Monterey Dreaming

Monterey is a place, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.-John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

Last week I spent two days at the Asilomar Conference Center in Monterey, where I took the picture above. This is a welcome addition to my small Monterey Trees series, in which I portray live and dead trees found in that County. This collection deviates from my usual work in that I apply a texture and a sepia tone to my images (see under Tips below for details). This post has a follow-up here.

The conditions in windy Monterey County are very harsh on trees and one ubiquitous species there, Hesperocyparis macrocarpa, is particularly resilient. This coniferous tree, commonly known as the Monterey cypress, is one of several species of cypress trees endemic to California. One notable example is the iconic Lone Cypress at the 17-mile drive, one of the most photographed trees in this state, if not in the world.

While in Monterey I also took a few other pictures, which I might share on another opportunity. The Monterey coast is one of the most beautiful places I have seen, and yet, I have a difficult time taking a good picture there. First of all, despite the few iconic sites like the Lone Cypress or the Ghost Tree, composition is very challenging on a coast with lots of scattered, small, brown rocks, very white waves breaking on them and few elements to use as the focal point. 

Apart from challenges in composition, every time I travel there the conditions fail to line up right. It’s the haze, the clear skies and harsh light that turn into overcast without the in-between, the wild wind making it difficult to stay put and hold the camera steady. For two days I alternated between trying to take photos on the beach and watching life go by from the porch of our hotel room at Asilomar. I experimented with techniques I had not tried before.  It felt good to defy the elements, the harsh wind, the haze, the people walking alone in the outdoors wearing face masks; to watch the balloons, kites, happy children in swimsuits interacting with adults dressed for the winter. It also felt good to give it up, to go back to the room where ants crawled on the desk that lacks an electricity outlet, and the broken thermometer indicating 65 F too cold.

Location: Asilomar State Park, Pacific Grove coast, Monterey County, CA, USA;

Equipment: Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8;

Settings: 50 mm, f/5, 1/800 s, ISO 50.

Tips:  Both the cover image and the rest of the Monterey Trees collection were produced with the help of Topaz Labs, a free online tool that integrates fully with Adobe Photoshop and other apps. I used a texture preset and made some modifications to its tone by desaturating it and applying a photoshop sepia filter. The original is below for your appreciation.

11 thoughts on “Monterey Dreaming

  1. Judith says:

    Awesome, as always. I took a look at the collection, and all are so interesting and eye-catching. I especially enjoy reading about your artistic point of view and the creative process.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. howg2211 says:

    That’s a beautiful image of the tree. Love the curve of it. Perfect in black and white and the texture really completed it.


  3. joearf says:

    It’s an odd coincidence that last night, before I saw this post, I read in a magazine published in 1914 a poem (with an accompanying picture) about another windswept tree – I’ve pasted the URL to the particular page below if you’re interested.

    As always, I love your photographs, and especially appreciate your notes on process and tips.


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