Sunday, July 31, 2016

End O' July

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I just finished reading The Invention of Nature -- Alexander von Humboldt's New World, by Andrea Wulf, and I so enjoyed reading about this interesting naturalist that I also just picked up Humboldt's Cosmos by Gerard Helferich. Cosmos was the name of Humboldt's 5-volume magnum opus on the world of nature. He finished the first two volumes in 1847 but decided there was more work to do and wrote two more volumes before he died in 1859 at the age of 89 (the fifth volume was published posthumously). The San Francisco Public Library has a copy of Cosmos that can be viewed only in the library, and one of these days I'll have to make the pilgrimage.

Humboldt's work and ideas inspired many scientists, artists and other interesting people of his day, from Charles Darwin and Louis Agassiz to Frederic Edwin Church and George Catlin to Henry Thoreau and John Muir. He was greatly interested in America's new, free republic and was a friend of Thomas Jefferson (whom he admonished against slavery). If, like me, you've never really heard much about Humboldt -- whom King Friedrich Wilhelm IV dubbed "the greatest man since the Deluge" -- blame may go in part to World War I and the ensuing fear and loathing of everything German. Some 2,000 Germans, including 29 members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, were sent to internment camps, and numerous German-owned businesses -- including woolen mills worth $70 million -- were seized.

I've been wondering what inspiration I can take from Humboldt's life, whether I could apply anything to my jaunts to Mt. Tam and other nearby locales. The way he looked at the world as a whole of interrelated parts was an inspiration to many, as were his exotic adventures in South America.

I still remember when Mt. Tamalpais seemed exotic to me, and I wouldn't mind getting that feeling again, if possible. There are many other places I'd like to explore, and I hope to have the ability to do so someday, but for the next few years I'm going to be content with photographing close to home. Even Humboldt had to spend many years -- decades, even -- simply making a living when he'd rather have been exploring.

Today I ventured out once again on the Matt Davis Trail. The grasses were still tall and bowed across the path, but this time the fog was much lower and the grass was dry as tinder. I didn't get wet at all, and it was actually quite sunny and warm. I was glad to have gotten out early, before the heat and bugs would become a nuisance. I wasn't sure I was actually still going to be interested in the backlit thistles that I enjoyed seeing when I recently hiked past here without my camera, but they were okay, if nothing to get too excited about, and I enjoyed the hike in any case.

This is a view down one of the ravines along the trail. I had to descend just a bit to get an unobstructed view. There was a second ravine I wanted to explore, even steeper, but I was too lazy to climb down into it. I find that I sometimes want the perspective of a longer lens, but holding that lens horizontally doesn't give me as much vertical coverage as I want, as was the case from this viewpoint using a 105mm lens. The solution (when there is little or no wind) is to hold the camera vertically and shoot several frames across the field to be stitched together as a panorama.

Getting back to the car I picked up my trail camera (where the water hole likely dried up two weeks ago; see my previous post), then drove down toward Stinson Beach to see if I could catch any fog beams. I was lucky to find a pull-out where the beams were coming through the forest canopy near a patch of showy flowers.

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