Roman Loranc works in the great tradition of California landscape photography. His art is as much about preservation as it is about beauty. Like Ansel Adams, who is famous for his commitment to Yosemite Valley, Loranc has been photographing the restoration of the Cosumnes River Preserve for many years.
The Cosumnes is the only river running from the Sierra to the Delta that is not dammed. It is a small river, but during the winter when it reaches the flatlands south of Sacramento, it runs out of its banks across acres of fields. Since the late 1980s, the Nature Conservancy has been buying land and gaining easements in order to restore the natural flood plane and riparian forests of the lower Cosumnes.
Loranc is a patient, thoughtful photographer. He arrives before dawn and waits. There is a brief moment — some days it’s just a minute — when the combination of the early light before sunrise, the mist and the stillness creates the perfect conditions for his images. He captures the reflections off the glass-like surface of the water. Once the sun begins to warm the valley air, breezes come up very quickly and the surface of the water starts to move. Then Loranc is often finished for the day.
The best time to visit the Cosumnes is in the winter when the water has flooded the preserve. In December, the temporary wetlands are filled with migratory birds. There are nature trails for those who simply want to stop by as well as for those who want to make deeper excursions into the preserve.
Spark went on a canoe trip with Loranc through the flooded Cougar Wetlands. On that day, heavy winter rains, along with breached levees, had caused flooding all along the lower San Joaquin. The image of water running over its banks across acres of fields gave a clue as to how the wetlands might once have looked and how they might look again. Loranc was very excited and took quite a few photographs that day.
Loranc and his wife, Lillian Vallee, the poet and Czeslaw Milosz scholar, live in Modesto, California. They moved there 20 years ago when they found the Bay Area too expensive. It took them years to begin to appreciate the beauty of the Central Valley; now, they have a profound appreciation of the place and say that people are surprised when they learn where Loranc takes his photos.
Roman Loranc was born in Bielsko-Biala, Poland, in 1956. He immigrated to the United States in 1981. His book, “Two-Hearted Oak: The Photography of Roman Loranc,” features essays and poetry by Vallee. Over the years, Loranc has also been photographing historic architecture and landscapes in Lithuania.