(by Brad Perks)
Mountain was named for the devilishly red color it turns at sunset.
It rises 3849 feet above the coastal communities near San Francisco
California. It is the single predominant feature among the gentle
rolling hills and waterways of the East Bay Area. Atop its towering
peaks you can see over a 100 miles to Half Dome in Yosemite National
Park, and to Mount Lassen to the north. Devil Mountain is one
of nine East Bay Area Regional Parks. Serious bikers find the
vertical climb challenging, people on horseback ride through the
gentle foothills, hikers enjoy the countless trails, while photographers
are drawn to its continually changing beauty.
Mount Diablo, which means Devil Mountain in Spanish,
became a State Park in 1931. It is 20 miles East of San Francisco,
The South Gate is off Highway I-680 and Diablo Road in Danville.
The road is slow going as it winds its way to the summit. A stone
castle atop the mountain claims to have one of the worlds
best 360-degree views. To the West you can see the San Francisco
and the Pacific Ocean. To the
South you can see the rolling hills of Livermore and Silicon Valley.
Directly east is the Central Valley and the snow covered peaks
of the Sierra Nevada. To the North you can see the California
Delta and the Redwood forests stretching up the California Coast.
The drive to the top takes around 45 minutes if you dont
stop to take pictures along the way. I make frequent stops for
photos and to enjoy the view. Picnic areas and a limited number
of camping sites are available.
My favorite subjects to photograph on Devil Mountain are the
magnificent oak trees, layers of green hills, wildflowers, the
winter storms, and fiery sunsets. Spring is a good time to get
your camera, a pair of comfortable hiking shoes and plan on spending
the day on the mountain. The hills turn green in springtime after
the winter rains. The valleys and hillsides come alive with patches
of California Poppies and Purple Lupine. The oak trees burst into
color as the vibrant green leaves first appear. You might even
get lucky enough to see the single pair of Bald Eagles that finally
returned again to nest in 1998.
When photographing landscapes on the mountain, I use Singh Ray
neutral density filters with a Cokin P filter holder. I can then
balance the colors of sunset with the green hills. Access your
cameras spot meter to determine the difference in exposure between
the sky and the foreground. The new honeycomb light meters do
not seem to read the exposures as accurately with neutral density
filters. Keep your camera on manual, use your spot meter, and
bracket your exposures. I frequently combine a 2 and 3 stop filter
when I need a total of 5 stops. I feather the edges to make a
smoother transition when I am using more than one filter. Positioning
your filters takes some practice. You want the picture to look
natural instead of heavy-handed. I find it easier to zoom out,
position my filter(s), and then zoom back in to compose my shot.
With a little practice you'll be right on target.
I also use my computer help get great shots. The US Weather service
provides information on the sun and moon. I simply enter in the
city and a chart is generated for the entire year. I also calculate
the position of the moonrise along the horizon. It's the High
Tech way to be in the right place at the right time.
Winter sunsets can look like "fire storms". These most
colorful of sunsets occur when the sun meets the edge of a storm
near the horizon. I watch out the window of my house for the right
storm conditions. I also check the western satellite views provided
by the US weather service on the Internet. I can keep a satellite
eye on the storms progress as waves on rain come in off the Pacific
Ocean. I am out the door if it looks like it might happen. Storm
chasers get the best shots or nothing at all.
I also go on "Rainbow Watch" during the stormy time
of year. Local television stations have web sites that provide
live views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Most of the storms are heading west off the Pacific Ocean. Devil
Mountain is 20 miles due east of San Francisco. When the sun comes
out in San Francisco it usually means I have 20 minutes to head
out in the rain, get in location and wait for the sun and rainbows
A Rainbow Chase on one particular occasion went something
like this: It was pouring rain. I dashed out to Devil Mountain
after the seeing sunny live pictures over San Francisco and checking
the satellite view on the Internet. It was still raining when
I arrived. I could see a sliver of light along the horizon. The
sun dropped below the storm moments before sunset. Golden light
illuminated an oak tree with a background of dark storm clouds.
Next came a record cloud burst. I was being drenched with hail
and rain as the colors of sunset disappeared in the distance.
I went running for the car and glimpsed at a "Red Rainbow"
in a purple sky behind me. I wiped the raindrops from my lens
with my shirttail, grabbed three frames, and jumped into my car.
My camera and I were soaked clean through with freezing rain.
My favorite pictures on Devil Mountain are the sunsets and dramatic
weather where timing is everything. Use your high tech tools to
help you be in the right place at the right
time. But even if you cant dash out to take pictures like
me, Devil Mountain is a great place to visit for spectacular views
and spectacular pictures. It is also a popular area to picnic,
bike, hike and watch wildlife.
Here to Enter: Devil Mountain
All text and images are copyright Brad Perks (PCimagenetwork)
About the Author: Brad Perks
became a full time professional photographer in 1986. He started
his career as a wedding photographer, and soon began photographing
events for clients including Levis, the Gap, Toshiba, Art Deco
Society, Neiman Marcus, Womens Wear Daily, and the San Francisco
Ballet. His work has been published repeatedly in the San Francisco
Examiner, Chronicle, Nob Hill Gazette, Dance Magazine, Oakland
Tribune and the front page of the sports section in all 7 newspapers
belonging to the Herald group when race cars drove across the
Golden Gate Bridge. Perks has also been hired to photograph some
notable people including Vice President Dan (potatoe) Quayle,
Ester Williams, Patrick Swazie, Isabella Rossellini, Ralph Lauren,
Bob Mackie, Pablo Cruise, Joe DiMaggio and George Lucas.
You can see more of Brad's work at the following
- Brad Perks