by the Passionate Observer
If you have spent any time at all on NextDoor Bennett Valley, you have seen his art—dashing wildlife, sensitive personal portraits of indigenous people in their element, and striking, luminous landscapes of Bennett Valley. His photographic posts garner more sustained response than any others by a mile.
Jim Codington, a 14-year BV resident, lives high on Sonoma Mountain, and enjoys a commanding view of all of Bennett Valley, from peak to peak, and northeast as far as Mt. St. Helena and beyond. And, he has harnessed the wonders of that vista in a most engaging way, in his unique approach to photography using drones and technical processing that inspires a deeply resonant experience of the place where we live.
I first became aware of Jim’s art a couple of years ago, when he posted a fascinatingly composed photo of Bennett Valley, a dreamlike view that compressed the valleys and elevated the mountains in their springtime velvety verdant textures—I was put in mind of the books of Tolkien, and ‘the Shire’ of Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings. How can Bennett Valley look like this, so ethereal? The artist’s eye spins a vivid tale.
Jim’s story is a lifetime of adventure, photographic and otherwise. In early life in Colorado, he was a river guide for Outward Bound, navigating the Green, Yampa and Colorado Rivers. His interest in ethnobotanical research led him to the Amazon forests, where he lived and worked with the indigenous rainforest people. When it came time to choose a career, his love of wildlife and the natural world led him to UC Davis, where he received his degree as a veterinarian. He practiced as a large animal vet for a decade then broadened out to include all animals at his practice in Novato, the Country Vet, specializing in integrative medicine. The arc of his veterinary experience has spanned over 40 years, and he has lately dedicated time and skills to the non-profit organization Living with Lions, to help monitor the mountain lion population in Sonoma County.
Jim’s photographic quest is a very personal one—he operates from a place of empathy with his subjects, be they animals, people or landscapes—for his own projects or for commissioned jobs. The subjects inspire an emotive quality, which he seeks to express visually: with action, perfect lighting conditions and with the right equipment, and a little bit of luck. His drone-shot images are especially intriguing, employing unique perspectives that we don’t normally see.
For photo buffs out there, Jim uses a Canon R3 system, typically with a 70 – 200mm lens, and for his aerial work he flies a Maverick 3 drone. He even does underwater photography, so he has the air, the land and the sea covered.
Jim’s journeys have taken him to the most remote parts of the globe; he prefers the deep dive into indigenous culture, and the immersive experience. His travels have taken him to Mongolia, Africa, Patagonia, Asia and points beyond—he prefers the sparsely populated corners, where he can integrate with local populations and participate in their lifeways.
We are fortunate to have him here among us in Bennett Valley as a resident artist, and his generosity in sharing his vision is so widely appreciated. Jim donates most of the proceeds from the sales of his images to causes that aid wildlife, indigenous cultures, and the environment. You can see his portfolios here:
Instagram: James Codington Photography
His photos are a profoundly personal gift to the world, and especially to us in Bennett Valley.