Brian Klonoski moved from Maine to Los Angeles on a whim in 2012, hungry for the energy and freedom of the big city. But it was the mountains, Joshua trees, and redwoods that stole his heart and reignited old memories of camping and fishing. Today, he is obsessed with documenting California’s landscapes and natural world through a body of color photography spread out over the years, but connected through style and subject. He hopes to work on this project, Kingdom California, for many decades to come — it is his sole focus as far as photography is concerned.
It was during a camping trip to the Sierra Nevada that I found the mountains and streams of my dreams — places I could only imagine while growing up on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Soon after, I started bumming around the Eastern Sierra in my old Wrangler, mesmerized by the high country. There was nothing I wanted to photograph more, nowhere else I wanted to be. I capped the year off with a few days in the desert, where I started to dabble in night photography.
Unemployed and in love with the Eastern Sierra, I couldn’t wait until summer to return, so I rented a camper van, headed north, and discovered the Alabama Hills. In spring, I was hired by Visit Mendocino to spend a week traveling and shooting with only a loose itinerary — an intensely creative experience that I’ll cherish forever. I started to realize that I could easily spend a lifetime exploring and photographing California without ever scratching the surface. Facing tremendous upheaval and pain in my personal life, I did not shoot any meaningful photos after August.
I found myself seeking a fresh start on the Mendocino Coast, seduced during my time working there the year before. I started shooting again in March, using photography as a way to explore my new home. I also got into backpacking, with trips to Desolation Wilderness and the Lost Coast. Nature was soothing my pain, causing my love and admiration for it to grow. I became obsessed with redwoods around this time after reading Wild Trees by Richard Preston. The constant hustle of trying to make a living in Mendocino was taking its toll, limiting the time and energy I had to shoot what I loved, even though it was just outside my door.
I was determined to explore new landscapes, starting with a trip to Humboldt Redwoods State Park in February. It was a lot of fun finding and photographing some of the places I read about in Wild Trees. In spring, I took my first trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Summer was marked by three wonderful backpacking trips to Little Lakes Valley, Emigrant Wilderness, and Desolation Wilderness. My creative energy was returning. The year ended with quite a twist: I moved to San Francisco to start an amazing new job at Good Eggs.
Living in the heart of San Francisco and focusing on my new job, I was not able to shoot as often as before. Still, I used my vacation days wisely and spent time in many of my favorite places and discovered a few new ones, too. I returned to Emigrant Wilderness twice, including an amazing four night trip with my dad. I spent a night in the Alabama Hills, but was saddened to see how quickly it had become abused and overrun. The year ended with trips to the Kern River, Montgomery Woods, and Joshua Tree, where I woke up to several inches of snow the day after Christmas.
Though lucky to still have my job, I’ve been an anxious wreck during the pandemic. Once again, nature has been there to soothe and save me. I spent as much time as possible in the Sierra Nevada high country this year, managing to get in half a dozen trips before the smoke closed the season in early September. Planning these trips and getting ready for them has helped keep me occupied. And once I’m out on the trail, I’m in heaven. I’’m looking forward to ending the year with a week of intense shooting in the desert — visiting some some of my favorite spots and exploring some new ones.