The cover of the September/October 2014 issue of Orion features “Odin’s Cove #1,” an image from San Francisco-based photographer Beth Moon. We asked Beth, whose richly toned platinum prints have gained international recognition, a few questions about the image.
Where and when was this picture taken?
I first noticed this pair of ravens perched up in the rocks overlooking the sea while hiking a portion of the northern California coast in summer 2010. This secluded part of the coastline is at the end of a 2.5-mile hike from the closest parking lot. The birds caught my attention, and I found myself watching their movements the entire afternoon.
I returned to the sea a few weeks later, and to my surprise I found the same birds in the same place. I returned many times over the next year to visit them, and I believed in time they recognized me, often flying down to greet me upon my arrival.
Is it likely that these birds live near this location, or are they from somewhere else? They appear to be waiting, or resting, or looking for something—do you know what they’re doing?
Ravens have specific territories, and this part of the coastline is their home. They are sitting on one of their look-out spots, a generous vantage point of the beach and the hills behind.
Sitting side by side, the birds appear to share the air of friendship. What do you know of them and their relation to one another?
Ravens mate for life, and there was no mistaking the bond these birds shared. They spend the majority of their time together, staying in contact with low, throaty calls when they fly apart. It was endearing to watch them groom and feed each other.
You developed a kind of friendship with these birds over time. How did you do it?
I think the birds just got used to me being there—and I was careful not to intrude on their space. I learned of a study revealing that ravens and crows are among the brightest animals in the world, and that they have the ability to recognize human faces.
The image has a kind of timeless, mythic quality, which seems heightened by its colors. Why did you choose to photograph in black and white?
I like the simplicity of black and white; I think it’s less distracting than color. The overcast days at the beach had more of a monochromatic palette anyway, so black and white only heightened what I saw.
This image is part of larger series of photographs called “Odin’s Cove.” Can you tell us about the series? What is it, and what links its images together?
I began to take pictures of these birds without any clear purpose—it just became part of my experience, spending time with them at the sea.
It was when I happened to recall a mythological play I had once seen about the Norse god Odin that the title hit me. In the play, Odin had two ravens that flew across the land daily to keep him informed of events around the world. The title appeared to speak not only of the birds, but to the place itself, and rounded all the elements together in my mind for a photographic series.
The next year I continued to photograph the ravens, compiling and editing images that would tell the story of these birds, their loyalty to each other, and their life in the wild.
Beth Moon’s most recent book of photographs, Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time, was published this year by Abbeville Press, and a portfolio of her images appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of Orion. To peruse a copy of the September/October issue of Orion, visit our online store or simply subscribe.