Craggy rocks rise from a swirling, misty sea. Two seagulls punctuate the foreground, giving the scene a sense of scale. The uninhabited Sugarloaf Islands, part of the Farallon Island group, are located just north of San Francisco in the Pacific Ocean; in this photograph, they loom in the surf offshore like mysterious, petrified sea creatures. The length of the exposure softened the waves' swirl into mist, adding to the impression of ancient, craggy mountaintops breaking through vaporous clouds.
Carleton Watkins frequently photographed the Farallon Islands. This particular area, the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, includes 1,235 square miles of nearshore and offshore waters ranging from wetlands to deep-sea communities.