poppy_hill cream_poppies cream_poppy_cen
Poppy Hill with blue dicks,   08-B-2.jpg

Spring 2008 Wildflower Trip Chronicles
by David Senesac

Spring 2008 Wildflower Trip Chronicles contents

Diablo Range Day Trips
March 8 & 9, 2008
page 4 of 9

our best early spring wildflowers near San Francisco

The weekend after I returned from the Joshua Tree road trip, a long time photography friend, D, and I, went on a day trip to an obscure area a mere 50 miles from where I live as the bird flies, that is usually the first area in our region with blooming wildflowers. Although I may name this area of public lands in the future, at this point I'll decline doing so beyond noting it is in the Diablo Range. The area requires hiking offtrail to reach and from what I've seen is virtually unknown to other photographers because one does not see trampled paths through vegetation. I had been looking at the area for some years and had visited an area nearby. However this was my first attempt at any serious photographic work when flowers here seemed to peak. One reason is almost all other areas within this distance from the SF Bay area bloom in April and May and I hadn't quite been aware of the early timing here.

We drove out to the area at this time because I had personally made a visual check in the prior weeks. I always have binoculars in my vehicle and sometimes use them beside roads to find special places in the distance. Arriving about 9am on Saturday, skies were partly cloudy with thin mid level clouds. A modest breeze had already developed from the northwest that spelled trouble for later on. Upon entering these lands, we could immediately see there were more wildflower species than I expected including many that were down inside the shin to thigh high growth of fiddleneck, amsinkia intermedia, and grasses. In the bottomlands beneath were shorter wildflowers like miniature lupine, lupinus bicolor, miner's lettuce, montia perfoliata, redmaids, calandrinia ciliata, lomatium, California violets aka johnny-jump-ups, viola pedunculata, and filaree, erodium cicutarium.

blue dicks & Poppy Hill

We climbed up on a ridgeline where we stayed much of the day. In many environments, sunny ridgelines are often where most annual wildflowers tend to grow because trees tend to be few and grasses thin as was the case here. Atop the ridges were some dense areas of blue dicks, dichelostemma pulchellum, birds-eye gilia, gilia tricolor, popcorn flower, plagiobothrys nothofolvus, California poppies, eschscholtzia californica, with scattered goldfields, lasthenia californica, grass nuts, triteleia laxa, common phacelia, phacelia distans, a tall deep blue lupine species, and a perrenial bush lupine species.

Generally the poppies were as usual the most interesting species photographically. One hilly peak was particularly attractive that we named "Poppy Hill" with a nicely rounded form and areas of bright orange covering glowing verdant spur ridges leading down from the top of the peak. I was rather impressed with the density of blue dicks atop the ridgelines that was the foreground subject of the image at page top taken with my 150mm Nikkor lens,    08-B-2.jpg   , with fiddleneck and poppies behind the dense patch and Poppy Hill in the background. An image I was quite lucky to have made, as the ridge top wind had been quite continuous making us wait for considerable periods for waiting for lulls that would not blur our 100ASA Provia 100F film. Our usual midday slow shutter speeds are in the 1/8 to 1//30 second range, necessary to stop down adequately for good depth of field. Eventually we gave up and decided to return the next day if winds waned.

returning Sunday March 9

pic1At sunrise Sunday, I got on the web and looked at some wind information that showed breezes would be somewhat weaker thus our day trip was a go. We drove out once again and hiked up to these areas. Although there was a breeze, it tended to lull enough for us to expose our film after modest waiting of less than about 15 minutes. However jet contrails then plagued us making shots over Poppy Hill impossible for at least two hours when light had been best in the morning. That gave me some time to work on some close-up images with my 7mp Coolpix.pic2 I found a nicely rounded clump of poppies above, that was an even better poppy hill than the one we were waiting for jet contrails to move from. There was also a rare white poppy growing on the hill. Most flower species occasionally have flowers with genetic variations that lack normal amounts of pigments. With poppies light yellow instead of orange occurs occasionally. However this was the whitest clump I'd ever seen. I put a couple flowers up in the sky back lit. And also did a macro up close down inside the corolla where some weird beetles kept rolling around at rapidly in all the pollen.


Rather conveniently the bush lupine species, seemed to prefer growing atop the ridge. For one situation of poppies in front a bush, I removed my Wisner Expedition from the Gitzo tripod and instead put it atop part of my daypack in order to get it as low as possible and thus put the flowers up in the sky. A rather tricky process as pushing a film holder into the back of my camera is not such a gentle process so frame positioning movement might occur. I carefully managed that with this nice result,    08-B-5.jpg   .

My next image,    08-B-6.jpg   , framed a group of the bush lupine with Poppy Hill in the background and has an interesting 3-dimensional quality. I exposed a few other sheets with somewhat modest results. At the end of the afternoon, we dropped down to the bottomlands where there were some very dense areas of the pretty magenta redmaids. I framed up a composition,    08-B-11.jpg   , that included some blue dicks and johnny-jump-ups. Oblique downward shots as this are where view cameras are a significant advantage over normal fixed lens cameras, as they can put the whole frame in the plane of critical focus. The blue dicks however were a bit higher so I also stopped way down to about f/60. Hiking back through the lush bottomlands, we had to wonder what it is about human nature in our culture today that allows a locale that arguably has the more impressive spring wildflower displays within a few dozen miles of six million people in the San Francisco Bay Area to exist without anyone being aware of it?

Spring 2008 Wildflower Trip Chronicles...page 5

   David Senesac
   email: sales@davidsenesac.com

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