Friday, September 16, 2011

Red Tide

A few weeks ago I was driving up the grade on Highway 1 north of Jenner on the Sonoma Coast. Just before dropping down toward Fort Ross the morning fog broke away and I was aghast at the sight of the ocean. It looked like a biblical prophecy had been fulfilled; the water had turned to blood.
At the first chance I swerved into a pull out and got out the camera. Was it a major oil spill like the Deepwater Horizon? No, it was the most extensive red tide ever seen on the Sonoma Coast, and its effect on the salt water ecosystem has been devestating. 

A red tide is a harmful algal bloom of dinoflagellate plankton that occurs when ocean conditions are warm and calm. It can contain a neurotoxin that poisons, suffocates and kills shell fish. This same little plankton also causes a wonderful display of bioluminescence that I photographed last november. While red tides are not uncommon, some sources suggest that this year's El Nino event, warming sea water temperatures, fertilizers, and pollution may have contributed to severity of the current event.  
Within a week vast numbers of red abalone, mussels, sea urchins, sea stars and other invertebrates began washing up on Sonoma County shorelines. The major die-off is like nothing ever seen here and yesterday prompted the California Department of Fish and Game to enact an emergency action to close the 2011 abalone fishing season. 

Yesterday, September 15, I returned to Salt Point State Park, and walked cove after cove of rugged shoreline. Normally I am excited to find a single perfectly shaped shell on the beach, but there is no joy in discovering large mounds of skeletons - the bones of our delicate oceanic neighbors. 

For more information visit the Department of Fish and Game website.
© 2011 Jerry Dodrill Photography

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Little Things

As a long time Nikon user I’ve been super happy with most of the features of my SLRs. But I have to admit there is one feature that my companions who use Canon have that I have been jealous of, or I was jealous until last week. 
In the effort to get tack sharp images I go through a series of steps to minimize vibration: Be sure my tripod feet are firmly planted, avoid using a center column, set the camera to lock up the mirror before releasing the shutter, and use a remote shutter release. There are many things that can cause vibration, but finger movement and camera vibration from the action of an SLR's spring-loaded mirror during slow exposures are most often to blame. Even the slightest image blur can make an exposure unusable for printing or publication.

It seems that I’m often working quickly to set up a composition as the light changes and in the hustle the remote release is somewhere in my bag or car that I just can’t find or be bothered to take the time to get out. I press the shutter release once and the mirror locks up. Then I’m ready to take the photo and try ever so softly to touch the button just hard enough to take the picture without vibrating the camera with my finger. I can’t set the camera for both mirror-lock up AND a shutter delay like my friends with Canon cameras. Or thats what I thought until I discussed the matter with a young photography workshop student at Lake Tahoe who told me to just turn on “Exposure delay mode.” HUH?! 
I’d seen this setting deeply buried in Nikon’s vast menu but hadn’t checked to see what it did. I mean, why would I want to delay taking an exposure? Here’s why:
Duh! I looked at the student incredulously, realizing how happy I was to be introduced to this simple little setting. I immediately saved it into the “My Menu” folder to access it easily. I will still prefer to use my remote release, but forgetting it will be one less thing on my mind in the field.
You’d think one day I’d actually read the owner’s manual... Sheesh! It just goes to show, every day is a school day. The learning process is a truly an incredible experience and the student will always be the teacher! 
Happy shooting!
Jerry Dodrill

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Horsetail Fall

I was still in the womb when Galen Rowell made his iconic 1973 image of Last Light on Horsetail Fall. Often imitated, rarely rivaled, photographers flock to Yosemite Valley each February to re-create images of this now famous natural optical phenomena. After spending several years working for Mr. Rowell I knew better than to go around copying his work so had made no attempts to photograph Horsetail. Galen was tragically killed in 2002 and now I feel a certain nostalgia about revisiting the places which defined his career. In February I stopped for the first time along Northside Drive and stood shoulder to shoulder with 60-70 others waiting for the light. When it peaked out through the clouds just before sunset a hushed reverence settled over the crowd, a thousand clicks reverberated through the air and the legacy of a visionary's spirit was channeled through another generation of landscape photographers.