Thursday, March 15, 2007

MJ Gets a Little Ink

From The Monterey Weekly:

For larger image click on picture.

The Big Picture

A local photo-blogger frames the county to connect with his soul. Mar 15, 2007

By Mark C. Anderson

Freeze Frame: “If your heart isn’t stopped by the beauty around here,” John Wilson says, “there’s something wrong.”— Mark C. Anderson

The Toyota Camry races the dawn down Highway 1. As the vehicle slips south past Carmel Highlands and Malpaso, the sky grows pale in anticipation of a mild winter morning.

John Wilson is pushing 75mph, then 80—the self-described “recovering attorney” has a date with the sunrise at one of his favorites spots in his favorite area in the world. He arrives at the pullout at Big Sur’s Granite Canyon Beach, descends the stairs to the beach and begins trudging along the damp sand toward a canyon split by a creek and popping with wild calla lilies. Athletic sea fleas hop around his “duck boots” like popcorn mid-pop.

Monterey County is as full of professional photographers as Granite Canyon Beach is with these little white insects. But Wilson, 59, isn’t one of those pros. Nevertheless, he still has more than enough motivation to wake up at 5am and drive a half-hour south from his Laureles Grade home with one of his many cameras. This is his communion.

“It’s a connection as much as anything else,” he says. “It’s me and the universe—I’m not just wrapped up in myself anymore, but breaking out, outside my ego. That’s why it’s a little spiritual: There’s a sense of connection with something vastly greater than yourself.”

The first rays of the day seem to validate his reverence on cue, giving the morning the feel of a fresh fuzzy peach. The lighting is approaching ideal. Wilson moves from sand to bush to creek to take pictures—spotting the obscure aesthetics of red lichen on a rock, Byzantine patterns in the sand along the creek’s edge, a baby lily trying to sprout in rough environs.

His clicking lens provides the heartbeat of his photo blog—any number of shots will likely soon appear on Monterey John California Photographer, one of the county’s most consistent blogs. There he logs updates on a love affair with the area through almost daily entries and links to other photography blogs and gallery sites. With one recent entry he somehow freezes a bee’s wings in flight (pictured above); with another he captures a surreal snow blanket on Mount Toro in black and white.

With both photos and text, Wilson’s passion for the local landscape is apparent.
“From the soaring redwoods, the richness of its valleys, the majesty of Yosemite, to the ocean and the beauty of the coast, California compels my soul,” he writes. “My soul finds expression in photography.”
~ ~ ~
That expression wasn’t there for Wilson in law, which stole him away from California for 30 years. He worked defending insurance companies, then left to contribute a few years with Salinas’ Kevin Dougherty representing plaintiffs against insurance companies. He describes it as “penance,” but it was also a way to get back to the land he loved.

“It got to point where I hated the practice of law,” he says. “It’s not an uncommon position.”
Gerri Brousseau of Salinas is a worker’s compensation paralegal with Dougherty who has known Wilson for years.

“He was really good at what he did, but it was a job,” she says. “When you get him outside, put a camera in his hand, it’s like watching Christmas through your children’s eyes, only he’s looking at California through the camera’s eyes.”

While his shoots take him all over the state, Wilson says most of his favorite spots are local—the South Coast and the Old Coast Road (“you could spend a lifetime right there”), Point Lobos (“though it’s had the color shot out of it by so many pictures”), Pacific Grove (“so many birds”), and the Salinas Valley (“stunning”).

“What can you say about Monterey County?” he says. “It’s the most incredibly beautiful place in America. That’s why I’m here.”
~ ~ ~
Down at the mouth of the wild-lily creek bed on Granite Canyon Beach, Wilson cranes his neck to peek up toward the sun coyly cresting the green mountain range.

“You’d think someone who enjoyed this so much,” he says with a huge smile that reveals a tangle of nicotine-stained teeth, “wouldn’t have spent so much time practicing law.” He sucks in air sharply—creating a noise he makes when he finds something funny.

At times, Wilson speaks as though he believes photography is a kind of redemption for him. “It’s a chance to capture the power and majesty of God’s creation,” he says. “Just the striking beauty of it all.”

Unknowingly, Wilson has evoked a quote from one of his heroes: “Sometimes I do get to places,” Ansel Adams said, “just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”
Wilson, with dawn fully seizing the morning around him, grins a crooked smile and lifts his camera to the sky. “That pretty well says it.”



Ingrid said...

hey there, Mr. John!!! wow, it's about time someone makes a feature of you in your local paper there. no one's more deserving than you! the board of supervisor of your county should give you some sort of a stipend for showing the world how beautiful your place is. i hope you'll never grow tired taking those nice shots!!! they're all amazing. i should learn the basics of photography from you!!! :) :):)

WJWilson said...

Good show ol boy. I'm proud of ya. This truly is a photographic accomplishment.

Manu said...

Yep, agree with Will. Congrats! That's awesome! Now, just get those book publishers hooked!

paul said...

You stud! :-) Congratulations. You deserve it!

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