Growing up in the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, Reino Cruz thought everyone lived in a place surrounded by natural beauty. As he began working in the food industry as a traveling chef, he realized this wasn’t true.
“I started being able to come back home and see how special of a place we actually got to grow up in,” said Cruz, who is 47.
As he traveled, he wanted to develop a hobby outside of his food career. Cruz turned to photography, which he had enjoyed in high school. He began to document his experiences in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean, mostly using a trusty iPhone. He posted his photos on social media and gained a following.
Eventually, a friend persuaded him to invest and he picked up a Sony full-frame mirrorless DSLR camera to better capture high quality images. And then, the world shut down.
“All of my travel, all of my career, everything just came to a standstill,” he said. “I wound up having more free time than I’d had in the previous decade. So I quickly utilized that time to fall back in love with this place we call home and it gave me more than enough time to go out and trial by fire as far as how to obtain different types of images.”
One thing that quickly changed for Cruz was his relationship with the ubiquitous fog. He recalled spending a lot of time in high school hanging out with friends on Mount Tam.
“As the fog rolled in, it almost ruined our sunset,” he said. “It was like, ‘Oh man, we’re not going to see the sunset on the water.’ Now, I’ve just become fully engulfed and in love with the layer of fog coming out here.”
One of his favorite images of the fog is a long exposure taken just after sunrise at Mount Tam’s East Peak, capturing the fog’s movement.
“When I turned my back to the sunrise, I noticed that there was just enough light heading over the mountain into West Marin where the fog flow was going east to west at the top of the photo, and at the bottom of the photo it was going west to east in the shadows,” Cruz said. “It almost looked like two separate images.”
By going out regularly and posting his photographs, Cruz found his work was being shared across social media and his online presence was blowing up. People started reaching out to purchase prints of his stunning photos. He took the advice of a fellow landscape photographer and developed his own website where he could post and sell prints without having to depend on the social media algorithm. It’s even led to having some prints featured in a gallery at a brewery in Novato and discussions to feature his work elsewhere.
“It’s really gained some traction and become a business that has taken a life of its own,” he said.
In addition to the fog, the Golden Gate Bridge is another favorite for Cruz to photograph. One of his images of the famous bridge got him a bit of flack. It was another sunrise shoot where one of the bridge’s towers is sticking out of the fog while the sky is lit up with the yellow, orange, red and pink hues of morning.
“It was one of those rare moments where we had the high clouds of color and low fog in one of my favorite vantage points looking toward The City,” he said. “I was actually accused on social media of Photoshopping this (photo) because that photo would never exist and had another Bay Area photographer chime in and say, ‘No, I’ll vouch for it. It happened.’ You know, it was almost a compliment for somebody to say that I obviously had to do something fake for that to become an image.”
As the world has started to return to (somewhat) normal, Cruz decided to step back into a kitchen. Now, photography has once again become a meaningful hobby that helps him to relax.
“It (gives) me time to really just sit with myself and sit with the silence of the outdoors,” he said. “I get a constant reminder of how much things are out of my control and how much it’s about just appreciating what’s in front of you.”