Hang Glider (extreme right) from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais

West Peak, Mount Tamalpais: Somehow I Just Knew…

I had to get to the top of the west peak of Mount Tamalpais as quickly as possible. The weather conditions looked as though they could be an interesting subject for shooting: time lapse, photos, and panos. The dark clouds were blasting in from the north Pacific Ocean. They hung low in the sky—just above the mountain’s peaks.

When I arrived, the wind was intense. At times I was actually in the clouds. Sometimes the clouds blasted just over my head or just off to the side of the mountain peak along the ocean coastline—as seen in the photo below. It was cold! Very cold.

Turbulent Clouds along the West Side of Mount Tamalpais
Turbulent Clouds along the West Side of Mount Tamalpais quickly moving right to left

In this photo below, you see a distant ridge. In front of that ridge, on the left side of the photo, is Bolinas Lagoon, which connects to the Pacific Ocean just outside the frame of the shot. This is the very place where the San Andreas fault comes ashore, following the along the foot of the ridge to the north.

The Wine Country from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais
West of the Wine Country from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais
San Andreas Fault (Map) Field of view
San Andreas Fault (Map) Field of view

The wind was so intense, and I was so close to the fog/clouds, I’m not sure the time lapse will turn out. Even shooting with a 1 second interval, speeding up the super fast cloud movement any faster than it already was may look surreal. At times large clouds would blast through a single frame in 1 second and be out of frame by the next. Mother nature was already creating her own time lapse!

I’ll post the 2 short time lapse in the next day or two. They turned out well with the wind blasting the dense fog directly into the camera’s path.

While shooting the second time lapse, I noticed a person hang gliding over the mountains. High up in the air, he sailed gently out over the ocean, along the beaches, over the rolling hills. He was up in the air literally for hours and showed no sign of getting any lower to the ground. He just sailed effortlessly in the strong currents of wind as the weather cleared. You simply can not see him in the extreme right of the picture below, but if you click the photo to enlarge it you will see a call out highlighting the hang glider at 100% of the size in the original photo.

South of the City from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais
Hang Glider (speck on the extreme right) [Click for enlarged call out highlighting the hang glider.]
Watching him sail was beautiful.

I relocated and shot a couple of panos as the clouds dissipated into a stunning, sunny day. The air was pristinely clear, and I could see for miles! In fact, you could very clearly see the Farallon Islands, shown in a picture below, which are about 30 miles out to sea. And, because I was so high up in the air on the mountain peak, the islands didn’t appear to be on the edge of the horizon–as they do from Point Bonita.

I got one shot of the hang glider. I swapped out my lens for a 400mm setup in which I could zoom way in on him, the Farallons, Point Rejes, etc. But once the lens was mounted, I couldn’t find him anywhere. He apparently had landed.

I had parked Nick in a small parking area near a pickup truck. While heading down to the car, which I could plainly see from the hilltop on which I had been perched, a Prius pulled up beside the pickup truck and dropped off a man, then drove away. As I approached the car, the guy appeared to be in his 40s.

Somehow, I have no idea how, I immediately knew, for certain, that this was the man who had been hang gliding just moments before. I certainly couldn’t recognize him because he had been so far out as to appear as tiny as a bird. As I approached my car, this conversation began:

“So, are you into hang gliding?”

“As a matter of fact, yes, I am.”

“Was that you flying out there for the past couple of hours.”

“Yes, it was.”

“That looks like it would be so awesome, so serene. I had no idea you could stay up in the air for such a long time. What’s the longest you can sail?”

“It really is an amazing experience, and you can fly for hours and hours. Yesterday I was up for between 6 and 7 hours, but today I had to come down because the wind was just too strong…”

I’m certain I would be killed if I ever tried to learn to hang glide. But man, is it ever tempting!

Once the weather cleared, the views were even more stunning. Below you can clearly see Tiburon, Belvedere, the docks in Sausalito, Berkeley and Oakland in the distance, Mount Diabolo in Walnut Creek (extreme distance), and San Francisco just to the right.

The Bay Area from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais
The Bay Area from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais

Below is Point Reyes. The Point Reyes Lighthouse isn’t visible as it’s much lower, closer to the water, and on the opposite side of the point in the picture below.

Point Reyes from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais
Point Reyes from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais

I’ve never seen the Farallon Islands, which are 30 miles out to sea, this clearly. Additionally, I’m so high up on the west peak of the mountain, about 2,500 feet, that the islands do not appear along the horizon itself. You can see the ocean extending beyond them.  From my vantage point at Point Bonita, the Farallon Islands sit on the horizon line itself.

The Farallon Islands from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais
The Farallon Islands from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais

Stunning clouds south of San Francisco, along the coast line…

South of the City from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais
South of the City from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais

We’ve had a good bit of rain, and the hills are still rather green.

Hang Glider (extreme right) from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais
South of the City from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais
The Wine Country from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais
The Wine Country from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais
The Wine Country from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais
The Wine Country from the West Peak of Mount Tamalpais

Without any doubt, the bay area is the most gorgeous place I’ve ever lived. Unimaginably beautiful.