The View From Here: LA, Highway One and the Farallones (Aug. 2015)

by Stephen Johnson

LA, Highway One and the Farallones

Busy last few weeks.....on a lecture tour in Los Angeles, out along the coast on my beloved Highway One with a workshop, and a Whale Watching trip out to the Farallon Islands off the San Francisco coast. Along the way were some good views, a bad fall, and a few more fascinations explored.

The LA trip had been in the works for awhile featuring a few Canon sponsored lectures on Fine Art Printing. As this is one of my favorite subjects to encourage, it was nice to talk about some of the details of working an image into the most beautiful print possible. This jives well with my own photographic experience and the history of photography for the last 75 years or so. The idea that making a fine print as a carefully crafted, iterative process that requires time, testing and very high standards, sits well with my values and the prints that seduced me into caring about photography as art form.


Arrival Arbor. The Getty. 2015

While in LA, we also spent some time at the Getty. Although I had been down for an opening many years ago for a show with my work in it, I had never really had a chance to explore the museums and grounds. It was a wonderful experience, with interesting architecture and a great location.


Fall Rock. Pebble Beach

Following Pebble Beach we headed for the quiet beauty of the Butano Redwoods, exploring both large and small subjects. I was moving slowly and rather deliberately after my fall, but the Redwood forest was healing.

Sometimes the small things are the details that catch our eye. The simple motion and tiny waves of the creek running over leaves was as interesting to me as the majestic trees themselves.

Wake Waves. 2015.

We had one Humpback whale come up to us during the Farallon trip. The boat deck was crowded, and my borrowed Canon 400mm 2.8 was a little heavy to move easily. But the chance to be so close, to see the massive submarine-like body, and then otherworldy details, was very special. The laminar flow of water over the whale's sleek body was itself quite beautiful.

The details revealed were fascinating. It didn't know Humpback Whales had hair, much less that the bumps on their head were in fact hair follicles that may well have great sensory abilities we do not yet understand. The bumps, called tubercles, were once again revealed by my photographs, which led to the obvious question of what are those bumps, leading to tentative answers on the web.

We weren't treated to any breaches, or flukes for that matter, as I have seen on other encounters. but seeing this fellow mammal come up to us and to get a real sense of the size of this living, breathing creature of the seas was inspiring.


Humpback Whale. 2015.

The morning after our Farallones trip, news in my email told of yet another whale dead on the beach here in Pacifica. It feels like my beautiful coastal town is becoming a magnet for whale tragedy. It was another humpback, and by the time we got out the cliffs above it, the crews had already been in cutting it apart. What an irony it is that these beautiful creatures are washing up, then before we can even pay any sort of ritual respect, they are under knives and shredded on the sand. I know we need to learn, it is heart wrenching though, the death, and the dismemberment. 

The necropsy indicated blunt trauma, in line with a ship strike as the cause of death in the August 2nd. whale. The body was towed out to sea a few days later.

Only 22 whales have washed up in the bay area in the 40 year history of the Marine Mammal Center up in Marin County. Three have washed up in the last 3 months. A dead Humpback was spotted floating offshore by another tour boat the same day we were out on the water, I don't know if is the same whale. The description varied.

I've spend the last two sunsets on our local cliffs watching whale spouts off in the distance, reassured by their clear aliveness. I needed to see whale life continue.


Humpback Tail in Motion. 2015.

In all, it's been a very full month since the July Newsletter. Just reading this through makes me want to take a long rest. But there is so much to do and see!


Recently at SJ Photo

Mentoring, Calendar and Seminar

I continued my mentoring program with two students this week, working on field work, editing and printing. Some fine prints and I believe a deepened understanding resulted.

On Tuesday evening August 11, I conducted a free seminar on Artwork Copying for the Pacifica Center for the Arts Studio holders.

Cavallo Point Gallery. 2015


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