There are secret beaches and caves that appear out at Point Reyes when there is a negative tide, which is when the water is below the usual tide line. In May, a small group met at 6:30am to trek the 9 miles out to the secret beaches and caves in a secret location at Point Reyes. Along the way, we saw tidal pools filled with thousands of sea urchins and underwater terrain that isn’t usually visible. Rocks and secret caves appear on the beaches, which are also not usually available. That day we were lucky enough to see 13 grey whales heading north. I believe there is no place quite as beautiful as Northern California in the spring.
Ocean Beach offered up all sorts of uncommon visual marvels this past Tuesday, including Vellela (commonly known as by-the-wind sailor), different types of algae, and remnants of all sorts of hard-shelled creatures.
Nature created the compositions the way that I’ve captured them here. I haven’t styled any of these photos. I invite you to enjoy the beach’s beauty.
On Thursday, May 16, the Skulls exhibit will open at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The exhibit features a collection of skulls that will provide a fascinating look into nature’s engineering while telling us all about the lifestyle of many animals.
Perhaps as fascinating (if not more) is the story of the man who collected the majority of the skulls in this exhibit. At 86 years old, Ray Bandar has been collecting skulls for Cal Academy for more than 60 years. Many of the skulls he collected (approximately 7,000) are in his house in what he calls his Skull Palace, a basement room stacked high with bones and skulls. The exhibit will have a selection of those skulls along with hands-on activities for all ages.
My favorite part of the exhibit features a wall of sea lion skulls. The diversity of those skulls is remarkable as it tells the story of individual variation in one species. In front of that wall of sea lions is a video featuring Ray Bandar, much of it from my movie, Ray Bandar: A Life with Skulls, which I began back in 2003 when I first met Ray.
The inspiration for the movie occurred when I was on a backstage tour of the last Skulls exhibit at Cal Academy. During my tour, Ray told his bounty of tales with a boyish exuberance that I felt I needed to capture on video. He brought every skull to life with a tale: mammals dying because their horns locked when they were fighting, marine mammals with shotguns shells in their heads, how dogs represented man-made evolution and bears that had become obese on human food.
In search for a complete story about Ray’s passion, I interviewed his friends, colleagues and wife and followed him out on an excursion to collect the skull of a harbor porpoise. My own three-year journey with Ray would eventually turn into a 30-minute movie called Ray Bandar: A Life with Skulls, which was shown on PBS. You can buy the movie (with an hour of extras), from Amazon.com.
While looking for debris recently on a visit to North Point Beach in Ano Nuevo State Park in Northern California I found these imprints. They looked more like stamped footprints because the sand was so dry and hard. I felt like I was spying, trying to reconstruct the story of the creatures roaming the beach while I wasn’t there.