After a brief stint as a commercial photographer in New York City, Braun and Sally moved to Northern California, settling first on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, then Marin County. When Ernie and Sally started a family—they would raise five children of their own, plus an orphan they took in after his parents died—they chose a wooded hillside lot in San Anselmo because "it's a beautiful place I could afford," Braun recalled.
Building designer John Mathias turned an old cottage into a mid-century modern board-and-batten home that Braun has called home for 60 years.
Many artists and designers gathered there, including Halprin and his wife Anna, the dancer, Charles Eames, sculptor Bennie Bufano, and artist Ray Rice. The house also served as a crash pad for a stream of young people, Ernie's son, Jonathan, remembers.
In the mid-1960s Braun, a dedicated backpacker, turned his attention to nature, often using macro-lenses to produce close-up images of plants, animals, and insects. The close-up lens revealed what Braun called the "world in a dewdrop."
"The work of most contemporary photographers was confined to human experience," Braun wrote. "The rest of the planet was being neglected." 'Backpacker' magazine called Braun's work "wet-belly photography" because of his predilection for getting down and dirty with his subject matter. "I discovered that a great unknown exists at ground level," Braun wrote.
His fascination with nature resulted in several popular books, including 'Living Water,' 'Tideline,' and 'Exploring Pacific Coast Tidepools.' Braun also taught nature photography at the California Academy of Sciences and the Point Reyes Field Seminar Program.
"My nature photography makes the point that we are all part of one world," Braun wrote, "that we humans need to learn how to cope with the rest of life and respect it."
Braun is survived by his children Jonathan, Jennifer, Christopher, and Jeffrey.
"Seeing with a camera is the best way I have found to feel close to the earth." -Ernie Braun
Photos: courtesy Braun family