As a community, Santa Cruz County residents found healing and solace in nature throughout 2020, but always with the stark reminder that natural phenomena can completely alter our ways of life. These images, and their stories, explore how our community has captured and reflected upon this unique year.
All of the images in this exhibit were taken in Santa Cruz County in the year 2020 by local residents. Click on images for expanded views and stories from the photographers.
Many entered 2020 with a sense of hope for a new decade, unaware that great challenges and changes were ahead. These images showcase winter phenomena common in Santa Cruz County, but in retrospect some hold new meaning for the photographers in the wake of all that has happened since.
"Celebrating the Return of the Monarch Butterflies to Santa Cruz" by Elizabeth Van Dyke
"Each year I am thrilled to see the return of the Monarch Butterflies to Santa Cruz. They are dwindling in population due to factors like climate change and human encroachment on their territories. Their presence here is exciting and hopeful, especially needed in 2020." -Elizabeth Van Dyke, "Celebrating the Return of the Monarch Butterflies to Santa Cruz" (Amateur)
"What Was Lost" by Irene Reti
"I made this image of the Monterey Pine forest on Swanton Road in early 2020. Little did I know that this forest would burn in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire. I returned to this same area in September 2020 and found charred stumps and acrid air." - Irene Reti, "What Was Lost" (Amateur)
"A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" by Nina Koocher
"It rained hard in January just before the pandemic hit. Those times seem a little blurry now. This shot was taken in the parking lot at Dominican Hospital. In retrospect we have wondered whether the person I was visiting was in fact a harbinger of the virus to come." - Nina Koocher "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" (Amateur)
Sheltering in Place — and Outdoors
In March, the COVID-19 pandemic emptied streets as businesses shut down and residents sheltered in place. Rare outings outside shifted perspectives, and highlighted the importance of access to nature.
"Rain on the Horizon" by Morteza Behrooz
"My housemate had gotten Covid, and while I was worried for him, my refuge was nature every day. I would walk by the ocean alone, thinking, worrying, and hoping. One day I felt really tired of it all and... that's when it rained, on the horizon. It felt like nature was asking me to keep my hope." -Morteza Behrooz, "Rain on the Horizon" (Amateur)
"Farm Fresh" by Tara Gooden
"We watched people and places make incredible shifts during the pandemic. We were prepared to celebrate our six year old's birthday at home when we heard about one such shift at a local farm. The Erbe Farm began offering private, COVID safe tours to families. We fed and viewed the animals, explored the grounds, and watched farm life unfold in this quiet slice of land located in Watsonville. Collecting farm fresh eggs was a big highlight and we were grateful to see nature in a new perspective. The Erbe Farm, Watsonville, CA, August 8, 2020." - Tara Gooden, "Farm Fresh" (Amateur)
"Supply Frenzy" by Jenni Peters
"As the world transitioned to shelter in place due to the global pandemic, we quickly saw breaks in the supply chains for common products and the hoarding that then ensued. While humans stockpiled toilet paper and fought over hand sanitizer, a different frenzy occurred at the Wharf with a feeding frenzy of a giant bait ball. All of the birds battled to get a small piece of the feast, though many of them waited to pick some out of the beaks Brown Pelicans rather than hunt for themselves. Just like toilet paper, there were plenty of fish to go around but the sense of urgency drove it to be a frenzy of epic proportions." -Jenni Peters, "Supply Frenzy" (Amateur)
"Feeling Crabby" by Jenni Peters
"As lockdown continued through the summer, feelings of crabbiness just seemed to continue to fester. Not being able to say goodbye to my students at the end of the year, the closure of beaches, and the feeling of isolation growing ever stronger. When the beach closure was lifted, I headed straight for the Harbor to see what creatures had gathered in this quiet time on the coast. I tucked myself on the rocks of the jetty and waited to see what would come out. This Striped Shore Crab caught my eye with its ability to carry on in a much smaller scope of the world with just a few rocks to call home." - Jenni Peters, "Feeling Crabby" (Amateur)
"Through the Looking Glass" by Marisa Gomez
"When we all began sheltering-in-place, I started finding a new form of stimuli: the drama of small things. As humans retreated, insects were out in droves, enjoying spring blooms and weather. In order to better identify the insects around me, I took pictures through a small hand lens. This lygus bug (Lygus pratensis) was exploring a common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)." - Marisa Gomez, "Through the Looking Glass" (Amateur)
"Mother's Love" by Jodi Frediani
"The isolation of the pandemic still chills my heart and rocks my world. But a band of turkeys, three hens and their ample brood, plus some of their male friends, kept me company during the worst of these troubling times. Each day they brought joy and entertainment. As the poults grew and flourished before my eyes, I trained my camera on them, chronicling their exploits: learning what to eat, how to fly, when to look sharp, how to roost on square-edged boards. To them I give great thanks." -Jodi Frediani, "Mother's Love" (Amateur)
Life (and Death) Went On
Though life as humans knew it was increasingly altered under COVID-19, life in the animal kingdom continued its regular cycles of life and death, and the seasons marched on as they always do.
"A New Take on Road Kill" by Marisa Gomez
"On my way to Wilder Ranch along the coastal bike path, I came across a surprising obstacle: half of a Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocolieus hemionus columbianus) — not that you could see the tail. Given the amount of the deer that was missing, I suspect it fell victim to a mountain lion (Puma concolor). Finding it along the bike path reminded me of the intersection of wildlife and urban-living that we constantly find ourselves skirting in Santa Cruz." - Marisa Gomez, "A New Take on Road Kill" (Amateur)
"Follow the Leader" by Tara Gooden
"There is always abundant wildlife at UCSC, but the quiet of the pandemic brought our furry and feathered friends out in greater numbers and in more unusual places, especially in the early days of the health crisis. This turkey seemed to be enjoying the reduced human presence, walking the foot bridge between Hahn and McHenry on campus at its own pace. UCSC, near McHenry Library, Santa Cruz, CA, February 28, 2020." - Tara Gooden, "Follow the Leader" (Amateur)
"Two Western Gulls Fighting" by Linda Huffman
"I was watching a gull building a nest on the cliffs with it's mate nearby. Another gull flew up, grabbed the gull, and they both fell off the cliff into the waves below, holding onto each other the whole time." - Linda Huffman, "Two Western Gulls Fighting" (Amateur)
"Go Fish" by Janet Kornblum
"It was July and I was tooling around the harbor in my kayak, just happy—no thrilled—to get outside and be safe. I spied a Great Blue Heron, the most majestic of the birds that flock to the Santa Cruz Harbor. It was standing on a boat, posing and then flew to another boat. I followed. The harbor was teeming with tiny silver fish, and the heron was clearly hungry. I watched as this magnificent bird took steely aim and plucked one fish after another from the glassy water. I was close enough to see the fish squirm, but it wasn’t until I got home and looked at my photos that I could see the stunned look on the fish’s face—or at least that’s how I interpreted it. I did imagine, for a minute, how it must feel to be this tiny creature, plucked in a death grip from the only home its ever known. Sometimes it’s important to remember that we are all part of the cycle of life." - Janet Kornblum, "Go Fish" (Amateur)
"Flycatcher's Catch" by Angelica Glass
"This little green flycatcher built a nest on one of the barns at Wilder Ranch. I observed her for an hour one day, then came back day after day over the course of a few weeks. She always landed on the fence near her nest before heading up to feed her babies. This shot shows her with one big bug, but some days I saw her with numerous bugs in her beak, at once. I have a photo of her with a bee, a green worm, a moth, and a few other sundry bugs, all stuffed in. Her beak was like a suitcase too full to close." - Angelica Glass, "Flycatcher's Catch" (Amateur)
Solace in Nature
After the March shutdown, many people found solace in the outdoors, whether in their own backyard or a local park.
"Moment of a Sunset" by Levi Matsushima
"Life seems busy, even now when a lot of us have to stay home. 2020 was my first year living in Santa Cruz, and I felt the need to break my routine more than ever. This picture was taken on a Monday evening after a walk along the beach, which is highly contrary to a usual Monday evening spent catching up on studying or emails. That sunset, we had the beach all to ourselves, and for just that one moment, life seemed simple. Don't forget to take a moment, breathe, and absorb the beauty that we live in everyday." - Levi Matsushima, "Moment of a Sunset" (Amateur)
"Sheltering In Place x2" by Nina Koocher
"In April of 2020 I discovered this hummingbird nest just outside our living room window. With a lot of time on my hands I was excited to chronicle the mother hummingbird sitting on her eggs and then the chicks as they developed. It was approximately six weeks from the day they hatched until the day they flew. Their patience was a timely lesson for one who was herself sheltering in place." - Nina Koocher, "Sheltering In Place x2" (Amateur)
"Shelter in Place" by Jenni Peters
"The benefit of sheltering in place was truly watching natural life unfold on a daily basis. With limited travel and the need to distance, staying closer to home was quite the norm. I watched this nest hole daily tracking who was coming and going. It had been excavated the year prior by a Hairy Woodpecker, but was inhabited this spring first by a family of Pygmy Nuthatches and then became the home for this Oak Titmouse. While under claim by the Titmouse pair, it grew some amazing bracket fungus making it truly a home worth remembering and quite a remarkable hole to shelter in place." - Jenni Peters, "Shelter in Place" (Amateur)
"Larger Than Life" by Tara Gooden
"Exploring local museums and discovery centers' outdoor exhibits have become our pandemic pastime. Taking in Ms. Blue's sheer size and beauty is a spectacular experience, especially for a six year old. Seymour Marine Discovery Center, July 27, 2020." - Tara Gooden, "Larger Than Life" (Amateur)
When There Was No Place to Go, We Went Outside
Nature provided a space to exercise, recharge, and rest our minds in the midst of the pandemic.
"Stepping Out Of The Shadows" by Brad Davies
"Following the train tracks one day in May when we were not allowed to really be out and about I found this one spot where the sun was able to break through all the trees and warm me up for a moment." -Brad Davies, "Stepping Out Of The Shadows" (Professional)
"Moss Covers My Scars" by Sriharsha Annadore
"While photographing fall colors in Santa Cruz mountains, I came across this patch of redwood trees with a lone bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum). At first, It looked pretty scarred and dull because of old fire, while the surrounding was dark and dull as well. Initially it didn't catch my attention until a beam of sun light cut through the canopy and illuminated its trunk. It was a "wow" moment for me to notice that the whole tree was covered with beautiful green moss as if it was some kind of bandage over the scar. The tree looked alive, moreover, top branch had few colorful leaves too. It felt as if the whole ecosystem of moss and the surrounding redwoods were assuring this tree to survive. Sometime this makes me wonder that along with the individual sprit to survive and thrive, there is also a societal contribution to support and heal." - Sriharsha Annadore, "Moss Covers My Scars" (Amateur)
"Rainy Day Friends" by Katelyn Sheehan
"When I first moved to California from the east coast I was amazed with the snails. I had only ever seen slugs 'in the wild' until I moved here. After being mesmerized by these cute slimy gastropods I started taking photos of them everywhere. This photo brought me joy in so many ways, but it was also a reminder that our county didn’t just have fires this year. This rainy day photo was the most wild snails I have ever seen, and I only got to capture it by walking around my neighborhood on a day off." -Katelyn Sheehan, "Rainy Day Friends" (Amateur)
Life’s a Beach
From waves to tide pools, the ocean provides a constantly changing venue for viewing natural phenomena.
"Shoreline Tells a Story" by Mary Anne Carson
"This photo was taken between Sand Dollar and Sunset Beaches during the pandemic and the devastating wildfires. As I took in the sheer volume of ashes washing up to shore, I wondered whether all of this debris was from the CZU Lightning Complex fires or the fires to the South, or a pooling of both? The sheer amount of ash was both astounding and haunting." - Mary Anne Carson, "Shoreline Tells a Story" (Amateur)
"The Sorcerer's Nudibranch" by Amy Patten
"I came across this nudibranch on the side of a dock in the harbor. I don’t see them too often in tidepools, but I do see them foraging, mating, and laying eggs on man-made structures in the harbor fairly often. They are known as The Sorcerer’s Nudibranch (Polycera atra). I love this name because they truly look like a creature from a magical realm! But sometimes truth is stranger than fiction- I think we are lucky to share our world with something so strange and awe-inspiring." -Amy Patten, "The Sorcerer's Nudibranch" (Amateur)
"Draw of the King Tides" by Liz Celeste
"On November 16th, I knew the King Tides were here. My youngest child and I rushed over to Pleasure Point at sunset while my older child was at soccer practice. We were greeted with this beautiful sky and sliver of a moon. We tried to find some creatures in the tide pools with the light of my phone flashlight, and spotted some anemones, chitons, and one crab. I loved watching the silhouettes as the moon sank quickly in the sky." -Liz Celeste, "Draw of the King Tides" (Professional)
In the rare moments without fog or smoke, Santa Cruz residents turned their gazes to the skies, observing astronomical phenomena. These distant views provide perspective and place this earth within a much larger universe.
"Neowise in Pogonip" by Will Bortin
"This is a photo of comet Neowise that I was very lucky to capture in a field in Pogonip next to the UCSC campus. I had heard about the comet and wanted to get a picture of it, so my brother and I drove up to campus and hiked out into the woods as the sun set. As we found a good spot to set up, I was worried we weren't going to capture anything worthwhile; the comet's visibility had already peaked a couple days earlier, and there was a slow fog rolling in from the south. All those fears were washed away, however, when the comet appeared to us, almost invisible to the naked eye, over the tops of the trees around 9pm. We had a good 30-45 minute window of clear skies before the fog rolled in, obscuring the comet. This is my favorite image from that night, and I'm extremely grateful that I was able to capture such an incredible, rare moment in time." - Will Bortin, "Neowise in Pogonip" (Amateur)
In the weeks leading up to another glowing phenomenon, a bloom of bioluminescent plankton put on a show.
"Felicity" by Jackie Fogerty
"The bioluminescence was on its second round in Santa Cruz County, my family was so excited to finally be able to go see it. We witnessed a breathtaking sunset and then slowly watched the waves turn on. In a challenging year, this night brought us so much pure joy, with every single wave that lit up." - Jackie Fogerty, "Felicity" (Amateur)
"Beauty From Ashes" by Amy Medina
"This was captured in the first days of the firestorms. The smoke in the air caused otherworldly vibrant sunset colors. There was bioluminescence in the waters during that time that would be visible shortly after these colors faded." - Amy Medina, "Beauty From Ashes" (Professional)
"Moon Over Bioluminescence" by Johnny Chien
"This was the very first night that I was out to see the bioluminescent waves at Seacliff. I had been out for a few hours shooting the waves and also the Cement Ship. As I was looking for more interesting compositions other than just a beach and the cement ship, I noticed that the (almost) full moon was going to set over the water. I waited and finally got my shot. They say that you can't see bioluminescent waves with a full moon shining, but that is not correct. The correct answer is that it depends on the concentration of plankton in the water. I have never seen them so bright. This is a single shot taken at f1.8 for 6 seconds." - Johnny Chien, "Moon Over Bioluminescence" (Professional)
The Night Before the Fires
Lightning is a rare sight along the Central Coast, and residents were shocked at the sights and sounds of the lightning storm that filled our skies in the early hours of August 16. Little did anyone know that these storms would set off a historic natural disaster.
"Family of Bolts Over Bioluminescence" by Johnny Chien
"While out taking pictures of bioluminescence at Manresa, a storm system blew in and I noticed some lightning way out in bay. It was so far out that I could see the lightning but not hear any thunder. The wind was calm, there was no rain, so I didn’t fear for my safety and stayed out to see if I could capture some lightning with the bioluminescent waves. Lightning is extremely rare in the Monterey Bay. I have never seen bioluminescence here either in all the years that I have lived in Santa Cruz County. For the next hour, as the lightning got closer, I enjoyed Mother Nature’s two amazingly rare phenomenon together. I was in awe to see it in person, and I could not believe that I was witnessing these two events and being able to capture them both in photos and video. This might be the only time in my life that I will ever witness this together. Little did I know that this lightning storm would be responsible for 11,000 lightning strikes and would set off the CZU Lightning Complex fires later in the day. This is a single shot taken at f1.8 for 30 seconds." - Johnny Chien, "Family of Bolts Over Bioluminescence" (Professional)
BEST PROFESSIONAL | FAMILY OF BOLTS OVER BIOLUMINESCENCE BY JOHNNY CHIEN
While out taking pictures of bioluminescence at Manresa, a storm system blew in and I noticed some lightning way out in bay. It was so far out that I could see the lightning but not hear any thunder. The wind was calm, there was no rain, so I didn’t fear for my safety and stayed out to see if I could capture some lightning with the bioluminescent waves. Lightning is extremely rare in the Monterey Bay. I have never seen bioluminescence here either in all the years that I have lived in Santa Cruz County.
For the next hour, as the lightning got closer, I enjoyed Mother Nature’s two amazingly rare phenomenon together. I was in awe to see it in person, and I could not believe that I was witnessing these two events and being able to capture them both in photos and video. This might be the only time in my life that I will ever witness this together.
Little did I know that this lightning storm would be responsible for 11,000 lightning strikes and would set off the CZU Lightning Complex fires later in the day. This is a single shot taken at f1.8 for 30 seconds.
"Lightning Storm and Cement Ship" by John Scanlon
"An unusually strong thunderstorm struck California the morning of August 16, 2020. The 'shark cloud' on the left side of the horizon in the photograph, appears as though it is about to attack anything in its path. Indeed, the storm produced close to 11,000 bolts of lightening and started hundreds of fires, including the CZU Lightning Complex fires in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties. The fires killed one person, destroyed 1,490 buildings, and burned more than 85,000 acres." - John Scanlon, "Lightning Storm and Cement Ship" (Amateur)
"Big Bang Lightning" by Michelle Kiba
"I love a crazy storm and this one was a humdinger. The noise and the light woke me and I couldn't get back to sleep. I grabbed my camera and found a safe, dry place to shoot from in the Capitola Village. This big flasher lit the entire beach as if it was daylight." -Michelle Kiba, "Big Bang Lightning" (Amateur)
"Morning After the Lightning" by Irene Reti
"I made this image on a walk around Capitola the morning after the unprecedented lightning storm that ignited the CZU Lightning Complex fires in August 2020. The sky was full of drama and portent, but little did we know what was to come." -Irene Reti, "Morning After the Lightning" (Amateur)
The CZU Lightning Complex
The CZU Lightning Complex fires swept through the Santa Cruz Mountains in late August, forcing the evacuation of thousands as they burned. While the fires left behind 1,490 destroyed structures and yet untold impacts to flora and fauna, new life was already visible by the year’s end.
"Fire Start" by Paul Babb
"During the intense lighting storm, I went to Shark Fin Beach and was taking pictures of the lightning over the water. I turned around and saw the glow and smoke from the start of the Warrenella Fire. I took one picture in that direction and caught an additional lightning strike. This was the only picture I took in that direction. The Warrenella Fire later combined with other lightning caused fires to become the CZU Complex. Little did I know how this night would change so many lives." -Paul Babb, "Fire Start" (Amateur)
BEST AMATEUR | FIRE START BY PAUL BABB
During the intense lighting storm, I went to Shark Fin Beach and was taking pictures of the lightning over the water. I turned around and saw the glow and smoke from the start of the Warrenella Fire. I took one picture in that direction and caught an additional lightning strike. This was the only picture I took in that direction. The Warrenella Fire later combined with other lightning caused fires to become the CZU Complex. Little did I know how this night would change so many lives.
"Reclaiming My Home" by Christina Salinas
"This image was photographed on the day I returned to sift through the ashes. I knew I wanted to light paint using a fire technique, which was created with a 3 foot fiber optic tool, as a way for me to reclaim my home. This night, I was the only person in my neighborhood, it was so very quiet, I moved with the light tools and found myself at peace for a time being. I was one with the land and the destruction. It was a very cathartic experience." -Christina Salinas, "Reclaiming My Home" (Professional)
"Post Fire Landscape" by Marisa Gomez
"As if it wasn't apparent enough by walking the charred trails, this warped sign at the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve has been rewritten by heat to tell the story of the CZU Lightning Complex that tore through much of the Reserve in August, 2020." - Marisa Gomez, "Post Fire Landscape" (Amateur)
"Fire Messengers" by Jodi Frediani
"As if COVID wasn’t enough, the Lightning Complex Fire turned thousands of lives upside down in Santa Cruz County. The fire came within a mile of my house, thankfully sparing it from immolation. However, on returning home from evacuation, I found hundreds of scorched and parched leaves scattered throughout my meadow. Tan oak, live oak, madrone, Bay laurel, redwood and Douglas fir. Some of these leaves were blistered by heat, others simply blackened to a char. Still others just browned like normal dried leaves. Yet all had flown on the wind, advancing miles in front of the fire, like messengers from another realm." - Jodi Frediani, "Fire Messengers" (Amateur)
Smoke from the wildfires throughout the Western states caused alien skies in shades of orange, red, and brown during the late summer months. The color of the sky reflected the fear and anxiety many locals felt as they wondered how destructive the fires would become.
"Dig Out of Hell" by Will Bortin
"This photo was taken at my house during the burn of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, which turned the sky a deep orange for many days. This day in particular had an especially apocalyptic orange tint to it if I remember correctly. I shot many images on that day, but this one I felt was the best. At the time I just though that the shovel looked cool against the smokey sky, but upon a second viewing I am reminded of how dark of a situation we were all in at that time. I feel that this photo, which I've decided to name "Dig Out of Hell," captures that feeling of dread and anxiety that has characterized so much not just of the fire season, but 2020 as a whole. Better days will come soon enough, and it's nice to take a break from the turmoil every once in a while; but, I feel it's important to acknowledge how tumultuous this year has been, and that the issues which have allowed situations like this to occur, like climate change, are far from resolved." - Will Bortin, "Dig Out of Hell" (Amateur)
"CZU Full Moon October 2020" by Suzanne Ellmore
"It was during the CZU August Complex fire and the air was full of smoke. I went out onto the back deck of our home, looked across to the east and saw the most beautiful bright red moon rising form under the horizon. I ran and grabbed my camera, had no tripod but just started clicking. The moon came up behind the trees and got bigger as it rose higher and higher into the night sky. Thursday October 1st, 2020." - Suzanne Ellmore, "CZU Full Moon October 2020" (Amateur)
"Apocalypse Summer" by Giselle Laiduc
"Residents of Santa Cruz will never forget the CZU Lightning Complex Fires in August 2020. According to the National Weather Service, smoke particles from nearby fires scatter blue light, only allowing red, orange, and yellow light to pass through. The result included an entire day of apocalyptic skies. The marine layer protected residents from poor air quality, though the lack of sunlight contributed to an uncharacteristically chilly day in September. This image was taken along West Cliff at 5pm, hours before the sunset." - Giselle Laiduc, "Apocalypse Summer" (Amateur)
"Sept. 9th at 3 p.m. at Walton Lighthouse, Seabright" by Tara Thomas
"The sepia sky, caused by the CZU fire, in Seabright on September 9th intensified throughout the day, until by late-afternoon the air was chilly and darkness prevailed. Walton Lighthouse, usually swarming with humans at three in the afternoon, was peopled with nothing but sea birds tricked into thinking it was night." - Tara Thomas, "Sept. 9th at 3 p.m. at Walton Lighthouse, Seabright" (Amateur)
"The Day the Sun Did Not Rise" by Liz Celeste
"This was the most bizarre and unsettling day. This was taken before 3pm in summer, the fires still burning but yet it did not smell of smoke. The smoke hovered above in the fog creating the eerie orange glow. It reminded me that we are in a climate crisis, and that we need to listen to native voices and how ancestors managed these lands for 13,000 years with controlled burns." - Liz Celeste, "The Day the Sun Did Not Rise" (Professional)
In Spite of it All, Hope
Despite the unprecedented challenges of 2020, and the uncertainty of what the future could hold, many Santa Cruz locals found hope in nature’s resilience.
"Santa Cruz Cypress" by Amy Patten
"The Santa Cruz Cypress (Hesperocyparis abramsiana var. abramsiana) is a very special tree that is endemic to the Santa Cruz Mountains. They depend on fire and other major disturbances to reproduce. The heat from the CZU Lightning Complex Fire has opened these cones so they can disperse widely following the burn. Even though the parent trees may die, the bare soil and open canopy left behind by the fire will allow the seeds to germinate in large numbers to regenerate the stand. Without regularly occurring fires, the adult trees senesce over time, seeds lose viability, and other plants will fill in the bare soil and crowd out the cypresses." - Amy Patten, "Santa Cruz Cypress" (Amateur)
BEST STORYTELLING | SANTA CRUZ CYPRESS BY AMY PATTEN
The Santa Cruz Cypress (Hesperocyparis abramsiana var. abramsiana) is a very special tree that is endemic to the Santa Cruz Mountains. They depend on fire and other major disturbances to reproduce. The heat from the CZU Lightning Complex Fire has opened these cones so they can disperse widely following the burn. Even though the parent trees may die, the bare soil and open canopy left behind by the fire will allow the seeds to germinate in large numbers to regenerate the stand. Without regularly occurring fires, the adult trees senesce over time, seeds lose viability, and other plants will fill in the bare soil and crowd out the cypresses.
"A Moment of Peace After a Turbulent Night" by Keith Trawick
"This picture was taken in Capitola the morning after the lightning storms that caused the CZU fires. There were still lightning clouds in the air that would randomly burst during the sunrise. Then it began to clear and this beautiful rainbow appeared as to say "It's over now". It was a beautiful moment of calm while enjoying a magnificent sunrise." - Keith Trawick, "A Moment of Peace After a Turbulent Night" (Amateur)
"Turn Towards the Light" by Rica Porfiria Smith de la Luz
"I took this photo in our community garden while preparing to evacuate the fires this past August. Not knowing what the future held, I choose to pause in my frantic departure to enjoy what nature had made." - Rica Porfiria Smith de la Luz, "Turn Towards the Light" (Amateur)
"Broken and Beautiful" by Tonette Higgins
"As I walked through my neighborhood I saw this moth. I noticed that it's wings were damaged. It looked like it had been through a battle but it was still beautiful. I felt a connection. After all the struggle of this year we may have some scars but I hope we will all remember that we are also still beautiful." - Tonette Higgins, "Broken and Beautiful" (Amateur)
"Regrowth" by Ariel Hunter
"After the first rains of the year, while volunteering with cleanup efforts at Camp Krem in Boulder Creek, I spotted a little sign of hope amidst the debris. The new growth at the base of this fire-torn manzanita gives me hope that our Santa Cruz Community, like this chaparral community, will regrow more vibrant than ever after the CZU Fire." -Ariel Hunter, "Regrowth" (Amateur)
Through the Eyes of Our Youth
The youth of our community will be significantly impacted by the challenges of this year, but through their eyes and their images we can see the power, the beauty, and the comfort they have found in nature.
"Wave Shot at Its Beach" by Connor Garde
"So this shot was taken a few days ago. It was a cold, clear, day in Santa Cruz, CA. I was taking water shots with my canon camera and got this beautiful shot I was quite proud of. The water was super cold but overall, it was definitely worth it." -Connor Garde, "Wave Shot at Its Beach"
BEST YOUTH | WAVE AT ITS BEACH BY CONNOR GARDE
So this shot was taken a few days ago. It was a cold, clear, day in Santa Cruz, CA. I was taking water shots with my canon camera and got this beautiful shot I was quite proud of. The water was super cold but overall, it was definitely worth it.
"Sweet Escape" by Natalie Rhein
"I took this photo early on in the pandemic when our community was still finding ways to get outside without putting others at risk. For me and many others, nature was the best escape. When I took this photo I was so happy to be out in the open coast, as opposed to trapped in my enclosed box of a room. In the distance you can see other families also enjoying their surroundings. In this one moment, nature had brought us together although we were still apart. -Natalie Rhein, "Sweet Escape" (Youth)
"Flash Over Watsonville" by Jonathan Vaccaro
"On the 16th of August, I woke up to a dramatic show of lightning around midnight. I rushed to assemble my camera and tripod, and aimed my lens at the storm clouds which had gathered above Watsonville. I spent the the rest of the night shooting long exposures, hoping to catch a successful image. Among hundreds of frames, this photo was my favorite." -Jonathan Vaccaro, "Flash Over Watsonville" (Youth)
"Golden" by Reilly Turner
"I was at 26th Ave with my friends and the sunset was just beautiful, I had to take a photo. I took out my film camera and this is what I saw once it was developed a week later. I feel that this is a photo that captures the true Santa Cruz feeling: the beach, friends, ocean, and overall beauty this town holds." -Reilly Turner, "Golden" (Youth)
"Alone Together" by Stella Gerlach
"It was during King Tides that I took this picture of a crab hiding. I have seen lots of crabs like this one in their own little cracks in the rock. The crabs in their own separate holes are like us in our own separate homes." -Stella Gerlach, "Alone Together" (Youth)
"In Our Own Bubbles" by Stella Gerlach
"Later in the summer after most of the pink lady flowers had wilted, my sister and I saw that their stems were rather bulky. I ripped one open and there were these 'pearls' inside. In this way, the little pods in the stems that held the balls were like us this year." -Stella Gerlach, "In Our Own Bubbles" (Youth)
"Mushroom, Moss, Tree" by Christian Buse
"You're walking through the woods, you see a cool tree with a little itty bitty mushroom on it. Instantly, you speed walk over and tell yourself, 'I gotta take a picture of this.' So you do, then one day you see a contest where you can submit cool nature photos in Santa Cruz, so you pick that one. -Christian Buse, "Mushroom, Moss, Tree" (Youth)
"Under Capitola Wharf" by Connor Garde
"This shot was taken very early, right after daylight savings, I wanted to get something different, so I went under Capitola Pier, and I lowered my shutter so I could get a slight blur in the water when it moved. The sunrise was beautiful as well. -Connor Garde, "Under Capitola Wharf" (Youth)
"Equilibrium" by Wylie Buzzard
"This is an image of some koi fish cuddling up in the koi pond at the koi pond in Pogonip. I love koi fish and all that they represent, to me they portray balance and softness. Looking at and photographing these fish made me feel calm and safe, as well as hoping they were content in this pond and not in their natural habitat." -Wylie Buzzard, "Equilibrium" (Youth)
"Up Close" by Stella Gerlach
"Being home all the time, I noticed all the pretty flowers on our porch. I started taking pictures of them and realized all the tiny details in the center of each flower. It's all about us being home and having nothing to do, so I took pictures." -Stella Gerlach, "Up Close" (Youth)
"West Cliff Morning Beauty" by Parker Sousa
I decided to wake up early that morning for sunrise, past few mornings before weren't so good but I'm so glad I decided to get up to capture this beautiful morning. I love getting the chance to be able to witness natural sunrise and sunset beauty everyday. Enjoy! -Parker Sousa, "West Cliff Morning Beauty" (Youth)
"A Fallen Leaf" by Jonathan Vaccaro
I was trying to photograph the Autumn foliage in Nisene Marks, but was struggling to find any compositions. I eventually wandered up Aptos Creek off-trail, and found this lovely bronze-colored leaf sitting on dark, glossy stone. The contrast immediately caught my attention, and I photographed it. Sometimes the most rewarding shot is not a wide, glorious landscape, but an intimate arrangement below your feet. -Jonathan Vaccaro, "A Fallen Leaf" (Youth)
Where will you direct your attention in 2021?
To commemorate this exhibit and the unprecedented year it documents, we have created a book version. Proceeds benefit the Museum and the Community Foundation’s Fire Response Fund. Purchase book.
Thank You to Our Sponsors
Harry and Mary Blanchard | The Hyatt Family | Dr. Elizabeth Quinn | Windy Oaks Estate
Best of Show Awards
FAMILY OF BOLTS OVER BIOLUMINESCENCE BY JOHNNY CHIEN
SANTA CRUZ CYPRESS BY AMY PATTEN
FIRE START BY PAUL BABB
WAVE AT ITS BEACH BY CONNOR GARDE
"Family of Bolts Over Bioluminescence" by Johnny Chien
While out taking pictures of bioluminescence at Manresa, a storm system blew in and I noticed some lightning way out in bay. It was so far out that I could see the lightning but not hear any thunder. The wind was calm, there was no rain, so I didn’t fear for my safety and stayed out to see if I could capture some lightning with the bioluminescent waves. Lightning is extremely rare in the Monterey Bay. I have never seen bioluminescence here either in all the years that I have lived in Santa Cruz County. For the next hour, as the lightning got closer, I enjoyed Mother Nature’s two amazingly rare phenomenon together. I was in awe to see it in person, and I could not believe that I was witnessing these two events and being able to capture them both in photos and video. This might be the only time in my life that I will ever witness this together. Little did I know that this lightning storm would be responsible for 11,000 lightning strikes and would set off the CZU Lightning Complex fires later in the day. This is a single shot taken at f1.8 for 30 seconds. ("Family of Bolts Over Bioluminescence" by Jonny Chien)
"Fire Start" by Paul Babb
During the intense lighting storm, I went to Shark Fin Beach and was taking pictures of the lightning over the water. I turned around and saw the glow and smoke from the start of the Warrenella Fire. I took one picture in that direction and caught an additional lightning strike. This was the only picture I took in that direction. The Warrenella Fire later combined with other lightning caused fires to become the CZU Complex. Little did I know how this night would change so many lives. ("Fire Start" by Paul Babb)
"Santa Cruz Cypress" by Amy Patten
The Santa Cruz Cypress (Hesperocyparis abramsiana var. abramsiana) is a very special tree that is endemic to the Santa Cruz Mountains. They depend on fire and other major disturbances to reproduce. The heat from the CZU Lightning Complex Fire has opened these cones so they can disperse widely following the burn. Even though the parent trees may die, the bare soil and open canopy left behind by the fire will allow the seeds to germinate in large numbers to regenerate the stand. Without regularly occurring fires, the adult trees senesce over time, seeds lose viability, and other plants will fill in the bare soil and crowd out the cypresses. ("Santa Cruz Cypress" by Amy Patten)
"Wave Shot at Its Beach" by Connor Garde
So this shot was taken a few days ago. It was a cold, clear, day in Santa Cruz, CA. I was taking water shots with my canon camera and got this beautiful shot I was quite proud of. The water was super cold but overall, it was definitely worth it. ("Wave Shot at Its Beach" by Connor Garde)
The 2016 Santa Cruz County Artist of the Year, Shmuel Thaler has been a staff photographer at the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 1987. His photographs have been published in every major newspaper in the United States. His photograph of Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills and Mayor Justin Cummings taking a knee together at a Black Lives Matter protest has been seen by millions and shared thousands of times.
Seraphina Landgrebe holds numerous photography degrees including an MA from SFSU. A painter, poet, philosopher, and lecturer, she promotes experimentation, expansion and education for photographers, and is dedicated to the advancement of photography. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and featured in Professional Photographer magazine. Locally, she was awarded “Photographer of the Year” 9 consecutive years by the Professional Photographers of the Monterey Bay Area. Seraphina offers photography classes on the art of Photography, Composition as well as bird and astrolandscape photography: www.seraphina.com
Staff jurors: Liz Broughton, Marisa Gomez, and Felicia Van Stolk