This is the final panorama from my visit to the Bamberger Ranch last Saturday. The sun was setting so fast, I wasn't sure I could make it work, but my desire for this shot came rushing back to me as I looked down at the scene. I struggled to lift a large oak limb off of the top of the dam, up out of the dark water, and to drag it to an inconspicuous location. It was hung-up exactly where the camera needed to be.
I'd seen the tank side of this shot in November as I was returning from a walk up the Aldo Leopold trail. I'd walked past the shot an hour earlier, heading in the opposite direction, and hadn't noticed it, but now it stood up and begged to be captured. The sun was setting then, too, and I raced to setup the pano rig and begin shooting before the shadows grew so long that the reflection on the water's mirror surface would be lost. I had just shot the first two segments of the panorama when a little breeze came-up and spread fine ripples across the mirror. The panorama was ruined, and the sun set soon after, ensuring that there would be no second chance.
The ranch had been in a drought for six years at that point, and the water level in the tank fell about three feet below the top of the dam. Fish still jumped in the tank, and frogs still found it worth their while to work the shallow pools and interconnecting trickles of the creek that feeds it. For six years of drought, the place was a paradise, and a testament to first-rate land stewardship. This spring finally brought the rains that ended the drought, refilled the aquifer, lake and tanks, and started all of the springs flowing again. And that brought me a better second chance than any I'd imagined; no fall color, but dark, deep, mirror water, and loud, roaring, rushing water in golden grass, new leaves flush with green, a flawless blue sky, and not a hint of a breeze. Perfect.
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The panorama below is Jacob's Ladder tank as it appeared earlier that same November day, last year. The vantage point is different, of course; the dam, so prominent above, is just a small detail near the left edge. But like I said, for six years of drought, a paradise - with bald cypress in fall finery. I left this panorama and some other random photos of the ranch with Margaret on my next visit, as I usually do. I don't know if she does anything with them, but I leave them just the same. So, a month ago I was surprised to hear that she'd shown this one to David, and he'd decided to have a thousand of them printed, bookmark size, as promotional material for the foundation that he created to maintain the ranch in perpetuity. The occasion for the bookmark is the impending release of a book about David and the ranch, Water from Stone: The Story of Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve by Jeffrey Greene. I haven't been able to get hold of a copy of the book, so I can't give it any sort of review, except to say that I read Greene's first book, and was impressed, and I've come to know David, Margaret and the ranch increasingly well over the years, and the four of them should make an excellent combination.
David thanked me for the use of the pano as we worked our way through the cedar on Warbler trail, heading to the second of the waterfalls he showed me last Saturday. I told him I was gratified that he'd liked it enough to have it printed. "A thousand of them, huh?" I asked. "Oh, no," he told me. "Four thousand."