After a 4-mile hike up a dry forested trail, and another half hour of bushwhacking, I finally reached the obscure summit of peak 1380 on Inverness Ridge in Point Reyes National Seashore. There was no view at all, just trees, bushes and overgrown vegetation. On the way down however I crossed a stream (still running despite the drought) and found a lovely presentation of leaves and stones in a shaded dell.
“Last summer, Albany resident David Sanger decided he wanted to find a new challenge — one that would combine his love of the outdoors, his joy upon discovering new places, his hiking and climbing skills and his talents as a photographer. He found it on the many peaks in the Bay Area, climbing as many as he can, as often as he can…….”
Writer Susan Alcorn covered my Peaks Project in a story for the The Bay Are News Group newspapers last Sunday. The story also included images from a photo shoot by Oakland Tribune photographer Ray Chavez covering me working the peaks in Sunol Regional Park.
In July 2014 I began a landscape photography project on summits, peaks and high points of the greater Bay Area. For 121 days between July and November I climbed at least one new peak every day, a total of 196 summits, over 650 miles and over 150,000 vertical feet. Rather than use my standard Nikon gear I decided to shoot with the camera at hand, my iPhone 6. It has been quite a challenge, without long lenses or ancillary lighting, relying only on composition and natural light. Since then I have continued to find new peaks, climbing several times a week, and the photo project has turned into a book project, tentatively titles “Bay Area Peaks”
So far I have been posting images and some commentary on Instagram and Facebook. Now I’ll be reposting some of the best, plus new images here.
The image above is morning above the South San Jose Valley. This lone oak is yet to get its leaves this year. I loved the green grass on the hills in the original images but decided the sepia filter emphasized the intricate form of the oak branches – form and light.
Yet another fogbound peak, this time out in Griswold Hills in the eastern foothills of the Diablo Range. After a long climb up a steep rocky path shrouded in mist we emerged into the light…..
Just outside the vineyard where my son lives with his wife and two kids is Okell Hill, a tall oak-covered grassy hill overlooking the vineyards of Wooden Valley near Fairfield. I have often wanted to climb it, so when we got the opportunity we all hiked up to the top in the late afternoon light. Little Samantha (2 1/2) ran ahead while William (9 months) rode in the backpack. The summit did not disappoint, with clear views as far as San Francisco Bay, and bright backlight on these California Oaks.
This was from Day 90 of the consecutive peaks string. When I started this adventure I had no ideas I’d still be going strong after 90 consecutive days climbing peaks hills summits and high points in California. This hike was a return trip to Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in the East Bay to a small, unnamed peak called 919 above an old abandoned mine called Star Mine.
It was a steep short scramble through brush and up grassy slopes once I left the trail, and then suddenly the top, with a late afternoon view north across the valley. On the way back I saw a lone coyote crossing the meadow. As I hastened back towards the parking lot while the hills glowed bronze in the deepening light.
Day 21: Trojan Point, Mount Tamalpais State Park
For the past three weeks I have been enjoying new San Francisco Bay Area trails, hiking to at least one new mountain, hill, summit or high point every day. It’s been amazing. Even after thirty years of exploring nearby parks and wilderness areas, there’s always new locations, sights and viewpoints. My camera though all this? an iPhone 5s.
Part of the wonder of it for me is a rediscovery of travel photography, not of far-off places (I can’t travel right now for personal reasons), but of the unexpected and hidden gems right before our eyes.
Day 19: Borel Hill, Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve
Day 16: Crockett Hills Regional Park
Day 13: Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve
Day 12: Mount Allison
Day 10: Sobrante Ridge Regional Preserve
Day 7: Mount Vaca
Day 2: Albany Hill Park
Day 1: Mount Wanda
Wander through the landscape images posted on many Facebook, Instagram and Flickr pages and you’ll see millions of sunsets, clouds, tropical beaches and gorgeous landscapes, all accompanied by gushing comments, “Wow,” “fantastic” “amazing!!” “dope”. Professional travel photographers know that sunsets aren’t always that gorgeous, that the light is not often brilliant and magical, and that not all mountain vistas are “knock your socks off” scenes. With all the eye candy presented online it is easy to get jaded, to see such images as commodities, commercialized, trite and clichéd.
You’ll get a hint of that in the tags people add, especially on Instagram : cloudporn, sunsetporn, as if to confirm that that all the images are faked, dolled up by in Photoshop in an effort to show something that isn’t there.
But that is not the whole story. The essence of photography is the art of seeing, of standing before a subject and discerning its nature, finding what is interesting and unique and then trying to accurately record it for others. This is especially key in travel photography. Two photographers walk into an Asian market; one see orchids, the other sees flies. Which is the truth? For me the greatest potential for photography is the capacity to find what is wonderful in the world, to see beyond the ordinary and mundane elements of life, to the hope and potential and wonder of it all.
So a photo of a sunset is marvelous not because it is a pretty picture, but because when you actually go out there, when you stand on the hill above the clouds, as the golden light reflects all around you, it touches you. The true value of the image is not so much that it looks wondrous, but that it can inspire the viewer to go out themselves and see the sunset, to seek and find their own moments of awe and inspiration, to see the orchids…
It was 1994 when I became an American citizen, more than 35 years after moving here as a child. My wife and two kids, all American born, were at the swearing-in ceremony with me. My main reasons were to get through the immigration line quicker at the airport and to be able to vote before my son did (not that we disagreed). The passport was a convenience but I was surprised, even overwhelmed, when I stood in the voting booth for the first time in my life and voted. After all those years I had a voice. And I won’t ever forget it. Enjoy the 4th of July, whoever, wherever you are, and don’t ever forget to vote!