Lanting and partner Chris Eckstrom turn their sights on showcasing the Monterey Bay in photographs and stories.
I can almost smell smoke as I stare at one of the photographs on display in Frans Lanting’s westside studio. Deep orange flames swallow a hillside next to the ocean, and thick smoke blacks out the sky. It’s a photo from the 2020 CZU fire.
“We were engulfed by it,” says Lanting.
“Chris and I live in Bonny Doon. And we nearly lost our own home. But we banded together with neighbors to fight off the fire.”
He motions to the photo.
“This is a scene that I captured at Waddell Bluffs the night when the fire exploded. That’s the night when Swanton and Last Chance got hit and Big Basin was completely destroyed. I never thought we’d see something like this, where the fire literally came down to the beach.”
I ask him how he kept his composure.
“As a photographer and as a storyteller, of course, I wanted to be there. But in the back of my mind was, ‘We really need to retreat to make sure that we’re not going to lose our home.’ So it was a really harrowing night, as it was for many people.”
The photo is part of the “Bay of Life” project. Lanting, an internationally renowned National Geographic photographer, set out with his creative partner and wife—National Geographic writer and videographer Chris Eckstrom—to document the area that’s been their home for more than 30 years. The project includes stories about iconic wildlife and endangered species, as well as the voices of local farmers, fishers and foresters…