We’re way up here. Way up here in Northern California along the coast. Way up here in beautiful Mendocino wine country.

Loni Stark and I are here to dive deep into anything but tech (camera gear excluded!). So that means Loni paints, and I do video. Every so often we attempt to getaway from Silicon Valley to disconnect from the all-mighty, all-consuming grid — if only momentarily. The change of scene is almost always a wonderful catalyst for all things creative:

Loni Stark - Atelier Stark art and film
Loni Stark painting plein air along the Mendocino coast in Northern California.
Loni Stark plein air painting in Mendocino
Loni Stark plein air painting in Mendocino.

The area reminds me of Big Sur, though perhaps without the extreme elevation changes. Stunning views of the Pacific are at almost every turn, there’s a real small town feeling here (there’s no Starbucks in Mendocino! Though, truth be told, there is one 10 minutes up Highway 1 in Fort Bragg), and LTE connectivity is rather iffy — which for the most part we might consider a good thing when looking for a respite from never-ending notifications.

One thing that strikes me as particularly nice is the general friendliness in the air. People seem to go out of their way to help others, to smile and be ready with casual conversation, even with a stranger. If you’ve ever been to the Bodega Bay area north of San Francisco you probably know the vibe.

Harvest at Mendosa's grocery store in Mendocino. California
Harvest at Mendosa’s in Mendocino, a friendly grocery store (the only one!) in town.
Mendocino Theatre Company - Loni Stark
Mendocino Theatre Company at the Mendocino Art Center.

There’s even a local playhouse here. We saw a superb staging of Blackbird. No doubt, the Irish play explores pretty heavy subject matter, and was an interesting and challenging way to kick off a retreat to coastal California. Experiencing community theater is a wonderful thing. The evening reminded me of so many shows we’ve seen in San Francisco and San Jose (and everywhere in between) at so many cool small black box theaters.

Lately, we’ve been shooting more Stark Insider videos on the RED Scarlet-W. It’s a beautiful 5K machine. But it’s very heavy, especially after a beefy 150Wh battery and big Sigma 50-100mm zoom lens and 7-inch monitor are attached. It produces stellar Redcode footage, and I like to use this camera whenever possible it’s so good. However, it’s nice to have the compact Panasonic GH5 when I want to spare my back, and move quickly for run-and-gun, say in town, or exploring the various State parks here and the Headlands.

RED Scarlet-W with Sigma 50-100mm lens
RED Scarlet-W with Sigma 50-100mm. Nice lens, but a size-able monster. Probably best on sticks or for very short handheld sessions.

Quick tip:

If you should find yourself headed to Mendocino or planning a trip the area, consider booking a reservation at The Shared Table (located at the Inn at the Cobbler’s Walk). Locally run by Chef Jonathan Fussell, there’s literally one shared table in the place. It seats 12. And before you know it you’ll be chatting it up with a bunch of newfound acquaintances while enjoying a locally sourced dinner with delicious wine pairings (also from Mendocino):

The Shared Table restaurant in Mendocino
The Shared Table restaurant in Mendocino. Yes, the cozy place features 1 shared table that seats 12. A wonderful way to meet new people, share stories, and enjoy delicious locally sourced foods and wines.
The Shared Table restaurant in Mendocino - Menu
The Shared Table menu.
And dessert is served: Frozen pistachio cremeux with 2012 Husch Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley.
And dessert is served: Frozen pistachio cremeux with 2012 Husch Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley.

In case you missed it and wonder what Stark Insider is up to these days, be sure to check out our latest short film 3 DAYS IN SONOMA. There’s more to come — though the edits get more complicated and seemingly take much longer as the years go by — as we work through footage from Paris, Iceland, Vancouver and Venice Beach, among other locations.

As always we continue our mission on Stark Insider to explore arts, film and cultural touchstones including interesting people and places in and around the San Francisco Bay Area (and, from time to time, the beyond!).

Meantime, the view…

Mendocino Headlands - Pacific Ocean
Mendocino Headlands.