About 3 hours north of San Francisco sits a coastal community called the Sea Ranch. Built in the 1960s by a small group of architects, designers, and planner Lawrence Halprin, the community is centered around its immersion in nature. The Sea Ranch community consists of about 2,000 residences, and also includes a community lodge, which is where we’ll be spending our time today for this Project of the Week!
Architectural Photographer Adam Potts whose work I just adore will be showing us around the Sea Ranch lodge today. His project consists of a myriad of beautiful photographs, and lots of great intel on the shoot, so I’ll let him do most of the talking here! Lets go:
Adam introduces us to the Sea Ranch Lodge by sharing, “This project was one of the most exciting of my career so far. There is so much precious history and legacy at The Sea Ranch. I had actually been diving deep into hardcover books and making some trips to the area. I’m very passionate about mid-century design and architecture, and there aren’t many other places where so much of it exists against such incredible coastal scenery. The whole concept revolves around harmony between nature and its inhabitants. While suburban sprawl with blocked access to nature was the mainstream concept in the 1960s, The Sea Ranch project aimed at the opposite with a respect for nature at the core of its development.”
He continues, “The assignment involved photographing 2 newly renovated buildings, and the surrounding landscape. My main client was the developer of the project The Sea Ranch Lodge, and the interior designer that designed the new lodge hotel rooms Nicole Hollis. The first building had been completed a year prior with some significant changes. This building included the restaurant, cafe, post office, and general store (architect-Mithun Design, interior designer-Charles de Lisle). The second building, attached by a portal to the coastal bluffs, consisted of the renovated and reimagined guest rooms and meeting spaces… all with ocean views across the sweeping bluffs.”
As with the rest of his beautiful work, Adam’s photographs are steeped in gorgeous light and comprised of smart compositions.
Shapely, with nice shadows, textures, and restrained post-processing, Adam’s work comes across true to real life, and is each image is expertly made.
I love the shadows here, they add a playful element while giving us a sense for the time of day and the weather on site.
“Photographing this coastal project in June was tricky, given the coastal fog/marine layer patterns,” Adam explains about the shoot.
“Our first of many shoot days was focused on the restaurant and cafe, along with some overall exterior shots. As good fortune would have it, we (my assistant and I) had a stunningly clear day with gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. We had to spend some time adjusting furniture but worked quickly with abundant natural light needing little strobe for the interior shots. Earlier in the day, I was able to scout some of the exterior photos to be captured at sunset and dusk. One of my biggest concerns was of course capturing the views without fog and I was off to a great start.”
Inside the lodge, Adam includes the same patterned light that gives plenty of visual interest and warms up the space. I love the balance in exposure between the interiors and the exterior view. Top notch!
Adam says, “The next phase of the project involved photographing select lodge rooms. Construction delays and press deadlines converged making for some challenging circumstances, but the amazing local team was able to pull the last-minute details together and we had just the right mix of weather during the days that the interior designer was present to assist in the direction of the room photos and styling.
Prior to the shoot, I used Sunseeker and other planning apps to lay out rough timelines for the room shots. We had some foggy mornings and took advantage of these conditions by shooting spaces without coastal views. I like capturing the majority of the planned shots during the day according to sun position, and then circling back to the most important views an hour before sunset, capturing that magical moody light that we all love… already familiar with compositions that work and styling set in place.”
The quality of light and gentle coloration of each scene really sets Adam’s work apart. His photographs of the rooms are inviting and tranquil.
They are rich with mood and teleport us to the Sea Ranch visually.
“The team at Nicole Hollis did an incredible job curating bold/beautiful furniture, art, and styling elements that fit perfectly,” Adam explains “During the next trip, I focused on room follow-up shots and we still needed to capture overall exterior shots in early morning light along with several dusk shots. Construction had finally wrapped up fully in the courtyard and I planned several shots both in the evening and early morning. “
This next shot is one of my favorites. The strong lines, the warm light mixed with cool shadows – it all just feels so idyllic.
Adam shares, “My favorite exterior photos of both buildings were taken as the fog was clearining early in the morning (an absolute gift). Several drone images were taken as well, emphasizing the surrounding landscape. With at least 4 trips to the project, I really felt like I was able to understand how special the area was and how fortunate I was to capture this chapter of its legacy.
This project evolved from a previous relationship with a client at a different hotel project…needless to say, relationships matter a great deal and I really treasure all of my clients and their effort to bring these amazing projects to life.”
I appreciate how Adam took the time to document so much of the landscape that surrounds the Sea Ranch. It speaks to the community’s original purpose to be immersed and one with nature, and it really helps convey what makes this community so special.
An enormous thank you to Adam Potts for submitting in this beautiful project to us. The Sea Ranch has such wonderful history, and Adam’s photographs definitely do it justice!
If you have a project you’d like to be considered for Project of the Week, you can submit it here.