Earth out of La Bohemé Vineyard, and used my photo on the label. I was quite honored! In July this year I heard that Heaven and Earth had been rated 97 out of 100 points by Wine Spectator; The highest grade ever given a California Pinot Noir. You can see a photo of the bottle on the cover (and inside) of the September 2009 issue of Wine Spectator Magazine, but good luck finding the wine. Only 292 cases were produced. I hear its pretty good and hope to get my hands on some...

Jerry Dodrill Photography
707-827-3547 Office

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Monday, August 24, 2009

I was running late, driving too fast on a remote mountain road, and didn't have time to stop. Speeding around a corner, a new, strange sign caught my eye. "LOST BIRD." A couple corners later and I was still processing the scene. There wasn't a house in sight. I'm in the middle of a thick forest, and someone lost a bird? Gotta go back. I found a pullout and grabbed my camera.

"Takkun" the seven year old cockatiel was missing. I felt bad for the owner, yet wondered why they chose that spot to post the sign. I looked up and whistled toward the forest canopy. "Here there, pretty bird." Nothing.

Still intrigued, I later called the number on the sign.
"Hello, this is John."
"Uh, hi, I saw your sign... did you find the bird?"
"No, not yet. Its my daughter's bird. She's had it since she was seven. Its flown away a number of times but always came back. This time we're worried. He's so friendly we thought maybe someone would find him. "
"Do you live in the area?"
"Yeah, just up the hill."
Its getting a little awkward now, as I don't have a clue where his bird is and he doesn't get why I'm calling. I'm not sure either.
"Well, sorry to trouble you. Good luck."
"Thanks. Bye..."

So, if you find a cockatiel near St. Helena Road, there's a little girl who will be elated to see him again.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bishop with Muench and Mountain Light

It was a pleasure working with David Muench this last week. We were leading a five day photo workshop based out of Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop, California. The area offers a tremendous visual feast of natural wonders. To work here with one of the great landscape masters, exploring the desert and mountains, was an especially wonderful a treat. As usual, we were up early and late, often getting to bed at 11pm and leaving at 3:30 the next morning to catch magic light. Below are some photos I made during our field sessions. Monday afternoon we start another week long class, this time based in Lee Vining, where we'll visit the Ghost town of Bodie, Yosemite's high country, and Mono Lake.

To join a Mountain Light Workshop, or for information, visit

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tahoe Workshop with Sierra Nevada College

During the last day week of June I was at Lake Tahoe leading my second annual photography workshop for Sierra Nevada College. It was almost a cruel joke to have a landscape workshop on the summer solstice. With sunsets at 8:30 and sunrise at 5:30, and some long pre-dawn drive times, sleep was more of a dream than a reality. It was more like an exercise in caffeine ingestion. But as with every group, the energy was contageous, spirits high, and we always found the best light. Long days gave plenty of time to work with and critique the images. In addition to the normal locations like Sand Harbor and Eagle Falls, we worked in some interesting other locations. At Lake Forest there was a large field of lupines and some canada geese, and up at Barker Pass, fields of Mule Ears carpet the hillsides. Here are some images I made alongside students during the class. Enjoy, and considering joining us next year. Watch the summer arts workshops at

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Remembering "Brutus of Wyde"

"They seek those moments when time stands still.
The catalysts are as varied as the individuals who pursue this path: a meteor shower; a night sky so star-filled that it snatches your breath; another rise of the sun over distant mountains vast and untouchable; dodging a rock careening crazily down a gully; a desperate icy struggle through whiteout and ground blizzard down to the safety of camp after an unsuccessful summit attempt; standing atop a mountain with a friend, the whole world at your feet, a blinding sun blazing out of a flawless sky, taking the time to watch that sun dip below the horizon even though camp is still many miles and many thousands of feet distant; stumbling over boulders and through brush in the darkness; watching the starlight and the storm wrest for possession of the night sky, seated on a narrow ledge beside your rope-mate with only the clothes on your back for shelter, shivering the night away, knowing that, sometime in a distant place you cannot now touch, the world will once again grow bright, the sun will rise, and you will look out on the infant day with new eyes."

These words were written by Bruce Bidner, a dedicated Sierra climber, friend, and brother through bond of the rope. He was an eloquent writer, capable of touching the very heart of any experience, who inspired a generation of climbers. I had the fortune to photograph him on El Capitan a few years ago. Bruce was killed in his car last night, en-route to another fine adventure. My words utterly fail to express the sadness.

Rest in peace my friend.

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Era

It was a cold, drizzly morning in Charleston, Oregon. Across the green mud flats and dredged shipping channel, a weathered fishing troller named “New Era” was tied up alongside the dock. She wasn’t going out to sea that day, and it appeared that some time had passed since her bow sliced through the strong Pacific currents. It is indeed a new era for fishermen along the Oregon and California coast, where for the past two years the commercial salmon season has been suspended and a state of “resource disaster” and “commercial fishery failure” has been declared. For many of the boats, skippers and crew in Charleston, and ports up and down the coast, staying in harbor is a harsh new reality.

I was in Charleston with a group of photographers from the Mountain Light Photo Workshops.  We were scouring the docks for images of colorful old boats and rusty textures. Now and then a weathered sailor would walk by wondering what all the fuss was about. Two young boat hands were overheard saying “There must  be sumthin’ photographic ‘round here. They’re everywhere.” We weren’t journalists looking for a story, just creative photographers looking for material.

For several days we had been photographing lighthouses, beaches, and happy scenes of natural beauty. In contrast, photographing in Charleston was both challenging and a bit depressing. You had to really stop, look, and think. What is the story here? How can I tell that story? 

When I made an image of Basin Tackle's storefront, I just thought it was a document of a typical building, covered in advertising. The lonely dog and empty parking lot exuded a feeling that more prosperous times were in the past. On closer inspection, the story was in the details. A salmon fishing closure sign was posted on the door. A big sign read: “Please, No Wave Energy, No Marine Reserves.” It was right next to an ad for “Monster Energy.” Such paradox! Caffeine and high fructose corn syrup is good, while renewable non-polluting energy harnessed from the ocean is bad. Taking fish, crab, and natural resources from the sea for money is good. But as for stewardship of the very eco-system that provides this source of lively-hood? Not in my backyard! 

The very day after we were in Charleston, the state house of representatives voted unanimously (51-0) in favor of an historic bill to complete an evaluation and timeline for implementation of six marine reserve sites recommended by the Governor’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council. (read more at:

Meanwhile, fishermen ate breakfast at the Basin Café, dogs waited patiently in parked cars, boats sat rusting in the harbor, and we drove back to Bandon for a lunch of Alaska salmon and halibut; another irony of the new era that reminded me of a fisherman's button which read: "Shop Local." Finding a sustainable balance in our local food supplies and the ecosystem at large is going to be a challenge and will take considerable sacrifice from all of us. But the consequences of not dealing with it today will clearly have ramifications well into the future.

© 2009 Jerry Dodrill, All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bandon Beach II

Here are a few more pics from the workshop here at Bandon, Oregon.

Here are a few more pics from the workshop here at Bandon, Oregon.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009


We hiked deep into the forest yesterday, down and back up Damnation Creek Trail, scouting locations to shoot the best blooms of rhododendrons. This morning we went back out, with thick fog, to get the shots. The forest under-story was pretty tall, so I took the big tripod. Here is Justin putting it to good use at the best group of flowers we could find.

We're in Bandon now, gearing up for the workshop, which starts tomorrow.

Signing off for now,
Jerry Dodrill

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Up the Coast - Crescent City

I'm in a hotel in Crescent City, heading north, up the coast toward Bandon, Oregon for a week with my friend Justin Black, to assist John Shaw on a Mountain Light Photo Workshop. We stopped this evening at Damnation Creek Trail in Del Norte Redwoods to check out the rhododendrons. The are just coming on nicely. For four years in a row I've driven up here to shoot them and have never gotten it just right. Two weeks ago I was up again with my students from Pacific Union College. We scouted some nice locations but it was too early. Perhaps tomorrow morning, or next week on the way home, we'll nail the images I've been visualizing.
Tonight we checked out the Battery Point Light House, a pretty cool place. There is a jetty and these strange concrete breakwater objects. I saw an Asian fisherman on the point and found him to offer a great sense of scale against the ocean and forms. More to come as the trip progresses.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Desolation Skiing

A few friends and I took off for a little excursion to Desolation Wilderness this past weekend. Berghorn and I skied in on Friday morning after getting a wilderness permit and sorting out the parking situation with the US Forest Circus, CHP, and some sheriffs officers who thought we were up to no good. Eric warded them off at the back of the car while I talked to CHP on my cell phone in the front seat. Nobody really knew what to tell us, and we ended up just parking along the road (the parking lot is closed all winter - brilliant). If it were to start snowing, we would be towed! Luckily, it didn't. The Forest Service hadn't issued a single wilderness permit this winter for the Pyramid Creek Trailhead at Twin Bridges, across from Lover's Leap. So virtually none of the snow was tracked.

Digging camp on a warm, windless day after skinning up the steep brushy slopes.
Meanwhile, Andrew and The Chiz were skiing in. Eric (Chisholm) brought a massage table up the hill with him, okay, not really, but we wished he had. They got to camp and we had a nice dinner.

Next morning the weather changed. Wind and clouds, and we were nervous about getting towed if it started snowing, which was in the forecast for the afternoon. Eric made breakfast, some amazing pancakes from scratch, and we watched the clouds.

After a while it started clearing up. Chisholm held down camp while the rest of us headed toward Pyramid Peak.

Weather was windy and funky, so we blew off the summit and headed down the awesome east slopes. Andrew dropping in...

Crossing bear tracks

Gunning it for camp

Andrew was pretty psyched on his new split board, hit the steeps and caused a little slider on the last drop. Luckily, we didn't have to use our avalanche beacons.

The weather was supposed to come in overnight and we didn't want to drive to Placerville to pick up our car from the impound, so we blasted out and caught climbing legend Fred Becky's slide show in South Lake. Good times indeed!

Whipped boys watching tv in the hotel after a great couple days schlepping loads up and down the hills. Next time we'll forgo he packs and blast it in a day.