Vintage Views: Mount Diablo

Over the last few years, I’ve been collaborating with my wife, photographer Sarah Anne Bettelheim, on what has come to be known as the Vintage Views: Mount Diablo project, which involves pairing historical imagery of the San Francisco Bay Area’s iconic Mount Diablo (Contra Costa County, CA.) with contemporary photographs taken from the same vantage point. Sister projects currently underway in the same vein include Vintage Views: Animalia and Botanica.

In Vintage Views: Mount Diablo, for example (right), we started with an early 1900’s stereoview image of a prominent spine known as Devils Slide, which erupts along Black Hawk Ridge in Mount Diablo’s Black Hills, overlooking the East Fork of Sycamore Creek. This prominent relief feature, a vertical bed of Miocene rock some 23.7-5.3 million years old, is an example of a homoclinal ridge or strike ridge – more commonly known as a “hogback ridge” – wherein the soil strata are deeply tilted and exhibit near-symmetry in cross-section. In the distance, the peak Knob Point can be seen. Since the stereoview was made (presumed to be in the 1920’s or 1930’s), evidence of a shift in vegetation communities is evident on both the north-facing slope (from chaparral to oak woodland) and the south-facing slope (from grassland to chaparral), where a game trail appears to have survived the test of time.

The project’s views of Mount Diablo vary, ranging from the upthrust bulk of Devils Slide described above to an expansive view of Walnut Creek from the surrounding hills to a distant portrait overlooking Concord and Cowell to the bucolic vista to be seen from Marsh Creek Road. The historical snapshots of Mount Diablo are captured in matchbooks, postcards, pamphlets, maps, photographs, poster stamps, pen and ink, and stereoviews dating back to to the late 1800’s.

The final Vintage View includes a facsimile or original historical image paired with Sarah Anne’s original photography. It is up to you to first pick from Sarah’s selection of contemporary photographs, and then pick an original or fascimile historical image to accompany your photograph. All Vintage Views are printed in a *limited run* of 25 fascimile historical images; on rare occasions, select Vintage Views are available paired with an original, genuine historical image (when available). Each finished Vintage View is mounted behind acid-free museum matboard and archival UV glass and includes a laminated legend to help decipher the story behind each view.

Across the seasons and over the years, our view of Mount Diablo continues to evolve. Woods give way to towns and gardens, seeds take root, rock faces weather. But the silhouette and the spirit of Mount Diablo remain intact, fixtures that span the horizon and the years.

In the coming months, we’ll be adding new views and new historical imagery to match. Stay tuned…

To help support the San Francisco Bay Area non-profit organization Save Mount Diablo, whose mission is “to preserve Mount Diablo’s peaks, surrounding foothills, and watersheds”, every year Sarah Anne Photography donates a Vintage View to the annual “Moonlight on the Mountain” full-moon fete and auction. Visit to learn more about how you can help protect Mount Diablo.


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