January 8, 2012

You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — geoff @ 2:54 pm

Good morning and greetings, NFL playoff fans. For the lovers of pro football, January is prime-time, as this past weekend featured chop blocks, gang tackling and vicious helmet-to-helmet hits, and that was just fans tailgating in the parking lot. And let’s not forget enough scantily-clad cheerleaders and beer commercials to make my head explode. When you throw in college football’s Rose Bowl, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and my personal favorite, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl that came with sour cream and chives, it was quite a week on the pigskin front.

There was also some interesting moments in the skies above Monterey Bay. As I mentioned in my last post, my Canon Rebel EOS suffered a stroke and died on the morning of New Year’s Eve, leaving me digitally challenged. And for some unexplained reason, I don’t have a backup camera to get me through prime times like this, which leaves me and Dusty Springfield wishing and hoping and thinking and praying that the skies don’t light up on a spectacular level when I’m lensless. Well, it may not have been Murphy’s Law taking effect, but last Wednesday night was one for the ages on many levels.

Now in my own weakside defense, and I really have none, I had brought along my daughter’s camera just in case the sky blew up on this night. All afternoon it looked as if the sunset had more potential than the 2011 New York Jets, and I knew there would be a window between my son and daughter’s basketball games to take in the sights and sounds. So when I exited the gym at 4:30 and checked out the sky, I could see the motherlode was coming, so I took off for Stockton Avenue to take in this midweek wonder.

The sky was already blowing up with unusual colors and texture as I hit West Cliff Drive. I took out my daughter’s Kodak Easy Share camera and prepared to shoot away. The only problem was, NOW HER CAMERA WASN’T WORKING. I thought to myself, relax, take a deep breath and try to enjoy this upcoming incredible experience that you won’t be capturing. Enjoy the moment. Of course, if you know me, you know this really wasn’t totally possible.

Now people always say to me, “Geoff, can’t you just enjoy watching the sunset?” Well, I could if I wasn’t a photographer and didn’t have a photo blog where each week I attempt to showcase the best from the skies and byways of the central coast. And just my luck, my Etch A Sketch was in the shop so I was out there alone, just me and a sky that would turn into clouds of purple mountain majesties. This was way above the fruited plain on a night oh so beautiful with spacious skies and amber waves of greatness.

So I sucked it up and accepted my photographic fate like a real man by sobbing uncontrollably for about ten minutes. In reality, I know looking at the bigger picture, there are worse fates, like if my TiVO went down. It was just disappointing to know what was coming and that my cyber audience was not going to be part of the festivities. Okay, so I’m a giver. Just don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.

My daughter’s game was now underway so I returned to the gym at Natural Bridges. I stood by the door and went to check the sunset every couple of minutes, as the skies were now a 360 degree canvas of unbelievable colors and designs.

To the east, the sky was as passionately pink as I’ ve ever seen it at sunset, while to the west there were riveting ribbons of orange and later red. My neighbor said it was like looking into a fire, a burning caldron of January color and pagentry. The reflection upon the ocean and sand was off the charts, although I didn’t have the emotional strength to go and look. Plus, my daughter was seeing some first-half minutes, and I didn’t want to miss any crossover action.

So the bottom line was, this was the most fantastic sunset that I’d ever seen but not photographed. So when I walked through the door at home after watching my son and daughter combine for two wins and 24 points, I wondered, what’s for dinner and what can I do to make up for this missed opportunity of greatness? At times like this, there’s only one place I can go. No, not to Disneyland, but to my photo archives.

We’re heading back to the evening of January 22, 2008, which was an epic night on the central coast. It was a most extreme low tide day (photo #3) as I was able to walk completely around the arch at Its Beach, something I’ve only done twice in my short but defense-oriented life.

I was shooting the exposed barnacles and sea stars when someone said, “Do you see the rainbow through the arch? (photo #4.) Then a snowy egret flew through and I shot it landing in the exposed kelp beds in front of the arch. I could just sense that this evening, much like my first chocolate milk shake, was going to be very special.

As you can see, the sky just went off from here, ending with a very colorful canvas (photo #6) that had friends and anemones buzzing. But here’s the kicker, and I don’t mean the guy that missed the three field goals for Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl.

The next night, I photographed my all-time favorite, Santa Cruz sunset up at Natural Bridges. We’re talking back-to-back, world-class nights in the skies above the central coast. To check it out, go the archives on the right, click on January 2011 and “Does This Sunset Make Me Look Fat?” will pop up like A-Rod with the bases loaded in a playoff game.

So the good news is that I’ve ordered a new camera and I should be back in business before Rick Perry exits the presidential race. I hope some of you caught the spectacle in the January 4th sky. In the words of my old pal Marc Techner, a West Cliff regular at sunset time, “It was magical. The colors, from the different shades of pink and purple and fuchsia just lit up the whole sky. It was totally incredible, one of the best ever.” Thank you and stay thirsty, my friends.

On to a little late night. “As I was coming out here, CBS News predicted the winner of the Iowa Republican caucuses: President Obama. So now that Michele O’Bachmann is out, that leaves Mitt Romney with best hairdo.” –David Letterman “Rick Santorum’s campaign is celebrating the Iowa caucuses with a pizza party. Here’s the embarrassing part: It was delivered by Herman Cain.” –Jay Leno

So that’s a wrap. Enjoy the warm winter weather, the ongoing NFL playoffs and we’ll catch you in the end zone. Aloha, mahalo and later, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Tim Tebow fans.


  1. #4 and #6 are spectacular.
    Love the comment about the “etch-a-sketch.”
    Best of luck with the new camera. Looking forward to seeing all that you see.

    Comment by Wendi Gilbert — January 9, 2012 @ 8:50 am

  2. Would it have been unethical to go down to the lighthouse and commandeer someone else’s camera? A photographic equivalent of a national security crisis?

    Comment by Hakeem Nicks — January 9, 2012 @ 9:16 am

  3. Being Geoff Gilbert is not just a job, it’s an adventure!

    Comment by Admiral Larry Byrd — January 9, 2012 @ 10:17 am

  4. I also find it hard to enjoy the sunset without my camera. I just feel anxious taking in all the colors without recording them. If the sunset you’re talking about was January 4, you’re right – it was pretty epic.

    Comment by maseume — January 9, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

  5. Despite the camera being broken, your writing still evoked some of the beauty of that sunset. You could say a thousands words are worth a picture.

    Comment by Kevin D — January 16, 2012 @ 10:45 am

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