On the Waterfront

Photographing Noyo Harbor, California

3 min read by Kevan Wilkinson. Published in Essays, Stories.
Noyo Harbor Fishing Dock, California. Olympus mju-II, Kodak Portra 400.

Situated along the Mendocino coast about 170 miles north of San Francisco, Noyo Harbor is one of the last remaining working harbors in Northern California. The locals told me not much has changed over the years. The picturesque fishing harbor looks like something straight out of a classic movie set with its rustic buildings, colorful fishing boats, and vintage signage. I visited this hidden gem and realized it was perfectly suited for 35mm photography, so I loaded a roll of Kodak Portra 400 in my Olympus mju-II and snapped some pictures. When walking around the fishing docks, I felt like I was taking a step back in time.

Fishing Supply Store, Noyo Harbor, California. Olympus mju-II, Kodak Portra 400.

Everything gave me a glimpse of days gone by, when Noyo Harbor first became a bustling harbor and a go-to destination in northern California for fishing and logging. The smell of the Pacific Ocean and fresh fish filled the air, old maritime horns sounded off every few minutes, and the fisherman worked at a robust pace bringing in the fish they caught.

After getting my roll of Kodak Portra 400 film developed, I was glad to see the creamy tones and 1970’s aesthetic in the prints, as they complement Noyo Harbor perfectly. For me, photographing this location with anything other than an analog camera would seem forced, and the images might end up looking too “perfect.” Shooting 35mm film gave me pictures with the deliberate imperfections that I was seeking, and a touch of nostalgia prior to pressing the shutter on my Olympus mju-II.

Fishing and Boat Supplies, Noyo Harbor, California. Olympus mju-II, Kodak Portra 400.
North Harbor Trading Company, Noyo Harbor, California. Olympus mju-II, Kodak Portra 400.