California Dreaming


Richard Blair who, together with Kathleen Goodwin, is known for such photo books as Point Reyes Visions, Visions of Marin and California Trip, is arguably Marin's preeminent nature photographer. His latest book, California Dreaming, is an homage to the great landscape photographers "in the f/64 tradition" such as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams who used—gasp!—darkrooms and chemical baths to produce their work. But "these wonderful darkroom skills are being lost," writes Blair in the preface. "Digital printing is taking over, and the darkrooms are now darker than ever."

California Dreaming is Blair's "last stand" for darkroom photography, so to speak. (Actually about 20 images in the book are digital—Blair is no demonizer of new technologies.) And it's a noble stand. From the John Muir stomping grounds of the Yosemite Valley to the other-worldly topography of Death Valley to the spooky ruins of the Bodie ghost town, the Inverness photographer has compiled some of the finest black-and-white outdoor shots of his four-decade career. (He seems to save his finest use of light/shadows for Marin—shots in Olema, Inverness, McClures Beach, Tomales and Inverness are among the collection's standouts.)

Blair knows darkroom photography's days are numbered, and he's fine with that. "There was alchemy in developing film, but actually there's more magic in shooting a picture, and emailing it immediately," he writes.

"For me it matters little if the camera is digital or film. Light is still light. Framing, details, point of view, time—it's all the same." There's nothing "the same" about Blair's work, though.

Ed Weston and Ansel Adams would approve. —Jason Walsh, Editor in Chief, Pacific Sun 3/23/12

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“Were I forced, upon moving out of state, to choose one book by which to remember California’s landscape and the photography it has inspired, Inverness camera ace
Richard Blair’s would be the one.”

–Kenneth Baker,  Senior Art Critic, San Francisco Chronicle, November 20, 2011

Click on book icon to read online.