Sunday, March 10, 2013

Magic Light, Magic Place, (One)

Kettleman City, California

Last June 16, I was working my way up the Pacific Coast Highway after spending a day off the road, visiting with friends at Topago Canyon. I tripped over an unanticipated derelict drive-in theater being used as a recycling center and got some good material from it, while enjoying my ride up Highway One. Next stop was The Hi-Way Drive-in, Santa Maria, CA, then the Sunset DI theater at San Louis Obispo, where I got more good material as well as the picture in yesterday morning's post. Continuing north, I realized I was hitting the "Saturday night dilemma"—if you are traveling through a popular tourist area, or really almost anywhere, in summer, with itinerary too uncertain to make lodging reservations in advance, you just aren't going to find a room on Saturday night. At Cambria, while admiring the ocean views, I decided I didn't even want to know what a nice seaside room would cost, if there were one available, so after consulting the road atlas I turned back a few miles and caught Rt. 46 to head east, away from the coast.

The road went straight up into the mountains. I was surprised to see the temperature climbing as the elevation got higher (I'm quite sure it always does the opposite here in the East), from low seventies at the ocean shore right up into the nineties. At Paso Robles, a grungy, ill-maintained old roadhouse now affiliated with an economy motel chain wanted $100 for a room, while a Quinta Suites (I was just curious) offered to let me have their "last remaining" $220 suite for only $170. Right, that's how capitalism works, scarcity lowers price. I noticed people in the lobby enjoying the "free" wine bar amenity.

My GPS said that about an hour and ten minutes farther along, there was a Crossroads Best Western at Kettleman City. Five days from the summer solstice, there was lots more evening light ahead. Rt. 46 climbed, then there was a switch to Rt. 41 and lots more climbing until the road crested the ridge of the mountains,  then plunged down into the west side of the San Joachim valley as the temperature soared well over 100° approaching seven o'clock. The BW was easy to find because Kettleman City consisted of nothing more than a couple hotels, fast food places, and gas station/convenience stores. The evening light was simply amazing. Once I got checked in, I wandered around until dark making pictures, some of which were posted here 'from the road' on 6/17 and 6/18.

Kettleman City, California

Early morning light is usually my favorite, but every once in a while I find a place where the evening light is luminous, making ordinary objects seem to glow. The valley floor is broad and dead flat so there is a Big Sky feel as well. The elevation is only 253 feet above sea level. This is desert, getting less than 8" a year of natural rainfall, but it's heavily irrigated and I think evaporating irrigation water may contribute to the unusual atmospherics and light. It was one of those times and places where it seemed almost difficult to look in any direction without finding something fascinating, something worth photographing. More to come.

1 comment:

Markus Spring said...

Both light and images are exceptional here, #1 clearly my favourite for that symbolic "stop" sign just so slightly decentered.

Long summer evenings can show this kind of signature blueish light, this is what can give so special opportunities for photography. And the flatness of the country certainly helps to extend this time span.