What does one think about when one hears the phrase “scrub vegetation”? These are not pretty words, and they do not bring pleasant associations to the naïve listener. But to those of us who live here or spend time in the outdoors, the phrase “Northern Baja California Coastal Scrub” can bring an entirely different set of associations. One might remember a sunset from a quiet hillside with California Gnatcatchers (an lovely endangered endemic bird) mewing from aromatic Artemisia sagebrush. Or one might recall a walk where the patterns of sun and shade, fire and water, wind and stillness are reflected in the vegetation, in this region of cool wet winters, dry summers, and wind-swept fires. And of course, one might remember the native human residents that lived here for over ten thousand years before the first missionaries’the patterns of their lives are still here in the landscape and can be seen by anyone who spends time in those wild places, mostly south of the US-Mexico border, that have not been ravaged by us, the “new” immigrants.
One can write about the beauty of the land, the local species, the adaptations to a climate that while exceedingly pleasant from our well-watered homes can be harsh and difficult for the plants and animals that live in the wild. One can study the plants and animals, how they have adapted to this climate unique in North America, how they have changed since arriving from other parts of the world, how the geological history can be read in the landscape, and how this place, from El Rosario to Sonoma is one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots of the world. One can explore the landscapes of the region: the ‘postage stamp’ refuges carved out between housing developments in Orange County; the great mountain parks that frame the city of Los Angeles; and the quiet and untouched landscapes just outside Ensenada where one could not tell if it was the 21st, 20th or even 17th century from looking at the landscape. These are all ways of celebrating this region, and they are all important.
But when I first started to understand this area, as a new birder, botanist, and herpetologist, I wanted to help others see this land with fresh eyes, and photography is one way of doing that. It is with our senses that we experience a place directly, and form our strongest connections and memories. I hope that these photos will renew the viewer’s experience of this land, help lead us towards understanding how to conserve this land and live in harmony with it.
About the prints
The signed and numbered photos in this exhibition are from 4x5 transparencies, mostly taken on a Swiss Arca 4x5 “Field Monorail” camera with Fuji Velvia Film. The film is processed normally, and then scanned to allow it to be processed in the “digital darkroom.” Digital processing of film allows much finer and repeatable control of contrast and color than the chemical darkroom, and allows the photos to more accurately reflect the scene as captured on film. This photographer strongly believes that these photos must be an accurate recording of a certain time and place, and all editing maintains this veracity to “what the camera saw.”
The images are printed on photo paper with a semi-matte surface using an Epson printer with archival pigmented inks. Care is taken to use best practices in all stages of printing, giving a clean, consistent and rich image that accurately reflects the color range of the original transparency. Independent testing indicates that these photos have a 90+ year life, which is at least as long as chemical (wet) photography. Alternatively, the photos can be printed on cotton-fiber paper, which will conserve for up to 300 years if properly maintained.
The unnumbered photos (unlimited series) are taken digitally, and are processed in the same way. Because they start as smaller images, they cannot be enlarged to the same extent as the large-format (limited series) images.