Every once in awhile a story comes along that we photographers know will make good pictures. Last weekend, I was sent to cover the Emerald Cup north of Laytonville. You can read the story by Glenda Anderson here.

Mendocino County is ground zero for cannabis culture. The Emerald Cup has been around for seven years and is a gathering to celebrate the culmination of the marijuana harvest. The event is nestled between the Highway 101 canyon walls that is called Area 101.

Ironically, I covered a CAMP pot bust a few years ago barely two miles from Area 101

In years past, I’ve photographed medical marijuana collectives just about everywhere in NorCal, in which I’ve made images of people smoking, growing, planting, eating, wearing and painting with pot. Heck, this past summer, reporter Julie Johnson and I weed whacked our way through poison oak, manzanita and scrub oak as we followed a group of landowners hell bent on finding and destroying an illegal marijuana garden on their property near Healdsburg.

It was pretty easy to make pictures at the Cup. People were friendly, quite a few were stoned. I was even invited a few times to take pictures of attendees firing up and taking bong hits.

There was humor too. Minutes after arriving, I was flashed by a woman wearing only a coat and a goofy looking hat; serenaded streamside by a very in love teenage gypsy couple from Wisconsin; and one guy with tears running down his face repeating over and over, that this was the best “s—” he’d ever had.

The lede picture that ran in the PD last Sunday took only about 20 minutes to capture, but the smoke in the medical marijuana tent I was shooting in was nearly vapor locked. Also, there was pizza everywhere.

After that, I roamed around for about an hour getting various filler pictures, rounding out the photo gallery for the online version of the Press Democrat. I’ve never tried pot, or a cigarette, can’t bring myself to drink coffee and had my first beer at 21. It’s just who I am.

Though, I did make a stop at the Laytonville Chevron and ordered up a bagledog, chips, chocolate milk and a bag of peanuts.

Medical Marijuana card holder Raquel Martinez of Santa Rosa smokes pot in the medical marijuana smoke tent, Saturday Dec. 11, 2010, north of Laytonville during the Emerald Cup celebration. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2010

Johnny, left, of Laytonville and Eva Stephens of Santa Cruz, middle, smoke marijuana Saturday Dec. 11, 2010 during the Emerald Cup held north of Laytonville. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2010

-Kent Porter