USPS honors work of Bay Area photographer in new "O Beautiful" stamp series

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To a great number of Bay Area residents the images are quite familiar and ones that are likely to stir up feelings of pride.

"Spring Sunrise over Green Hills" near Orinda and "Sunset Light on Green Hills in Spring" near Livermore are two of the 20 images that are being featured in the U.S. Postal Service's new commemorative Forever stamp collection called “O Beautiful."

Released on the Fourth of July, the Postal Service said its new collection "commemorates the beauty and majesty of the United States."

The East Bay hillside photos are among the seven chosen for the series by award-winning Bay Area landscape and travel photographer Gary Crabbe, who grew up in Lafayette and now lives in Pleasant Hill.

Crabbe was the only one among the nine photographers included in the USPS's commemorative project to have seven images selected.

The series seeks to visually capture and represent one of the country's most famous patriotic songs and unofficial national anthem “America the Beautiful.”

"The stamps highlight some of the nation’s hidden gems, such as wheat fields in Wisconsin and Montana and the lush, fertile landscape surrounding Orinda, CA. The stamps also celebrate the country’s ephemeral wonders... a quietly stunning spring sunset over the green hills of Livermore, CA," the USPS said in a press release.

Each stamp features a photograph representing one of the five phrases from the famous first verse of “America the Beautiful": spacious skies, waves of grain, mountain majesties, the fruited plain, and sea to shining sea.

The photos taken near Orinda and Livermore fall under the fruited plain theme. 

In a press release, Crabbe described how he came to capture his images. 

Like the thousands of commuters who drive along Highway 24 in Contra Costa County, the lush hills in the Orinda area piqued his interest. 

"I joined the daily grind of commuters hopping on the freeway heading towards Oakland or San Francisco... After many trips through the area, and often stopping to take photos as they were available, I began to learn more about previsualizing scenes and anticipating certain natural phenomena like when and where the sun or moon will rise or set."

Crabbe said he carefully planned the photo shoot during the week of the Spring equinox knowing the sun would rise directly over Mount Diablo.

The shot he took in the Tassajara region, near Livermore was also carefully coordinated and was a scene he noticed decades ago when he first moved to the Bay Area with his family as a teen. 

Crabbe noted that while the Tri-Valley region has since been heavily developed, the photo is a reminder of years past and represents what the region once looked like. 

"As I originally felt when I looked out over this scene years ago, I remain amazed that this type of bucolic setting is still able to exist in the midst of an incredibly fast-growing and crowded Bay Area," Crabbe said, "there are still places within the bay area where you can easily feel as if you stepped back more than a hundred years in time, and this is one of those precious locations."  

He also credited local non-profit conservation groups that have helped preserve such open space areas. 

Crabbe's other photographs featured in the "O Beautiful" collection are of Death Valley National Park, Grasslands Wildlife Management Area in Merced County, Yosemite National Park, Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo County, and Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.

“It’s an incredible honor to know that my images will now live on as a small part of the historical and collectible archive in America,” Crabbe said, “I’m very grateful and proud to have so many of my images included in this series. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”